PTSD and Trauma Treatment in San Diego


Understanding PTSD and Trauma


With a vast majority (70%) of people experiencing at least one traumatic event during their lifetimes, trauma is far more common than you may realize. The effects of trauma can be devastating, especially without treatment or support. It has the potential to change the way you view the world, sense of self, and relationships, as well as lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression. Getting help through PTSD and trauma treatment in San Diego can help the person move on from trauma and relieve symptoms.

Trauma is the emotional or psychological response to a distressing experience or situation that breaks the sense of security. Typically, individuals may develop a sense of fear that does not have to but can have lasting effects on well-being. Traumatic experiences usually involve a direct threat to life or safety but can be anything that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed or isolated. It is natural to feel fear and anxiety immediately after a traumatic event and while some people will naturally recover with time, others may continue to experience stress-related symptoms or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

San Diego post traumatic stress disorder and trauma California

PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops in response to a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accidents, terrorist acts, war/combat, rap/sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and bullying. Instead of feeling better each day after a traumatic event, symptoms will stick and interfere with normal functioning. Individuals may continue to have physiological responses to trauma, including experiencing a flight-or-fight response. They can have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience long after the traumatic event. Some people relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares, they may feel sad, fearful, or angry, and can feel detached from other people. They may avoid situations or people that remind them of the event or have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or accidental touch.

PTSD and trauma can lead to several other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation. Some people may experience a mental health crisis which puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others. PTSD-related crises can also have severe symptoms which prevent a person from functioning in their day-to-day life. Alter Mental Health in San Diego provides crisis stabilization as an alternative to inpatient hospitalization. 

Our short-term residential programs during PTSD and Trauma Treatment in San Diego allow people to reset their mental health through evidence-based therapies, holistic methods, and medications in a calm, comfortable environment. People are monitored around-the-clock to ensure safety and necessary treatment at any time. We can provide the proper rest and support needed to lay a solid foundation for long-term mental health treatment.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Symptoms of PTSD and Trauma

Development of PTSD fall into four categories and they can range in severity. As with other mental health disorders, every person will experience PTSD differently. Some common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusion. These are intrusive thoughts which may look like repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams or flashbacks of the event. Flashbacks can be so vivid that a person may feel they are reliving the traumatic event or seeing it before their eyes.
  • Avoidance. Individuals may avoid reminders of the traumatic event by avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations which trigger distressing memories. They can also avoid remembering or thinking about the event, including resisting talking about what happened or how they feel.
  • Behavior Changes and Reactivity. Also known as “arousal symptoms”, they can make emotions more intense or make the person react differently than they normally would. Individuals can become irritable, have angry outbursts, behave recklessly or in a self-destructive way, be on high alert of their surroundings, easily startled, or have problems concentrating or sleeping.
  • Mood Swings and Cognitive Alterations. Individuals with PTSD may be unable to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, have negative thoughts and feelings about themselves, wrongly blaming themselves or others, ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame, feel detached from others, unable to experience positive emotions, and be less interested in activities once enjoyed.

Diagnosing PTSD and Trauma in San Diego

PTSD is not diagnosed until at least 1 month has passed since the traumatic event. Similar to other mental health disorder diagnosis, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam to ensure symptoms are not caused by underlying medical issues.

If no physical illness is found, the person may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. Through a psychological assessment they will evaluate the person for the presence of PTSD or other psychiatric conditions. They may reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to decide whether the person meets the criteria for PTSD. The criteria listed includes:

  • Exposure to traumatic event
  • One (or more) intrusion symptom(s)
  • One (or more) avoidance symptom(s)
  • Two (or more) symptoms of negative changes in feelings and mood
  • Two (or more) symptoms of changes in behavior and reactivity.

These symptoms must also:

  • Last for longer than a month
  • Bring about considerable distress and/or interfere greatly with a number of areas in the person’s life
  • Not be due to a medical condition or substance use

PTSD and Trauma Treatment Options in San Diego

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. However, getting mental health treatment early on after a traumatic event can help prevent PTSD. Once PTSD has developed, professional treatment is often needed for successful recovery. Treatment options can include outpatient services such as in-person or virtual therapy, peer support groups, and medications.

Each person will experience PTSD differently and can also develop various other mental health disorders alongside it. Personalized treatment plans are often needed to address all areas of a person’s life affected by trauma. Therapists may use various forms of evidence-based therapies to find what works for the person. Psychotherapy can help individuals move past their trauma and manage symptoms by working on changes in beliefs or behaviors. They can also learn various coping skills and tools to self-manage symptoms.

PTSD can turn into a mental health crisis, leaving the individual at risk of hurting themselves or others, or incapable of taking care of themselves. Around the clock monitoring through hospitalization or inpatient mental health treatment may be needed to ensure safety and stabilize the person. Once stabilized, they can continue with long-term treatment options in outpatient settings and through self-care techniques.

PTSD and Trauma Treatment San Diego

Treatment Options San Diego

There are several evidence-based therapies for PTSD. Alter Mental Health in San Diego offers a safe, comfortable alternative to inpatient hospitalization through holistic services, therapy, and medication management. Individuals struggling with PTSD who need intensive, immediate care, can reset their mental health and get on the path towards long-term recovery through our crisis stabilization unit. Whole-person wellness at Alter Mental Health goes beyond treating the symptoms to address all areas of a person’s life which are affected by PTSD. Personalized treatment plans will include various treatment types, including:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

CBT is very effective in treating PTSD symptoms. Therapists can help the person re-evaluate their thinking patterns and assumptions such as overgeneralized bad outcomes and always expecting catastrophic outcomes and change them to more balanced and effective thinking patterns. Patients will learn different ways of reacting, behaving, or thinking to reduce PTSD symptoms such as anxiety and worry. They can also learn relaxation techniques and reach coping skills.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is helpful in treating PTSD as patients can learn mindfulness and distress tolerance to cope and manage with emotional distress. DBT also helps individuals identify and change negative behaviors contributing to their symptoms. Other ways DBT works for PTSD is by teaching interpersonal effectiveness, exposure and response prevention, validation and self-acceptance.

Solution Focused Therapy (SFT)

As a crisis stabilization unit, at Alter Mental Health, we aim to help patients quickly find relief of their symptoms. Solution focused therapy (SFT) is useful in helping patients address current issues and challenges instead of dwelling on past events. SFT teaches to redirect thoughts and behaviors away from the things that trigger their PTSD toward focusing on positive solutions to their problems. Therapists will use SFT to help patients discover and apply strengths, skills, and abilities already possessed instead of developing them, to reduce PTSD symptoms.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Even though a person is experiencing negative outcomes to a mental health disorder, like PTSD, they feel unmotivated or not confident in their ability to make changes towards a better future. Motivational Interviewing is an evidence-based practice that aims to motivate and empower people to create the changes in their lives to manage PTSD, such as commitment to treatment. Patient’s are much more engaged in their treatment plans and adhere to the necessary changes, improving overall treatment outcomes.

Psychoeducational and Process Groups

Psychoeducational and process groups at Alter Mental Health will group patients with similar mental health disorders together so they can grow, heal, and learn together. Trauma psychoeducation helps people understand their trauma and how it affects their body, which can in turn help them manage symptoms. Trauma can be especially isolating, but being around others with similar experiences and symptoms can help people feel less lonely in their journey and support one another. Patients can also learn techniques on how to manage their symptoms and move on from the traumatic event.

Holistic Practices

Whole person wellness at Alter Mental Health PTSD treatment means we incorporate holistic practices into treatment plans to address the person, body, mind, and spirit. Treating the root cause of PTSD and not just the symptoms, has helped many of our patients move past their traumatic experiences. Through mindfulness, stress reduction techniques, and overall wellness, people are able to self-manage their symptoms and find ways to take better care of themselves. Part of our holistic practices include physical exercise and nutrition to allow the body’s self-healing capabilities to regulate neurotransmitters, biochemicals, and the flight-or-fight response.

Click here to contact Alter Mental Health San Diego at 657-218-5095 to learn about using our short-term crisis stabilization unit for individuals struggling with an acute mental health crisis.

Why Choose Alter Mental Health for PTSD and Trauma Treatment

When experiencing a mental health crisis, Alter Mental Health in San Diego offers an alternative to inpatient hospitalization. We provide a safe, comfortable environment to manage a crisis and get on track towards long-term recovery. Clinicians are trained and knowledgeable in properly diagnosing PTSD and creating personalized treatment plans. Short-term intensive programs at Alter will also provide referral for ongoing services as you transition back to homelife.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD and need PTSD and Trauma Treatment in San Diego, please give us a call at 657-218-5095 or contact us online today for quick admissions or to learn more about our programs. Our assessment counselors are available 24/7 to help you in any way they can.