Brainspotting & IFS: lingering effect of trauma in infancy

This article describes the potential life-long impacts of trauma experienced during infancy. Experts in infant mental health (from the prenatal period up to age 3), state that very young children who experience exposure to domestic violence, natural disasters such as a house fire, physical abuse, and community violence, have higher incidences of anxiety disorders or depression that can persist into adulthood if left untreated.

“‘It is easy to assume that babies don’t remember trauma because they express their experiences differently,’ Tessa Chesher, an clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Oklahoma State University who specializes in infant and early childhood mental health, says in an email. ‘At [8 to 12] weeks of age, babies have stored enough memories that [the babies] start to anticipate their caregiver’s behavior based on previous behaviors. They start to respond based on the experiences they have had.'”

“… as they reach adulthood ‘infants and very young children who have had early exposure to trauma and chronic stress … are more vulnerable to stress-related health outcomes, like diabetes, and mental health issues, addiction and obesity. These children are much more vulnerable to all of these stress-related illnesses, and their brain may not develop the way it should.'”

“Although infants and young children are just developing, experts in infant mental health say they can experience a wide range of feelings that includes negative emotions, sadness or anxiety. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that, by age 16, more than 2 in 3 children had said they had experienced a traumatic event.”

“If a child has a significant trauma before age 2 but following the trauma ‘the baby has the powerful protective factors of consistent safety, love and security; there is a decreased likelihood of having mental health problems,’ Chesher says in an email. ‘That doesn’t mean the baby didn’t suffer or that their body doesn’t remember that trauma, it means that there were protective factors around to mitigate the effects of the trauma.'”

“Trauma in infancy can physically alter the developing architecture of the brain, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Toxic stress — strong, frequent or prolonged adversity — has been shown in various studies to harm learning capabilities, memory and executive functioning.”

Elaine Korngold, LPC at in Portland, Oregon, treats early childhood trauma using a powerful and effective combination of Brainspotting therapy and Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy. While a child may not have the narrative of what happened to them, their bodies remember and are able to process the events in a gentle and non-verbal way. Treatment with Brainspotting and IFS can be done effectively at any time after the trauma occurred. Contact Elaine for more information about this treatment.