Healing Trauma Together

Healing Trauma Together

A Therapist’s Perspective on  Women’s Trauma IOP Group

By Ashly Parsons, LMSW Outpatient Therapist, Valley Behavioral Hospital


As a therapist who facilitates the women’s trauma Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) group at Valley Behavioral Health Hospital, I am privileged to witness the transformative power of healing in a supportive and empowering environment. The journey of healing from trauma is a complex and deeply personal one, and I am honored to guide these courageous women through their process of healing and growth. In our trauma IOP group, we incorporate evidence-based psychoeducation materials to provide our participants with a comprehensive understanding of trauma and its effects on the mind and body. One of the frameworks we utilize is the Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, which helps us understand the role of the autonomic nervous system in responding to stress and trauma.


What is the Polyvagal Theory?

The Polyvagal Theory highlights the importance of the vagus nerve in regulating our responses to stress and trauma. It suggests our autonomic nervous system has three distinct states: the social engagement system, the sympathetic fight-or-flight response, and the dorsal vagal immobilization response. By understanding these states, we can help our patients recognize their own physiological responses to trauma triggers and learn effective coping strategies to regulate their nervous system.

Our groups provide psychoeducation on Neuroscience which has provided us with valuable insights into the effects of trauma on the brain and nervous system. When a person experiences trauma, particularly in childhood, it can have lasting effects on brain development and functioning. The amygdala, the brain’s fear center, may become hyperactive, leading to heightened emotional responses and hypervigilance.

Additionally, trauma can impact the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, and self-awareness. This can result in difficulties in managing emotions, forming healthy relationships, and coping with stress. By integrating neuroscience research into our group sessions, we help our participants understand the biological underpinnings of their trauma responses and empower them to work towards healing and resilience.

Creating a supportive environment is essential in our trauma IOP group. Women who participate in our group often report feeling seen, heard, validated, and supported. It is a warm and brave space where vulnerability is embraced, and strength is celebrated. Through group discussions, learning activities, and therapeutic interventions, we cultivate a sense of community and connection among our group members.

The power of group therapy lies in the shared experiences and collective wisdom of the group members. Women in our trauma IOP group find solace in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles and that there is hope for healing and recovery. By sharing their stories, expressing their emotions, and offering support to one another, they create a safe space for vulnerability and growth.

As a therapist, my role is to facilitate the group process, provide guidance and support, and empower each participant to explore their trauma with courage and compassion. I am continually inspired by the resilience and strength of the women in our group as they navigate their healing journeys and reclaim their sense of self and empowerment.

In conclusion, women’s trauma IOP groups offer a unique and powerful opportunity for healing and growth. By integrating evidence-based psychoeducation, the Polyvagal Theory, neuroscience, and creating a supportive environment, we empower women to confront their trauma, regulate their nervous systems, and cultivate resilience. Together, we embark on a journey of healing, transformation, and empowerment, one brave step at a time.


As a Master of Social Work therapist specializing in intensive outpatient therapy, Ashly brings a compassionate and dedicated approach to supporting clients on their healing journey from trauma and co-occurring disorders. Her goal is to empower individuals to overcome challenges and achieve lasting well-being. Learn more at



Together AZ

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