Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Reagan.
Hi Laura, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I never thought of myself as a trauma survivor.
Like so many people, I knew I’d been through a lot of hard times, most of which I blamed myself for, but I didn’t think of the word “traumatic” to describe my experiences. This is ironic considering that I’m a trauma therapist who started working with survivors of trauma 20 years ago.
This actually makes sense, though, in the context of trauma. Trauma is a fitting description for any experience that is more terrifying, horrifying, painful, shocking, or overwhelming than we can emotionally and mentally handle at the time.
When we go through those experiences, especially if they happen during childhood, our brains help us survive the experience by detaching from conscious awareness of what is happening, while automatic, unconscious coping mechanisms take over.
While this is super helpful at the moment, it can make it really confusing later when you don’t understand why you did what you did at that moment, or why you didn’t do something. And it can make you think the incident was no big deal later because you don’t feel connected to your emotional reaction to the incident. But it usually comes back later in strange ways, and it can make life really hard.
That’s how it was for me. I got through all these really hard things and wanted to put it behind me, forget about all of it, and move forward. Fortunately, I stumbled upon my passion for helping trauma survivors in a way that seemed very random at the time but now feels like a wonderful gift – whether from my own inner wisdom, the Universe, or fate.
20 years ago, I walked into a local YWCA in Virginia to become a volunteer with their Sexual Assault Crisis Center and everything fell into place for me. At the time I was the mother of two young kids and working full-time as a paralegal while going to college part-time to finish my Bachelor of Science in Sociology.
After completing a 40-hour training program, I was well-versed in the effects of trauma on children and adults and I loved volunteering so much that I left my paralegal job to work at the YWCA full time. Later, my family and I moved to Maryland where I continued working in that field at the Anne Arundel County YWCA.
Determined to become a trauma therapist, I enrolled in the part-time Master of Social Work program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and graduated in 2010, focusing my studies on trauma in children.
While in school, I worked part-time at the Homeless Persons Representation Project in Station North, which provides legal services to individuals who are unhoused or at risk of losing their housing. Upon graduation, I took a position at Family Connections, a child neglect prevention program that was implementing a SAMHSA grant to provide a trauma-informed version of their neglect prevention program.
Later, I worked at Catholic Charities in Anne Arundel County, the Navy in Annapolis, and Anne Arundel Medical Center before starting my own psychotherapy practice when I attained independent licensure as an LCSW-C in 2013.
I now own the Baltimore-Annapolis Center for Integrative Healing, which is a private psychotherapy practice offering trauma-focused therapy to children, adolescents, and adults in person in Anne Arundel County and virtually statewide. At the time, when I opened my business, I was unaware of any trauma-focused psychotherapy practices in Anne Arundel County and few existed in Baltimore.
I’m so glad that has changed now. So many people are in need of trauma therapy, especially after the ongoing violence in our culture that disproportionately impacts marginalized groups such as individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and children.
BA Healing is now a group practice including myself and 3 staff members, all of whom have specialized training and experience in helping trauma survivors recover. Powerful healing occurs when working one on one or in groups with psychotherapy clients.
However, not everyone is aware of trauma and its impacts. As I mentioned, despite my training and experience of over 20 years, I didn’t even realize some of the things I’d been through were traumatic, until I was ready to heal. We are all on our own journeys and people get there when they are ready.
Realizing that people are at different stages of readiness to go to therapy for trauma, I created two podcasts to provide this important information to as many people as possible. Therapy Chat was started in August 2015 and has been produced weekly since then, almost 7 years now.
It’s been downloaded more than 5 million times. In this show, I interview therapists, researchers, coaches, and others who are knowledgeable about trauma and healing to let the audience know about all the different types of therapy and complementary treatments that can help us recover following traumatic events.
In 2021, I started a second podcast called Trauma Chat which helps the general public understand what trauma is, how it affects us, and what the healing process can look like. I wanted to help people become informed consumers when searching for trauma therapy because trauma has become a buzzword that is used so often, that it is hard to know who knows what and how they can help.
My newest venture is Trauma Therapist Network, a website that pulls together the two podcasts, blog articles, and resources for learning about trauma and getting help; and it has a searchable directory where people can find a trauma therapist. Each therapist’s listing gives details of what they specialize in.
For example, one therapist might specialize in helping people who have lost someone they love to gun violence, and another might focus on helping people who were physically abused or raised by a parent with substance abuse issues.
I care deeply about helping trauma survivors understand that trauma is real, healing is possible and help is available. Looking back, I think some wise part of me understood all along that trauma was at the root of how I felt about myself, and my determination to educate people about trauma led me to where I am now.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The biggest obstacles for me were moments when my unresolved trauma flared up and caused me to feel burned out and/or sick. Unhealed trauma is there under the surface, affecting our relationships with ourselves and other important people in our lives, but we usually aren’t consciously aware of it.
What tends to happen for therapists is that we overwork, and there is a secondary trauma exposure that occurs when we have our own unresolved trauma and we sit with our clients day in and day out, witnessing their stories. This causes a cumulative buildup of trauma that can overwhelm our nervous systems and lead to chronic pain, fatigue, and chronic illness.
I had times over the past 20 years when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore and I considered changing careers. Fortunately, though our field doesn’t always support therapists, we do hear time and time again about the importance of self-care.
At least I had the self-awareness to see when I was struggling and that would often be when I would change jobs or make some other changes to reduce my stress levels.
We’ve been impressed with Trauma Therapist Network, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Trauma Therapist Network is a platform used to help individuals learn about trauma and its effects, understand the healing process, and find a trauma therapist. Website visitors can find blog posts, lists of resources, and podcast episodes focused on trauma and healing, and search the directory to find a trauma therapist near them.
One of the podcasts that are found on the Trauma Therapist Network is Therapy Chat. Over its almost 7 years, hundreds of listeners have contacted me to ask me to help them find a trauma therapist who can help them with their particular situation.
It’s been frustrating to me that despite being a skilled and experienced trauma therapist, it was very difficult to discern which therapists really had in-depth trauma training and experience. I felt that there was a great need for a searchable directory to find a trauma therapists. I thought about it and complained about it for years before finally creating it myself in 2020.
However, after 2 years of the pandemic so many trauma therapists are exhausted and overworked. They don’t necessarily have availability to take on new clients so they have no reason to join a network where they could connect with new clients. What they do need is support.
So I added a component to Trauma Therapist Network that is a membership community for therapists. All members of the Network have access to four live Zoom calls per month focused on various topics supporting the self of the therapist to combat isolation and prevent burnout.
What I’m most proud of about Trauma Therapist Network is that it supports the general public and trauma therapists. Anyone around the world can learn about trauma and begin to understand the healing process by using the site’s free resources.
Currently, the directory is limited to the US but it will eventually include therapists around the world. So anyone in the US can use the directory to search for a trauma therapist in their area. As the membership continues to grow, people who need a therapist will have more options to find one.
And I’m super proud to support trauma therapists. In the four months since the membership began, so many of our members have commented that the support received in the weekly calls has made a huge difference in their quality of life.
- Website: https://traumatherapistnetwork.com
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/therapychatpod
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/therapychatpod
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/therapychatpod
- Youtube: https://youtube.com/therapychatpodcast
Jessica Moran Photography