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Adjustment & Trauma

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Adjustment disorders develop as a result of difficulty adapting or adjusting to significant changes in life. They are particularly common among adolescents (ages 15-25) given the increased number of changes and developmental milestones that occur (for example, transition to college or living away from family, increased independence and responsibility, new and evolving relationships).  Other stressors or events that can lead to an adjustment disorder (for adolescents and adults) include the death of a loved one, divorce, traumatic events, or chronic stressors such as family conflict. Adjustment disorders share a lot of the same symptoms as depression and/or anxiety, including mood changes, behavioral changes or increased problematic behavior, difficulty concentrating, or isolation. Therapy can be helpful to 1) process the stressor(s) or event(s) contributing to the adjustment disorder, 2) teach and practice coping skills, and 3) identify and manage resulting emotions or mood changes and unhelpful behaviors.

While trauma itself can trigger an adjustment disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder can also be a result, particularly if the traumatic event was life-threatening. We commonly hear the term “trauma” to refer to a range of events differing greatly in terms of severity—from life-threatening events such as assault, natural disaster, or combat to more general or common psychosocial stressors such as divorce, job loss, health problems, or bullying. I strongly believe that trauma is subjective and relative—what is considered trauma to one person is based on the totality of their life experiences and cannot be defined by others. Therapy is appropriate for and can greatly improve quality of life regardless of the details of the event(s) that have left you or your teen feeling on edge/on guard or ashamed, avoiding people/places/things, using unhelpful coping mechanisms, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and/or experiencing outbursts or aggression.

I currently offer individual therapy for teens and adults for adjustment issues or traumatic experiences. Starting therapy for any reason is a difficult step for many, though this can be especially true when it comes to starting therapy following trauma. It’s important to note that any questions or concerns you have about starting therapy will be addressed in our first few sessions. I always approach treatment as collaborative, meaning that our plan for treatment is discussed together at every step of the way. We will always begin by learning and practicing some basic coping skills that can be used in the process of discussing painful past experiences/events. Processing these difficult experiences will never be forced upon you or initiated unless you feel ready, safe, and supported.

Ready to get help?

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