Trauma Therapy: Decreasing Distress and Stabilizing in Recovery
Our Therapist Team Lead, Sarah Kovach, specializes in helping patients who not only struggle with substance abuse, but also those who have experienced a trauma in their lives. By allowing the patient to help guide her, she is able to help them cope with their traumatic memories and ultimately get to the root of their addiction.
Q: You are trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Could you explain what that means? Sarah: When a person experiences a trauma, sometimes the memory can remain frozen in the short-term memory rather than being processed into long-term memory storage which contributes to nightmares, flashbacks and feeling on edge. EMDR helps the traumatized individual reprocess the traumatic memories to ultimately decrease the distress associated with the event.
Q: How did you get into the field of therapy? Sarah: During my undergraduate studies, I volunteered for a crisis hotline at the recommendation of one of my professors. Through that experience, I learned just how powerful and healing it can be to connect with others through listening and validating their experience. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the helping profession and found that therapy was something that I was passionate about because it allows me to witness and be a part of real change.
Q: What did you do prior to joining Lakeview? Sarah: Prior to working at Lakeview, I worked for a non-profit outpatient treatment center for chemical dependency. I’ve also worked part-time in a college counseling center providing therapy for college students.
Q: You work with patients who are struggling with trauma and addiction, so how do you choose which one to focus on first? Sarah: Sometimes we find that patients need to stabilize in recovery prior to feeling comfortable enough to address trauma and other times we see that patients are using substances to cope with traumatic memories and therefore need trauma work sooner. Deciding which to address first is always individualized and I always let the patient guide me. When it comes to working with trauma, it is important to allow the patient to be in control of the process so I am constantly assessing and listening to patient’s experience to help determine whether or not the patient is ready to address the trauma. Prior to starting the actual reprocessing in EMDR, it is important to make certain that the patient has the ability to self-soothe or has other resources as protective factors, so much of my work includes psychoeducation and teaching relaxation techniques.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job? Sarah: For me, the most rewarding part of my job is facilitating coin out ceremonies for patients who are completing treatment. Coin out ceremonies provide an opportunity for patients to give peers positive feedback about progress observed throughout the course of treatment and allows for the patient to reflect on insight gained during their stay. To see how proud and excited patients are on that final day really provides hope for other patients and helps reassure for me how meaningful the work we’re doing really is.
Sarah Kovach, M.S., LMHC, holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Miami University and a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from the University of North Florida. She joined the Lakeview Health clinical team in 2013. She is trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and works with patients struggling with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.