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“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change

you do choose.”

–Michelle Rosenthal

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change

you do choose.”

–Michelle Rosenthal

Medical Trauma

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.”

–Michelle Rosenthal

Seeking medical care for our body in the face of serious illness or injury is often vital for survival. We seek medical care to heal physical wounds, to heal our body.
However, sometimes the process of receiving medical care to heal the
physical body can lead to emotional trauma and wounding. 

Medical trauma refers to emotional trauma and wounding that develops in a person in response to a traumatic experience that occurred while receiving medical care. 


Medical trauma can develop following hospitalization, especially if the experience included intensive care unit (ICU/NICU/PICU) stay or severe pain. It can also develop in response to receiving a life threatening or terminal diagnosis or following intensive or frightening treatment regimens such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. In some cases, a lengthy and or ambiguous diagnostic process can also cause medical trauma.

Click here to learn more about emotional trauma.

Prevalence rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following Intensive Care Unit Hospitalization:

  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) - 20-30% of patients1,2

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) - 20-30 % of parents3,4

  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit(PICU) - 15-20% of parents5,6

  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit(PICU) 10-30% of children7

“You survived, why can’t you just be thankful and happy to be alive?
The hospital stay is over, it’s time to move on, you should be thankful your child survived.”

You are thankful that you or your child survived, but you still can’t shake feeling hypervigilant about your health or your child’s health. The sounds, smells, and sights of the doctor’s office triggers flashbacks

or intrusive memories of the traumatic event. Or maybe you are avoiding care that you need because

going back into the medical setting is so triggering. 


If you’re struggling to cope with medical trauma, trauma-focused treatment such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can help heal the emotional wounds left behind after healing the physical body.


From our time as inpatient medical social workers, we have a deep understanding of how traumatic healthcare can be sometimes. We have companioned and supported many patients, parents, family members through healthcare crises and intensive care unit hospitalizations. We understand just how scary it can be. 


Our team here at Noticing Growth Therapy Group uses our deep understanding, and we pair it with our EMDR Therapy expertise in treating trauma. You deserve healing of both mind and body, and we encourage you to connect with us to start the process of healing from medical trauma.

Click here to learn more about how we use EMDR Therapy. 

1: ZATZICK, D., RIVARA, F., NATHENS, A., JURKOVICH, G., WANG, J., FAN, M., . . . MACKENZIE, E. (2007). A nationwide US study of post-traumatic stress after hospitalization for physical injury. Psychological Medicine, 37(10), 1469-1480. doi:10.1017/S0033291707000943 2: Sareen, J., Olafson, K., Kredentser, M. S., Bienvenu, O. J., Blouw, M., Bolton, J. M., Logsetty, S., Chateau, D., Nie, Y., Bernstein, C. N., Afifi, T. O., Stein, M. B., Leslie, W. D., Katz, L. Y., Mota, N., El-Gabalawy, R., Sweatman, S., & Marrie, R. A. (2020, May 11). The 5-year incidence of mental disorders in a population-based ICU survivor cohort. Latest TOC RSS. Retrieved January 21, 2023, 3: Lefkowitz, D.S., Baxt, C. & Evans, J.R. Prevalence and Correlates of Posttraumatic Stress and Postpartum Depression in Parents of Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). J Clin Psychol Med Settings 17, 230–237 (2010) 4: Schecter R, Pham T, Hua A, et al. Prevalence and Longevity of PTSD Symptoms Among Parents of NICU Infants Analyzed Across Gestational Age Categories. Clinical Pediatrics. 2020;59(2):163-169. doi:10.1177/0009922819892046 5: Madelon B. Bronner, Niels Peek, Hennie Knoester, Albert P. Bos, Bob F. Last, Martha A. Grootenhuis, Course and Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Parents after Pediatric Intensive Care Treatment of their Child, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Volume 35, Issue 9, October 2010, Pages 966–974, 6: Balluffi, Andrew LSW; Kassam-Adams, Nancy PhD; Kazak, Anne PhD; Tucker, Michelle BSN; Dominguez, Troy MD; Helfaer, Mark MD. Traumatic stress in parents of children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 5(6):p 547-553, November 2004. | DOI: 10.1097/01.PCC.0000137354.19807.44 7: Rees, G., Gledhill, J., Garralda, M.E. et al. Psychiatric outcome following paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission: a cohort study. Intensive Care Med 30, 1607–1614 (2004).

Coping with Illness

“You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before,

and that, my love, is bravery.”

– Unknown

Illness is disruptive and depriving...  

Illness is disruptive and depriving.  Illness disrupts you from being able to live your life in the way you want to. It disrupts your life with symptoms, pain, treatment, and appointments. Illness deprives you of the internal resources to live life the way you could before you were sick. It deprives you of energy and time to do things you enjoy. Much of your time is now spent being a “patient” or a caregiver navigating healthcare. We know living with Illness can also deprive you of relationships, and it can be isolating. People in your life, including well-meaning and supportive friends and family may have difficulty relating to what you are going through. 

Our therapy practice is rooted in our experience as medical social workers working in hospitals and clinics, supporting patients and their families in navigating healthcare. We come to the therapeutic relationship with a blend of clinical knowledge about how to help you cope and adjust to illness,

as well as working knowledge of how to help patients navigate healthcare. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with illness, you don’t have to go through it alone.

We are here for you, and we encourage you to connect with us today. 

Ways we can help:

  • Adjustment to new diagnosis 

  • Patient self-advocacy coaching

  • Coping with illness

  • Clarifying healthcare goals 

  • Advanced care planning (including end of life planning)

  • Navigating healthcare systems including managed care

  • Navigating insurance benefits

  • Resource pairing. 

  • Incorporating management of complex medical needs into a family’s daily life

Childhood Illnes
Hands over a painted rainbow

Support for Parents
Childhood Illn

The world of parenting is full of differing styles, approaches, opinions, and goals. However, one goal that is universal among parents is the goal of raising a happy and healthy child.
This important and seemingly simple goal can be thwarted by childhood illness.  

When your child is sick or has complex medical needs, your world stops. Childhood illnesses such as cancer, congenital heart disease (CHD), medically complexities due to congenital abnormalities, accident acquired disability, or life-changing injuries, can change every aspect of your life, your child’s life, and your parenting experience. 


Navigating childhood illness as a parent can be all consuming, incredibly challenging, fraught with uncertainty, and feel isolating. Many people, including well-meaning and supportive friends and family, don’t understand and can’t relate to your parenting experience. As a parent, you are not only trying to cope and navigate your child’s care, but you also bear the emotional load of supporting your child in their coping. And, if you have other children, you are also helping them cope and adjust. Lastly, managing the daily busyness and complexities of parenting, while carrying these added tasks related to your child’s care needs and healthcare is extremely difficult to do day in and day out.

An adult holding a child's hand

The foundation of our therapy practice is rooted in our experiences as medical social workers working in Pediatric Intensive Care Units and Neonatal Intensive Care, companioning many families navigating childhood illness.

We understand the nuances and complexities involved in caring

for a sick child or a child with complex medical needs,

and the emotional trauma that comes with it. 

We come to the therapeutic relationship with a blend of clinical knowledge about how to help you cope and adjust to illness, as well as working knowledge of how to help parents navigate healthcare and community resources that exist to support your child.

Our role is to provide you with the support and understanding that many

parents navigating childhood illness have difficulty finding. 

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