Victoria Libby, M.S.Ed., Psy.D.

What is Trauma?

At its essence a trauma is a disturbing, often shocking experience that can threaten one’s feeling of safety. Trauma can be a single event such as an unexpected death, physical injury, sexual assault, threat to life, or a natural disaster. Trauma can also be a series of events or a constant stressor such a prolonged medical illness, severe poverty, or ongoing physical abuse.

While many think of trauma in relation to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) it is important to recognize that there are many different reactions that people can have to trauma that are not strictly PTSD. These reactions can be equally disruptive and may lead to other serious psychological disorders such as Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, etc. Therefore, it’s important to recognize these reactions and intervene.  

Healing from Trauma

It is common after trauma to experience shock, sadness, anxiety, a period of disbelief and/or grief. How long this period lasts varies from person to person there is not one “normal” amount of time.  Two major factors that can influence healing from trauma are social connection and self-compassion. Trauma often isolates people, making them feel alone or disconnected from those around them. One of the most important factors promoting healing from trauma is engaging with those you are close to and finding connection and care in relationships. Traumatic events can lead to feelings of guilt or shame in which the traumatized person blames themselves for what has occurred. This is a very unfortunate psychological distortion that can occur when someone is traumatized. What is needed for healing is self-nurture, self-caring, patience, and compassion.

When Should Counseling be Considered?

Think about what ways your life has changed since the trauma began. Are you working and socializing as well as you did before the trauma occurred? If you are still not sure there is no harm in coming in and meeting with a counselor. We are happy to meet with you to see whether counseling would be beneficial.

Specific Signs Suggesting the Need for Counseling:

Difficulty concentrating

Feeling disconnected from others or emotionally numb

Feeling on edge, scanning the environment for possible danger and/or easily startling

Feeling isolated or hopeless

Feeling depressed or down most of the time

Feeling easily agitated or angry

Feeling more tired than usual

Significant changes in your sleep (either not being able to sleep enough or sleeping too much)

Loss of appetite

Feeling panicky, heart racing, sweating, nausea, and/or shakiness

Drinking or engaged in other drug use more than you used to


* If you are having thoughts of hurting or killing yourself or someone else seek immediate help by calling (207) 774-HELP/4357 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also walk into Counseling Services on either the Portland or Gorham campuses:

105 Payson Smith Hall 125 Upton Hall

Portland, ME Gorham ME

207-780-5411 207-780-5411

“Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation.” Judith Herman M.D. (Trauma Specialist)


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