What is the Hallmark of Developmental Trauma?

Immediately when professionals in the behavioral health space sit down with a teenager, specifically in a therapy office, they could be relating to themselves in a billion different ways. They could be relating to you, the behavioral health professional, in a billion different ways. If you come with an agenda, a goal or a solution-focused approach, all of the complexity of the billion different possibilities is reduced into two options: they are relating to themselves in compliance or defiance of the goal, solution and agenda that’s being driven from the environment.

This compliance or defiance mirrors good and bad, and right and wrong. This is called splitting, and it is the hallmark of developmental trauma.

Splitting, as a response to developmental trauma, or Complex PTSD, is the dynamic of staying in either complying or defying. Adolescents who experience splitting are either complying with what you want so that they can be “good,” or defying what you want so that they can be “bad.”

Remaining in a state of compliance or defiance is a reenactment of an adolescent’s developmental trauma, and ultimately is in service of protecting them from their hearts. This back and forth occurs because if they’re reacting to you environmentally, they don’t have to look at what it is that feels most painful.

Adolescents who have endured Complex PTSD get caught in this state of splitting constantly.

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If you see signs of splitting in your teenage son, and need support in the process of encouraging healing, reach out to Family First today. Our team is comprised of professionals in the behavioral health space with rich and diverse backgrounds. More importantly, every team member is committed to our clients and passionate about helping our adolescent population.

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