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What is Trauma Therapy?

June 14, 2022

What is Trauma Therapy?

Recent studies suggest that 70% of the general population in the US report having experienced some type of trauma. Trauma affects every person individually, and each person’s reaction to trauma will be unique.

Below are some common sources of trauma, although it is not all-inclusive.

Abuse (physical/mental/sexual/neglect)
Domestic Violence
Crime
Combat/War
Natural Disasters
Medical Trauma
Occupational Trauma (police, EMT)
Traumatic Grief
Community Violence
Bullying/Cyberbullying
Racial Trauma
Terrorism/Refugee Trauma

Trauma impacts each person differently. After a traumatic event, some individuals may experience a range of distressing symptoms. Trauma symptoms commonly include*:

Intrusive memories/nightmare/flashbacks
Exaggerated startle response
Avoidance
Physical distress (heart pounding, stomachache, sweating, flushing)
Difficulty concentrating
“Spacing out”

*This list is not all inclusive, as trauma affects everyone differently.

For some individuals, these symptoms last longer and have a greater negative impact in their functioning and mood. In these situations, working with a trained therapist to address and reduce these distressing symptoms can be useful.

What is Trauma Therapy?

The goal of trauma therapy is to reduce stress reactions caused by trauma to help individuals to function on a day-to-day basis with minimized distress. Trauma therapy does not help you to “forget” a traumatic event - although that may seem desirable, it is not practical. Instead, it is designed to help you develop skills to manage your trauma triggers and intrusive memories so you can function without excessive distress.

If you feel that you would like to seek out therapy for a traumatic experience, it is highly recommended to seek out a provider who is experienced in treating trauma reactions and in evidenced based trauma therapy treatments. Some providers even specialize in a particular type of trauma, although working with a provider with a particular type of experience is not necessary to successfully treat trauma. It is also important to note that there are multiple approaches to treating trauma, so if you do not feel that you connect with the first therapist you see, it is ok to keep looking!

When you participate in an initial therapy evaluation, the therapist will likely ask you questions about all aspects of your life – this is not to be nosey, it is to understand your life and how the trauma/s you experienced is affecting you. Do not feel obligated to recount the details of your trauma to a therapist during the first session. While it is important to provide a brief explanation of the trauma so the therapist can understand what is going on, you are not expected to share more than you are comfortable with. In addition to asking questions, a provider may administer an assessment to capture additional information about your symptoms. It is important to note that these assessments help the therapist to gather information in a different way to improve their understanding of your symptoms so they can develop successful treatment recommendations.

The general objective of trauma therapy is to teach you a variety of coping skills to handle memories and triggers of the trauma so that you can use those skills to manage trauma-related symptoms. All coping skills do not work for all individuals, so do not be discouraged if you try strategies that do not work. It is important to provide your therapist feedback on the coping skills that are successful or unsuccessful so they can further tailor their recommendations according to what works best for you. If you struggle to discuss trauma verbally, that’s ok – there are many nonverbal ways to process trauma including writing/journaling, art, music, etc.

Trauma therapy is hard. It will not always be a pleasant experience, even when you have a good relationship with your provider. However, engaging in trauma therapy may be crucial for managing distress associated with your trauma and learning to function successfully as a partner, parent, employee, family member, friend, etc. If trauma is affecting your life, it is worth considering trauma therapy to improve your overall functioning and well-being.

With the emergence of the pandemic, teletherapy has become increasingly popular and available. Trauma therapy can be conducted via telehealth in many instances, which is very helpful for individuals who live in areas with few mental health providers, with individuals who have busy schedules and/or no transportation, or individuals who are still limiting exposure to others due to the ongoing pandemic.

If you are interested in scheduling an evaluation for teletherapy, please reach out to CHE using the “Contact Us” form.

Melinda Warth, M.A. is a Quality Assurance Associate at CHE Behavioral Health services. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and has provided therapy to individuals of all ages who have experienced trauma, and has participated in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy training.


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