Exploring the Physiology of Trauma, Mental Health, and Dysautonomia with Dr. Robert Rhoton

[Episode 44 of The Intentional Clinician Podcast]

Paul Krauss MA LPC talks with Dr. Robert Rhoton about the physiology of trauma. Dr. Rhoton is the CEO of the Arizona Trauma Institute and has experience as a supervisor, professor, and collaborator. His knowledge of developmental trauma has been a great contribution to the mental health field.

Dr. Rhoton defines trauma not as a one-time, terrible event; rather, he defines it as repetitive adversity that causes physiological symptoms. When the autonomic nervous system is constantly being triggered, the stress of this is a more accurate description of what trauma does to our bodies. Dysautonomia is a medical term that describes any time symptoms emerge because the balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems are out of balance. Dr. Rhoton says that when the sympathetic nervous system becomes dominant, we have experienced trauma or dysautonomia due to a toxic environment.

The outcome for individuals who do experience a singular traumatic event varies depending on the environment in which they grew up. Having a nurturing, non-reactive environment leads to better responses to trauma; growing up with frequent autonomic arousal leads to poorer responses and coping.

Listen in as Dr. Rhoton and Paul explore the physiology of trauma on The Intentional Clinician Podcast.

These principles can be applied to other areas of life in addition to personal experience. School settings can cause high levels of arousal in children, so teachers need to be able to have a regulated self. Families with children also need parents who are well-regulated. In a therapeutic relationship, the therapist needs to have more regulation than the client in order to help the client. This is especially important for therapists because they sit with their clients’ darkest moments. If the therapist is not well-regulated, they can be reactive or inconsistent. If the therapist is well-regulated, they can be truly empathetic and understand their clients well.

Dr. Rhoton and Paul also discuss the importance of personal therapy for therapists and the efficacy of various therapeutic models. It is important for clients to be able to talk about traumatic events without re-experiencing the physical manifestations of that trauma. Instead of encouraging clients to identify with their trauma, we need to treat their problems within the context of physiology and prevention. Outside of the therapy room, society would look different if everyone were well-regulated. Getting people into a relaxed body would be preventing a variety of illnesses and changing the way we see mental health. We can have an impact on future generations by addressing some of the core traumas in our society systemically and through the therapy office.

Dr. Robert Rhoton, CEO of Arizona Trauma Institute and President at the Trauma Institute International possesses a rich history of experience in the mental health field. Dr. Rhoton has supervised multiple outpatient clinics, juvenile justice programs, and programs, and child and family therapeutic services. Additionally, Dr. Rhoton has advanced training in child and adolescent trauma treatment, family therapy, and family trauma. Dr. Rhoton served as president of the Arizona Trauma Therapy Network from 2010 through 2012. Dr. Rhoton was a Professor at Ottawa University in the Behavioral Sciences and Counseling Department whose primary interests were training counselors to work with traumagenic family dynamics, child and family trauma, and non-egoic models of treatment. Dr. Rhoton is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and collaborates and consults with numerous Arizona agencies fine-tuning their understanding of trauma and the impact of developmental trauma on the individual and family. Dr. Rhoton also serves on the Arizona Department of Health Services Trauma Informed Care (TIC) task force as a community member.

Paul Krauss MA LPC is the Clinical Director of Health for Life Grand Rapids, home of The Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. Paul is also a Private Practice Psychotherapist, EMDRIA Consultant in Training (CIT), host of the Intentional Clinician podcast, Behavioral Health Consultant, Clinical Trainer, and Counseling Supervisor. Paul is now offering consulting for a few individuals and organizations. Paul is the creator of the National Violence Prevention Hotline (in progress)  as well as the Intentional Clinician Training Program for Counselors. Questions? Call the office at 616-200-4433.

If you are looking for EMDRIA consulting groups, Paul Krauss MA LPC is now hosting weekly online and in-person groups.  For details, click here.

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Original Music:

”Shades of Currency” [Instrumental] from Archetypes by PAWL (Spotify)

“If you don’t know what to do (Do What You Love) from Music for Gloves(Banana & Louie) by Kelley Stoltz (Spotify)

“Motel” from Motel by PAWL/ttypes (Spotify)

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