Counseling for Trauma & PTSD

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Trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrifying or life-threatening event. Such circumstances typically involve loss of control, betrayal, abuse of power, helplessness, pain, confusion and/or loss. It is not the experience, but the person's response to it, that determines the level of trauma.

In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, people often experience shock or denial. They may experience ongoing problems with sleep or physical pain, feel distressed in their personal and professional relationships, or feel intense stress and a diminished sense of self-worth. A range of emotional reactions, such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, helplessness and vulnerability are common. 

For many people, trauma response symptoms will abate after a period of time. But when the symptoms linger or possibly get worse, you may have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into four main areas - intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Intrusive memories may include flashbacks, upsetting dreams or nightmares, recurrent distressing memories of the event, and severe emotional distress or physical reactivity to things that remind you of the traumatic event.

Symptoms of avoidance may include trying not to think or talk about the event, and avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.

Negative changes in thinking and mood may take the form of feeling hopeless, feeling negative about yourself or other people or the world in general, having memory problems, having difficulty maintaining close relationships, feeling detached from family and friends, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and feeling detached or emotionally numb.

Changes in physical and emotional reactions may include being easily startled or frightened, being unable to trust others, always being on guard for danger, irritability, shame, guilt, anger or aggression, self-destructive behaviors, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.  Anxiety and depression may also develop.

Because traumatic experiences are so terrifying and often life threatening, it is very hard for survivors to talk about them. Often they keep the experiences to themselves, and may not tell anyone for years, not even therapists. Survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and bullying, for example, may have learned to protect themselves through denial, disbelief and dissociation, and may not fully remember what happened to them.

If you are struggling with past trauma, we will start our work together by doing everything possible to help you feel safe.  There is no pressure.  What we talk about, how fast or slow we go, how deep we go - you are completely in charge of those decisions. I am there as a companion and guide, someone who has walked alongside many others who have been through what you are going through, so that you do not have do go through it alone.

Together we can become aware of the triggers that lead to unwanted symptoms like hyperarousal, hypervigilance, dissociation, numbing, and anxiety. I can help you practice new coping skills and techniques to manage these triggers, such as relaxation training, desensitization and grounding, so that you can manage your emotions more effectively and start to feel better. 

Together we can explore the ways you think about things and correct problem thoughts that may be keeping you stuck. We can work on processing your experiences and emotions in a gentle and safe way, so that you can integrate and organize them and reconnect the pieces of your life and make sense of things.

And together we can discover hidden strengths that will build your confidence and increase your feelings of personal control, competence, security and safety.

In order to bring you the most effective and up to date help possible, I am presently furthering my training in the area of trauma recovery to become a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP).  

"I saw Dr Zwerdling over a long period of time for panic, anxiety and past trauma. It was a slow process for me to learn to trust someone enough to talk openly. There were many ups and downs for me and while it wasn’t always pretty for me, I can say for certain that it was Alan’s patience, kindness, focus and ability to push gently while allowing me move at a pace that I could handle that led me to much needed healing." 

"After a major event in my life I had found myself in a very unfamiliar place …. I was completely broken and unable to function emotionally... Dr. Zwerdling listened to me and helped me along my journey as I found myself again and became comfortable in my own skin again. He helped me identify the things most important to me and then helped me figure out what tools I had to work on those things. Today because of Dr. Zwerdling's coaching I am a much better version of myself and could not be any happier!" 

"His credentials are excellent and his experience is extensive. So what makes Dr. Z different? He is kind. I have trusted him with my pain and he is helping me find solutions to that sadness and desperation within myself."

Dr. Alan Zwerdling's private office serves all of Monmouth County & the Jersey Shore, including Red Bank, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Rumson, Navesink, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Holmdel, Colts Neck, Ocean Township, Lincroft, Marlboro, Manalapan, Oceanport, Monmouth Beach, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Oakhurst, Eatontown, Tinton Falls, and West Long Branch.