Trauma therapy, or trauma-focused therapy, can help you deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of a traumatic event.
Trauma occurs when a distressing event causes a person emotional, psychological, or physical harm. Examples of trauma include abuse, sexual assault, loss of a loved one, neglect, experiencing a natural disaster, or witnessing a crime.
Trauma can affect individuals of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, or sexual orientations.
Trauma can be complex and it affects everyone very differently. Factors such as coping mechanisms, past traumas, support networks, and a person's resilience can all affect the degree to which a person is traumatized.
When trauma becomes overwhelming and affects a person's day-to-day life, trauma therapy can help individuals work through difficult emotions and memories and develop the skills needed to move forward in life.
When to Seek Therapy for Trauma
Untreated trauma can lead to severe mental and physical health conditions. However, many people are often unaware that they are experiencing symptoms related to trauma and fail to seek proper treatment. The following signs may indicate that a person should seek treatment to address their trauma:
- Difficulty with regulating emotions
- Sleep disturbances
- Intense feelings of sadness, anger, or irritability
- Experience nightmares or flashbacks frequently
- Feeling disoriented or confused
- Compulsive behaviors
- Decline in physical health
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in eating behaviors
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, don’t delay treatment. Individuals who have experienced trauma are at an elevated risk for substance abuse, mental disorders, physical conditions, suicidal thoughts, and more.
If trauma is affecting your ability to function, trauma focused therapy can help improve symptoms and get you back to living a normal life.
What is trauma therapy?
Trauma therapy is a form of therapy aimed at helping individuals deal with emotional and behavioral responses from a traumatic event.
During therapy, a mental health professional will help patients face their fears, process their feelings, and develop healthy coping strategies for moving forward in life.
There are many techniques therapists can use to treat trauma. In some cases, a combination of therapies may be needed to address trauma appropriately. Some of the most common techniques are listed below.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy identifies negative thought patterns and behaviors in a person's life. During therapy sessions, patients will work to replace these negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.
Over time, these new skills will help reduce symptoms of trauma and improve quality of life.
Exposure therapy assists patients in confronting and overcoming their fears. This process gradually exposes a person to the source of their fear in a safe environment. Over time, this will help reduce feelings of fear and anxiety associated with the stimuli.
Narrative Exposure Therapy
Narrative exposure therapy aims to treat individuals with complex or multiple trauma histories. In this form of therapy, the patient is asked to narrate the traumatic events and the emotions experienced in detail.
Similar to exposure therapy, this strategy helps the patient reduce feelings of anxiety when recalling the event, which will also reduce overall trauma symptoms.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a form of talk therapy for people who experience emotions very intensely. Initially intended for individuals with borderline personality disorder, it is now used to treat a variety of mental health disorders.
People who undergo DBT are taught to experience emotions in a healthy way and learn how to change their behaviors to improve overall functioning.
Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing Therapy
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to alleviate distress caused by traumatic memories. During sessions, patients are visually stimulated while focusing on their trauma.
As thoughts and feelings surface, the stimulation helps reduce emotional responses. As a result, trauma-related thoughts will cause less fear and anxiety over time.
Psychodynamic Trauma Therapy
Psychodynamic therapy emphasizes the unconscious mind, where painful thoughts, feelings, and urges are stored. During sessions, a therapist will assist the patient in identifying defense mechanisms, their purpose, and how to release those feelings and thoughts previously avoided.
Group settings give patients the opportunity to share their experiences with others who are going through similar struggles.
Additionally, a group setting can help individuals feel more supported and safe to open up about their feelings and thoughts. Oftentimes, trauma therapists will include this as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
What are the advantages and objectives of trauma-informed therapy?
When negative feelings associated with trauma become overwhelming, mental health professionals can help individuals reduce their symptoms of trauma and learn coping skills to improve their daily functioning.
Therapists specifically trained to identify and treat trauma typically achieve better outcomes with their patients.
Some benefits of working with a trauma-informed therapist include:
- Safety - Mental health professionals trained in trauma will take extra precaution to ensure their patients feel comfortable to engage and share their feelings.
- Re-traumatization is less likely - It is common for trauma survivors to relive their memories and feelings following a trauma. Trauma-informed therapists use expert care and gentleness to avoid further harm.
- Holistic approach - A trauma-informed therapist will understand the physical aspects that relate to a person’s trauma response. In addition to talk therapy, they may incorporate other body-focused techniques for a more holistic approach.
- Proper care - Many providers tend to make assumptions about their patients based on previous diagnoses. A trauma-informed therapist will recognize signs of trauma early, enabling effective treatment and healing.
- Collaboration - Therapists trained in trauma serve as partners rather than authorities, assisting rather than directing patients.
- Support - To help individuals feel more supported and empowered, trauma therapists may incorporate group therapy into recovery.
To provide effective trauma care, health care organizations and mental health professionals must adopt trauma-informed practices that help improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, and health outcomes.
A trauma-informed approach includes the following objectives:
- Identifying signs and symptoms of trauma
- Understanding the impacts of trauma and how to recover from it
- Ensuring policies, procedures, and practices reflect trauma awareness
- Provide transparency with patients to build a sense of trustworthiness
- Avoiding traumatization
- Creating an environment where individuals feel empowered to take part in their healing journey
- Recognize and eliminate any potential biases based on culture, race, or gender
What does a trauma therapist do?
Trauma therapists are trained professionals that help individuals overcome a variety of symptoms associated with traumatic events. Using various methods, trauma-informed therapists will help individuals face their trauma, process emotions, and develop important coping skills.
Trauma-focused therapy helps participants identify and understand memories and feelings related to the trauma. Many times, a person's reactions are actually a response to specific triggers.
A trauma-informed therapist will teach how to recognize traumatic triggers and how to alter a person’s response to them.
Everyone experiences trauma differently. Some may suppress their emotions, while others feel their emotions intensely. However a person is responding to trauma, therapy creates a safe environment where individuals can confront their feelings and let them go without judgment.
Develop Coping Skills
After suffering a trauma, many people struggle with day-to-day life and productivity. Working with a trauma-informed therapist can help you develop important coping strategies to overcome emotions and triggers that may arise out of nowhere.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Trauma Therapist
Choosing a trauma therapist involves many factors. Some of the most common factors to keep in mind may include cost, location, the therapist's training, and treatment style.
When selecting a therapist, finding someone you feel comfortable with and is best suited to your personal needs is important. Asking the questions below before or during your first appointment can help you choose a therapist that is right for you.
- What is your training? What certifications or degrees do you hold?
- Have you worked with trauma patients before?
- What kinds of therapies do you use to treat trauma?
- Are there any advantages or disadvantages to different treatment methods?
- What can I expect during therapy sessions?
- How long do therapy sessions last?
- When will I start feeling better?
- How long will treatment take?
- Do you take my insurance?
- What is the cost of treatment?
Therapists will not be able to determine how much treatment you will need on the first visit. However, asking the questions above will provide a better idea of what to expect during treatment and whether or not the therapist is a good fit for you.
Your therapist is there to help you on your wellness journey, so do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have.
Trauma Therapy at CHE
Psychological and physical distress from traumatic events typically respond very well to trauma informed therapies. At CHE Behavioral Health Services, we offer the latest treatments for care in PTSD and other forms of trauma.
With a network of over 850 psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners and related mental health professionals, many of our providers are trained extensively to treat individuals suffering from trauma.
To learn more about our services, please call 888-515-3834.