ACE’s, Developmental Trauma, & attachment styles
Childhood trauma has long-term impacts on your physical and mental health.
Some of my clients have experienced things everyone would agree are traumatic. Which therapists call Big T trauma. Such as car accidents or physical abuse. In addition, therapists discuss little t trauma, which is typically referring to developmental trauma. I am particularly passionate about helping clients heal from the more subtle types of trauma (little t traumas) that create unconscious habits for how we treat ourselves and interact with others.
I assess for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) with many of my clients. The original study of ACE’s was conducted at Kaiser Permanente in California from 1995-1997. The CDC reports that the more ACE’s you have, the higher your risk for chronic health problems, mental illness, substance misuse, education problems, and job problems. Depending on your score, you may be at higher risk for: traumatic brain injury, fractures, burns, depression, anxiety, suicide, PTSD, unintended pregnancy, pregnancy complications, fetal death, HIV, STD’s, cancer, diabetes, alcohol & drug abuse, unsafe sex, and income problems.
Source: CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, 1998
For your score, add up how many questions you answer yes, for a maximum total of 10.
While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? Did they act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? Did they ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Did they try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?
- Did you often feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Did you often feel as your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- Did you often feel that you didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? Did you often feel that your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
- Was your mother or stepmother often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Was she sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?
- Did a household member go to prison?
Some of my clients say they had a traumatic childhood. Others tell me they had a great childhood.
They all describe many of the symptoms of Complex PTSD. They are anxious and depressed. Also have negative beliefs about themselves. Feel shame, guilt, and failure. Struggle keeping relationships. As well as have a hard time feeling close to people.
Notice that these symptoms are the first three concerns I have listed on my website?
Developmental traumas are those very small subtle ways that our caregivers interact with us as infants and toddlers.
Did they let you cry yourself to sleep? Were you fed when you were hungry? How long was it before your diaper was changed?
Or the things we learned by watching how our caregivers acted. Were your parents kind to each other? Did they look terrified and pull you close every time a stranger was near? Did they constantly take things from you because they didn’t want you playing with them?
These interactions affect how we feel about ourselves, other people, and the world around us.
Our caregivers may be well-meaning. They may not.
I often describe this as your Windows programming. You can choose what programs to run on top of it, but it’s the background stuff that just sort of permeates everything else.
When this comes up, many of my clients say that they don’t remember a lot of their childhoods. The great news, you don’t need to in order to heal this part of your life.
Your parents don’t have to be horrible people in order for you to have developmental trauma; although, they might be.
And we don’t have to get into parent bashing in order to identify your developmental issues and work through them.
Your siblings, daycare, or early school experiences may also have had a significant impact.
Your attachment style is determined by whether your caregivers adequately or correctly meet your needs when you are an infant and toddler. My favorite definition of attachment in adults: how you behave when you start to rely on people to meet your needs.
People with secure attachment trust that people will generally meet their needs. People with insecure attachment don’t trust others to meet their needs. There are three types of insecure attachment: anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and disorganized attachment.
People with anxious attachment are typically pretty clingy. These are the kids who get really upset when they are dropped off at daycare.
People with avoidant attachment are typically pretty distant. These are the kids who don’t care when their parents leave. And don’t care when they come back.
Anxious and avoidant people are often attracted to each other. Which creates some interesting chasing and running dynamics in adult intimate relationships.
People with a traumatic childhood typically have disorganized attachment or ambivalent attachment. They bounce between anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and some mix of the two. For example, the infant who climbs into the mother’s lap and punches her while expecting her to comfort him.
Adults with earned secure attachment learned how to behave as though they are securely attached even though they had an insecure attachment style earlier in life. The good news is that no matter what your insecure attachment style is, developmental trauma therapy can help you create an earned secure attachment style.
Online therapy in Colorado for ACE’s, Developmental Trauma, or Attachment Styles
Online therapy for attachment issues is just as effective as in person developmental trauma therapy.
It can be hard to find a therapist who specializes in interpersonal neurobiology. Who uses somatic therapy interventions to help change your automatic reactions. Who can use sound therapy, so you can earn secure attachment more easily. Who can help you utilize CBT to help you heal from your ACE’s. Online therapy gives you so many more options.
Online counseling may even be better for you. You may feel more able to work on your attachment styles from the safety and security of your own home. The convenience may help you feel calmer so you get more out of your sessions. It might give you more time to process what happened in the session before you have to interact with other people. Especially strangers.
Through developmental trauma therapy in Denver, CO, we will identify experiences you need to have now in order to undo what your tiny infant or toddler brain learned. That way, you can behave in healthier ways in the world and have healthier relationships now.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” –Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Serving the Denver Metro Area, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Boulder, Grand Junction, Greeley, Pueblo and the entire state with online therapy in Colorado. I do not see clients at my home-based office located in Bailey, CO.