Medical Center

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Site Logins
Home > Faculty and Employee Assistance Program > Counseling Services > Trauma Recovery

Trauma Recovery

Trauma happens to us, our friends, our families, and our coworkers. Experiences such as sexual assault, being physically assaulted at work, or witnessing a horrific event can have a huge impact on our brains, our emotional baseline, and our functioning capacity. Research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 Americans was sexually molested as a child: and 1 in 4 was beaten by a parent to the point of bruising or scaring. Whether a traumatic event has just occurred or a history of abuse is resurfacing, the University of Virginia’s Faculty and Employee Assistance Program is extending specialized services to individuals dealing with such.


 FEAP now offers crisis assistance and counseling to help those in shock get back on their feet and access their natural coping methods.  We can also be a bridge to tools, resources, and practices that can prevent further suffering and promote recovery. *

These are normal reactions to abnormal events.   For some people, these symptoms may last for several days or even weeks, but then they gradually lift.  It is preventative and healing to process what has happened and your emotions.  If that need is not met, some find themselves unable to move on and begin feeling even worse.  When your memory of what happened and your feelings about it are disconnected, it causes one to remain in psychological shock or post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

While PTSD is experienced differently in every person, here are some of the possible symptoms:

  •      Inability to remember parts of traumatic event
  •      Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  •      Flashbacks (feeling like the event is happening again)
  •      Irritability or outbursts of anger
  •      Hypervigilance (on constant alert)
  •      Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  •      Nightmares
  •      Feeling intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  •      Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event; like pounding heart, rapid breathing,                nausea, sweating
  •      Avoiding activities, places, thoughts that remind you of the trauma
  •      Inability to remember aspects of the trauma
  •      Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb


These symptoms can be experienced by those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers.  It can even occur in the friends and family of those who directly experienced the trauma. 

The FEAP Trauma and Recovery service includes psycho-education, exploration of natural trauma reactions in the brain and development of new tools and skills to redirect the survival reaction.  The approach offered is holistic which includes physical, spiritual, mental and emotional dimensions of healing.  Various techniques are integrated during eh extended service of 1-12 sessions.* We provide and encourage practices such as:

  • Meditation
  • Grounding exercises
  • Skills to override flashbacks
  • Journaling and reading
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Self-defense exercise and fitness
  • Yoga
  • Creative releases and
  • Community connection

"Recovery means repairing the faulty alarm systems so you can experience yourself as competent, capable and alert, instead of feeling helpless, cursed and defective". - Bessel A. van de Kolk, M.D.

* This 12 week service is separately funded by and available to University of Virginia and University of Virginia Health System employees.


SEXUAL ASSAULT                              

The University is particularly concerned about the increase in reports of sexual offenses occurring on our nation’s campuses and in our communities.  The University has adopted policies, procedures, and new services to provide both prevention and response to those in need. 

The emotional aftermath of traumatic events can be every bit as devastating as any physical damage.  It can shatter our sense of security, making us feel vulnerable, helpless, and even numb.

There are many ways in which our brains react to trauma that can make healing and recovery delayed or stuck.  Often people who have been sexually assaulted feel silenced.  If you’ve been hurt, you need to acknowledge and name what happened to you.  Feeling listened to and understood changes the chemicals in the brain.  It is a fundamental step to healing the isolation of trauma.



Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. We understand that the way in which our brain reacts to such traumatic events can have a long term impact on how day to day life is experienced. The emotional and physical sensations that were imprinted during a trauma are experienced not as memories but as disruptive physical reactions in the present. This can induce an overall sense of fear and caution, as well as promote an ongoing sense of tiredness.

  The Trauma Service which we offer to University of Virginia employees and University of Virginia Health System team members  includes a safe place to share what has been experienced; techniques to develop a more stable, calm, and grounded state; and direct connections to extended resources in the community for further healing and recovery if that is needed.

sexual assault childhood : Child abuse form

 Skills which can bridge survivors to new ways of living include:

  • ·         Learning ways to deal with and reduce hyper sensitivity to triggers
  •           Developing grounding skills to remain in the present and not get caught up in the past
  •           Increasing  self-awareness and receiving messages from the body
  •           Expanding relationship skills and selection of support systems
  •           Understanding more of how the brain naturally reacts to trauma and flashbacks
  •           Developing a more holistic sense of the trauma to include strengths and resilience
  •           Expanding the capacity for creativity and release



Acute trauma is caused by a single traumatic event that causes extreme emotional or physical stress.  Common examples of acute trauma include the following:

  • An accident
  • Witnessing a violent or disturbing event
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • A loved one's passing

Experiencing a traumatic event, even if it is just a onetime occurrence, can be terrifying. The thoughts of fear, terror and helplessness can be overwhelming.  If left untreated, acute trauma can progress into acute stress disorder, PTSD and other mental health illnesses, such as: depression, anxiety disorders and more.


A new way of life can develop from learning new ways of coping and defining self and life stories.  Learning techniques to become calm and focused and then learning to maintain that calm in response to images, thoughts, sounds, or physical sensations that remind you of the past can greatly improve how day to day life is experienced.  Finding a way to be fully alive in the present and engage with people around you is a goal worthy of investment.


Secondary trauma, also known as vicarious trauma, impacts many healthcare professionals. In response to the the need to help those suffering the effects of secondary trauma and work-related stress, a counseling group is now being offered to promote self-reflections and awareness of the impact of secondary trauma on general health and well-being. 



This six-week program is being offered to University of Virginia Health System medical department team members through Dr. Forest Calland and Joyce Camden, LCSW.   For more information, please call and leave a message for Ms. Camden at 434.243.2643.


If you suspect that you are dealing with these natural but difficult effects of trauma, please contact us at FEAP 434.243.2643,  The sooner the symptoms which emerge from trauma are confronted, the easier it is to overcome. This new Trauma service offers mechanisms to allow stabilization and promote healing.  We also provide a bridge to community resources and practices which can further the transformation from survive to thrive.  

 Joyce Camden, LCSW      


Allison O'Grady, LCSW








VIDEO: “Vicarious Trauma” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icYqLdlvyUk



The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk,

The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis

Healing the Incest Wound:  Adult Survivors in Therapy by Christine A. Courtois

Outgrowing the Pain:  A Book For and About Adults Abused As Children by Eliana Gil, Ph.D.

The Emotion Regulation Skills System for Cognitively Challenged Clients by Julie F. Brown

The Trauma Treatment Handbook by Robin Shapiro

Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal by Belleruth Naparstek