What is Trauma?
Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience. Trauma happens when a persons is not able to cope with something that has occurred. There are many different types of trauma. It can be a one time event, or it can be something that continues.
Developmental trauma happens in early life and usually disrupts the way the brain develops. The brain often develops out of sequence when there is this type of trauma. Other areas of development are also impacted by developmental trauma. Cognitive, emotional, physical and social growth are also disrupted.
Psychological trauma happens when there is an event that our bodies, our nervous system in particular, feels is life threatening to ourselves, or someone that we care about. Our bodies respond with by weakening our normal adaptive abilities, such as emotional, physical, spiritual, and cognitive.
Traumatic injury impacts the entire body is different ways. It can make someone feel guilt, fear, shame and pain about what happened. It can impact a person physically by causing pain in the joints or muscles, it can impact sleep. Trauma can cause changes in appetite or digestion. Trauma changes our social interactions. It can impact relationships with the people around us, even those closest to us, like spouses and family. It can also affect how someone interact with complete strangers. Trauma impacts a persons ability to make good decisions and fully process thoughts. Trauma can also shape the way someone sees the world. It can warp the view of reality and one’s understanding of society.
A traumatic event can cause such emotional and psychological trauma that if it is left untreated, an individual may develop other severe disorders. An individual may have major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, and psychotic disorder. Any and all of these should have trauma treatment because the individual can become so distressed with the fear and anxiety, that he or she may attempt suicide.
What is Trauma Treatment?
Trauma therapy is a type of therapy used by counselors and doctors to help someone overcome a traumatic event. There is not one specific thing that defines trauma therapy. It is many different types of therapy that are used separately or together to help one deal with the traumatic event. Trauma treatment is helpful in reducing the symptoms of the trauma. Trauma treatment can help one face what happened in the past and move towards focusing on today and not what happened in the past. Treatment also assists one with learning to function in daily life, such as reducing behavior that tends to get in the way of living every day life. Trauma treatment also can help one overcome addictions that are a cause of the traumatic event.
There are three types of therapies that are commonly used to treat trauma. They are cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) As Trauma Treatment
The purpose of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is to find the negative thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma. By targeting these feelings and emotions, the therapist can help the individual become less sensitive to those thoughts and emotions. The therapist starts this by helping the individual pinpoint those feelings and helping the individual to recognize them. Then the person can begin to become educated about why he or she is feeling the way he or she is feeling.
This way the individual can acknowledge what happened and the symptoms resulting from the event. The person can also begin to recognize which or these feelings are irrational and focus on more positive and realistic thoughts. It takes multiple sessions to begin to understand these feelings. During these sessions, the individual is asked to think about the traumatic event and describe it. The individual continues to focus on the consequences and all the negativity around the event until those things eventually lessen. Eventually, those events and feelings begin to have less power over the individual. The individual also learns relaxation techniques and he or she must practice them when he feels anxious or any triggers occur when not in a therapy session. This way the individual is learning coping tools when no one else is around to help him or her.
During these sessions, the individual also learns how to manage stress and anxiety with proper breathing. It sounds simple, but it is incredibly effective. In therapy, the individual will role play to act out how they will respond when there is a trigger or a stressful situation. The individual learns about normal reactions to trauma. The individual may also have exposure therapy. This is when the individual is exposed to a trigger that often causes fear and trauma. This exposure, however, has no real danger around it so the individual can learn how to work through and overcome the stress and anxiety it produces in a dafe environment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment that involves eight steps, or phases. It is used and controlled by therapists and it involves exposure to the traumatic event. This exposure is brief and interrupted. It also includes eye movement tracking and revisiting the emotions and feelings of the event. The therapist selects which memory to trigger and then asks the individual to keep this memory and symptoms in their mind. While the individual is doing this, the therapist asks the individual to track the therapist’s hand with their eyes while it moves back and forth the person’s field of vision. What is happening is the rapid eye movement is having associations form internally and this way the individual processes the memories and feelings to an emotional place when they can replace the fear and anger with strength. So instead of fearing the past event, the individual feels a sense of strength and power for overcoming the trauma of the event. This type of trauma treatment focuses on the event of the past, the triggers of the present and then the emotions associated with the experience all while developing new skills and thoughts to turn the negative ones into positive ones.
This type of trauma therapy was conceived from earlier methods of psychoanalysis. It uncovers the conflicts in the unconscious mind and works on the assumption that the trauma began in childhood. It looks at the relationships between thought, emotion, and behavior. This therapy relies on a relationship building between the therapist and the individual. This type of therapy is more focused on gaining insight into the symptoms of the trauma.
There are many other types of therapies that an individual can try when it comes to trauma treatment. There is not one set therapy that will definitely work. Each individual is different and the way the trauma impacted them is different, therefore, treatment may need to be different.
Some other types of therapy are hypnotherapy. This is often used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to deal with the emotional and psychological symptoms of the trauma. Medication may also be needed to help the individual deal with the symptoms of the trauma. Trauma often causes the occurrence of other disorders such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Often the first line approach to these disorders is medication in an attempt to control the symptoms while working on the trauma.
As with anything the only way trauma treatment will work is if the individual sticks with it and stays on their appointment schedule. The individual should find a therapist with whom they feel comfortable and trust. If the individual does not feel he or she can trust the therapist, there will not be open and honest communication. This is a key part to any type of therapy treatment.