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  • Writer's pictureMyriame Lyons

15 Tips for Healing Childhood Trauma

Takeaway: If you’ve experienced childhood trauma, you know how deeply it can impact you. At the same time, it is possible to find calm, connection, and healing. This beginner’s guide to childhood trauma healing can help you get started. As you read on, pace yourself and most importantly be kind with yourself.


tips for healing childhood trauma

Understanding the impact of childhood trauma

As a trauma counsellor in Vancouver, I have an intimate understanding of the way trauma can shape a person's life—especially early childhood trauma. When a person experiences a traumatic event (or multiple events) at such a young age, it can have lasting effects on how you think, feel, and view yourself, others and the world.


Some people who had a traumatic childhood may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While it can manifest differently from person to person, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) identifies some common symptoms:

  • Recurring nightmares and/or intrusive memories about the event

  • Feeling like you're reliving the event

  • Avoiding reminders of the event

  • Withdrawing from loved ones

  • Difficulty finding pleasure or enjoyment

  • Feeling anxious, restless, or on edge

  • Trouble concentrating


healing from childhood trauma

Someone with chronic exposure to trauma in childhood may develop a specific type of PTSD called C-PTSD, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. This presentation is common in people who experienced neglect and/or ongoing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Signs of C-PTSD are similar to classic PTSD, but may also include symptoms like:

  • Trouble with regulating emotions

  • Difficulty forming relationships with others

  • Chronic feelings of shame, worthlessness, and guilt

  • Low self-esteem

  • Dissociation, or feeling disconnected from yourself


It's also important to note that some people who've experienced trauma will not develop PTSD or C-PTSD, but still be heavily or negatively impacted by what happened to them. Know that your experience is valid and you deserve support regardless of whether you have any kind of formal diagnosis.


How to recover from childhood trauma: 15 tips from a therapist


Though the pain of early experiences runs deep, overcoming childhood trauma is possible. Here, I offer my suggestions for how to start the recovery process.


1. Understand your experience of childhood trauma


In order to effectively overcome childhood trauma, it's important to first understand your own experience.


If you're looking for tips on healing, it's likely that you already have a sense of what events from your past were traumatic and how they have impacted you. At the same time, there are always more opportunities for learning. A person may not immediately realize all of the ways that their brain and body have responded to trauma.


I recommend learning more about the ways that unresolved childhood trauma can show up in your adult life. Getting curious about your own experience can help you better understand yourself and ultimately enable you to give yourself what you need on this journey.


2. Learn more about the concept of trauma


As part of this discovery process, I encourage you to learn about the concept of trauma in general. Books like The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk delve into the research around trauma and can be incredibly eye-opening if you're not familiar with how trauma physically impacts our nervous system. But books like these can also feel overwhelming, so read intentionally and slowly.


It can be validating to know that what you're going through has a name and is rooted in science. Others don't need to understand your experience for it to be valid, but it can still feel good to understand the physiological reasons why you might feel this way.


3. Hear other people's experiences


On a similar note, it can also be helpful to learn about other people's personal experiences. What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo details her experience with complex, intergenerational trauma and what she did to heal.


If books aren't your thing, try a podcast. In CBC's "Other People's Problems," people share their own stories and Dr. Hillary McBride discusses treating childhood trauma from a clinical perspective. I'd also say that McBride's therapeutic approach resembles our own here at Myriame Lyons Counselling and Consulting, so it gives you a feel of what it might be like to work together in therapy.


While each person's experience is different, it can help to know that you're not alone in what you've been through.


recovering from childhood trauma

4. Seek professional support


As a trauma counsellor, I firmly believe in the power of therapy. I'm passionate about co-creating a space for folks to learn more about themselves, build resilience, and heal childhood trauma using evidence-based techniques.


Having a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship with a counsellor can give you the support you need to do this courageous work. Plus, working one-on-one with a trauma therapist will give you the personalised mental health care you need for your specific situation.


5. Choose the right type of therapy


There are many different techniques used to treat childhood trauma, so it's important to reflect on which ones may resonate most with you. At Myriame Lyons Counselling & Consulting, our therapists use methods rooted in evidence, including

  • Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP),

  • Internal family systems (IFS),

  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), and

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).


We also integrate mind-body approaches like somatic experiencing and mindfulness techniques.


Other counsellors may use different methods. While you don't need to become an expert in trauma treatment methods, I recommend doing a bit of research into your options so you can find the best fit.


6. Find the best trauma therapist for you


Similarly, it's important to find the right counsellor for you. Credentials, training, and experience with trauma (and related mental health disorders) are important, but finding a therapist who's the right fit goes beyond these logistics.


I recommend finding a therapist whom you connect with on a personal level. A therapeutic relationship is different than a friendship or partnership, but it's still vital to feel comfortable with the counsellor you choose. Most therapists offer free consultations, so take advantage of this time to get a sense of which counsellor may be the best match for you.


heal childhood trauma

7. Connect with others


All people need support and connection. This is especially true for trauma survivors. Oftentimes, childhood trauma occurs in isolation. A person experiences the pain of trauma and has no one to share it with, which cultivates feelings of loneliness.


Growing trusting relationships—with a counsellor, friends, or other safe people—can ease these feelings of aloneness and help you feel connected to yourself and others.


8. Try a support group


Finding connection through support groups can be validating and fulfilling. Even if support group sound cheesy, you'll be able to hear other people's stories firsthand, which may give you the courage and empowerment to share your own experiences and be held by the support of others.


You'll also have the opportunity to use your experience to support the other folks in the group. The reciprocal nature of these peer-to-peer relationships can help facilitate healing.


9. Talk with loved ones


Formal venues for support, like individual counselling and support groups, are vital for recovering from childhood trauma. At the same time, getting support in your personal life can also support your mental health.


Experiencing traumatic events can make it difficult to trust and connect with others. It's important to identify which people in your circle are safe to discuss these sensitive issues with. Not everyone will be able to hold space to help you process your emotions, but finding even one person you can talk with can help you on your journey.


childhood trauma healing

10. Find safety in your body


Getting emotional and psychological support is a necessary part of healing from childhood trauma, but we can't forget about the role of the physical body.


Whatever traumatic life events happen to us also happen to our bodies. Our life experiences can change how our nervous system responds to emotions, social situations, and the world around us. I recommend checking out the "Stuck Not Broken" podcast for more information about polyvagal theory, which discusses how the nervous system reacts and how we can heal it.


11. Engage in mindfulness & meditation


Cultivating a greater awareness of our bodies is a great place to start. Emotions are physical sensations, so dedicating time to simply be with yourself and your feelings can help you grow your understanding of how you feel and what you need.


There are many different ways to practice mindfulness. Guided meditations, mindful breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation are a few strategies you can try to begin healing your nervous system from the childhood traumas you've experienced.


12. Incorporate gentle movement


Physical exercise is about much more than getting fit. This literature review explores the relationship between physical activity and trauma. It found that engaging in movement can help improve trauma survivors' physical and mental health.


It can be hard to start moving, especially if you're stuck in a "freeze" response to traumatic stress. I recommend starting small to build momentum. Try gentle stretching, follow along with a five-minute yoga flow video online, or take a short walk around your neighborhood.


13. Reparent yourself


If you experienced childhood trauma, it's likely that your early caregivers could not give you the support you needed. As a result, you did what you needed to do to protect yourself and survive. While those coping mechanisms got you this far, they may be having unintentional consequences on your quality of life as an adult.


Healing from childhood trauma is all about reparenting yourself. Learning how to show up in the way that a present, loving, capable parent would takes time and effort, but it can be empowering to know that you have your own back now.


14. Reflect on your own needs


In order to effectively reparent yourself, it's important to get in touch with your needs. What boundaries do you need to set to protect your energy? What does your physical body need to feel safe? What kind of emotional support would feel good?


Being able to identify your needs can feel challenging at first, but with practice and repetition, you'll build this muscle. Showing yourself that you can identify these needs and do what it takes to meet them can help you feel safe and supported.


15. Cultivate self-compassion


I also recommend finding compassion for yourself during this journey. As a childhood trauma survivor, you may have a tendency to blame yourself for your experiences. Know that what you've been through isn't your fault—and that you now have the power to change how you feel and respond.


To start cultivating a sense of self-compassion, try a guided loving kindness meditation or check out Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff.


how to recover from childhood trauma

Trauma counselling can give you the support you need to heal from childhood trauma.


Healing childhood trauma is a process, but it is possible. Counselling can give you the dedicated space and specialized support you need to fully invest in your healing journey.


Our practice specializes in helping people grow their emotional awareness, explore the mind-body connection, and build more fulfilling relationships. Whether you're struggling with trauma, other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, or grief and loss, we're here to help.



Be well,


Myriame

Founder and Counsellor

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