Monique Johnson, MA, LCPC

What is Trauma?

October 13, 2018 By

Everyone has their own definition of what trauma means and what trauma looks like. What is your definition?

T – Treatment?

R – Recovery?

A – Adverse?

U – Uncomfortable?

M – Malicious?

A – Alienated?

Five different people can have five different meanings for the word trauma, but the thing is that trauma is all of it. It is the big, the little, and everything in between.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a traumatic event is an alarming, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to a child’s life or bodily integrity. Any event that could be perceived as sudden, unexpected, and dangerous can be a traumatic event. Trauma is an emotional response to all of these different types of experiences, and tied to the individual’s perception of the experience.

In a way, trauma can be a very broad term. It covers everything from medical traumas to psychological traumas. It also includes less severe incidents that we may encounter more frequently. While certain traumas can be debilitating, others are dealt with more resiliently–often to our own surprise. There are both BIG T traumas and little t traumas both experienced differently by different people.

Two Types of Trauma

Along with BIG T and little t traumas, there are also two types of trauma–acute trauma and complex trauma. An acute trauma is a response to a traumatic event that is experienced once, such as car accidents or natural disasters. A complex trauma is a response to a traumatic event that occurs more than once or as a result of prolonged exposure to a traumatic event.

Childhood Trauma

When children experience trauma, it impacts their physical, emotional, academic and relational abilities. Some may recover from these experiences, but some may have more difficulty along the way. Some youth have had adverse childhood experiences that make it challenging to recover without treatment.

Experiencing trauma during childhood can have a huge impact on the adult brain. The human brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. Therefore, when a child experiences trauma his or her brain development may be interrupted and can cause problems that effect emotional and behavioral health. If these concerns are not addressed, then difficulties can continue into adulthood.

Healing Trauma Through Support

It may feel alienating to face trauma alone or uncomfortable to talk about it, but it is important not to stay silent in order to heal from trauma. Counseling can play a significant role in healing. No matter if it is a little t or a BIG T, acute or complex trauma, seek the support you need to heal. We have our definitions of trauma and we all need the support to get through these tough experiences. Whether it is family support, community support, or professional support, relationships play a large role in recovering from trauma.

If you are interested in seeking professional support, please feel free to visit my profile page (Monique Johnson, MA, LPC, CATP) or contact me at our office directly at (630) 480-4118 x13.


For more information:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration also has a self-help guide.



The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2018, from

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Monique Johnson, MA, LCPC

Monique Johnson, MA, LCPC

Monique Johnson, MA, LCPC is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with experience working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. While creating a safe space for her clients to grow, she also challenges them and inspires them to be their best self. She is located at Upswing Counseling, in Wheaton, IL.

0 Comment

Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Top 5 Reasons Why Pla… February 9, 2017 Is My Child Just Afra… December 14, 2018