Comprehensive Care for Stressful or Traumatic Experiences

by Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC

Doctors Noticed that Trauma and Chronic Health Problems seemed to go Together

Two San Diego physicians at Kaiser Permanente noticed their patients with childhood stress also had a lot of chronic health problems.  They researched* to see if this was a coincidence, or a truth in general. In a sample of 17,000 patients, they found a clear “dose-response” relationship.  This means: the larger the “dose” of negative experiences, the higher the incidence of chronic health problems.

Kaiser ACES Study

Someone with 6 categories of “adverse childhood experiences” (ACES) would have an average 3.5 chronic health problems, including both physical and emotional illnesses.  After 20 years of the continuing Study, we are learning that people with a high ACES score may die earlier, too.  Obviously these are very serious effects on your health.


Keep in mind, however, these statistics come from people who have not received validated psychotherapy for their difficult childhood experiences.

Validated Trauma Therapies can Lessen Load on Body

So, the very good news is: there are effective psychotherapies for trauma which can lessen the load on body, mind and heart.  This can ease symptoms, even eliminate some.  For this reason, in our office we do assess your past bad experiences and current stresses.  If a need has been overlooked since childhood, we want to educate, support and motivate you to get the help you need now.  It is never too late.  You have our sympathy for what you have experienced.  It is time for kindness, and getting your needs met.  You do deserve it.


We will encourage you to take the steps that can make a big difference for your health. We ask for your permission to check in on your progress.


The rest of this info sheet gives you info and options for greater well-being.


Your ACES Score and Your Stress Score

What constitutes adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)?

The ACEs score you have is simply the number of these categories you have experienced.  The Holmes Stress Questionnaire gives you feedback on your current stresses, and potential consequences.


Concerns about your score

It can be distressing to count up the adverse experiences, whether in the past or now, and realize that could be a factor in your chronic health issues, accidents and other repercussions, such as alcoholism or drug use, emotional or mental illness, and so on. Many feel:   “It was hard enough to experience all the stress and pain!   Do I really have to look forward to more of the same from my body?”  The answer is, No.


Hope for Improving your Physical and Emotional Health — They Go Together

We share this information because there is much hope. When people receive good validated treatment for bad experiences or trauma, their whole systems can calm considerably.   Also, exercise and gentle body disciplines such as yoga, tai chi or chi gong have been proven helpful in gaining a positive, cooperative relationship with your body. People who take these steps toward holistic well-being find themselves doing better.

Boosting Your Supports

One suggestion is to share your news with a kind, understanding person such as a therapist or friend, as it can be hard, sad, scary, or surprising to hear news like this. Having a support system is important for everyone.  Now is a good time to boost the supportiveness of your relationships a bit.  Here are a few ways:


  • Learn about Bowen Family Systems Theory, which helps improve relationships, by reading “Extraordinary Relationships” by Roberta Gilbert, MD
  • Take a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) class. This helps people who have chaos or very challenging issues in their relationships.
  • Join AA/a spiritual program / church / temple
  • Read the book on compassionate communication by Marshal Rosenberg called “Non-violent Communication.”


3 Main Psychotherapy Methods have been Validated by Research

1. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR assists the brain to let go of past distress and negative beliefs that still effect the present.  Patients spontaneously report more positive thoughts about themselves. It generally works more quickly than the other therapies, has the lowest drop-out rate, and the highest scores of “post-traumatic growth”:  people report improvements in their relationships, better feeling about themselves and about the meaning of their life.  This website offers a great deal of educational information about EMDR.  Please check out the home page.


2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a talk therapy that focuses on your thoughts and your behavior in the “here and now”. The goal is to alleviate symptoms. Daily homework is required for CBT to be successful.

3. Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)

PE involves repeating the detailed story of your difficult experiences over and over again, inside and outside of therapy, until it doesn’t bother you anymore.  PE has the highest dropout rate.



CBT and EMDR have the highest number of professional endorsements for the treatment of trauma.

Finding a Therapist Skilled in the Therapy You Prefer

Of course, we are biased on this website.  But our bias is based on a great deal of rigorous research.  We recommend EMDR without hesitation.

However, I believe in your freedom to make your choice.  Choose the method that appeals most to you.  Then, find names of 3 well-qualified therapists. Call to see if they have openings, and if you can talk with them to learn about their success rate with people who have problems and ACES/Stress scores similar to yours.


Ways to Find a Therapist Skilled in the Therapy you Prefer:


1.  Contact your insurance company.


2.  Visit the internet.  We do not know of directory websites specializing in CBT. But you can Google “CBT” and see which therapists come up. To find a Certified EMDR therapist, you are already on a website with the highest standards for inclusion of any EMDR website:  all must be EMDRIA-Certified or nearing completion of Certification.  We are happy to serve you if if you live in Bay Area, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle Area, and Washington State.  For those who live in other areas, please go to the website of the EMDR International Association: to search for a Certified EMDR Therapist near you.



*Kaiser ACES Study


©2012 Dana Terrell, LCSW, EAC