About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event during their lives. For some, this trauma can have adverse mental, behavioral, emotional, and even physical effects that last long after the event. These effects can significantly impact the survivor’s ability to function and overall quality of life if left untreated.
Trauma treatment is an approach rooted in understanding and confronting your trauma and its effects to heal and move on with your life.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is slightly different for every person. It’s your body’s response to an extraordinarily stressful event, experience, or set of recurring experiences that leaves you stuck in a place that can affect your mental health and overall well-being for a long time.
Traumatic experiences frequently involve threats to life or safety and trigger a survival response. Once the initial reaction subsides, people experiencing trauma are left with the feeling that the world is unsafe.
Traumatic experiences include:
- Physical and sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Emotional abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Natural disasters
- Military combat
- Serious accidents and injuries – such as a car crash
- Ongoing stress – caused by chronic illness, racism, bullying, homelessness, etc
Not everyone who goes through a traumatic event experiences long-term consequences. But for some people, trauma can have negative psychological effects that last for years after the event.
Effects of trauma can include:
- Mental health issues
- Flashbacks and nightmares of the traumatic event
- Using substances to self soothe
- Uncontrollable and racing thoughts
- Relationship and attachment difficulties
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Unhealthy emotional processing
- Reduced impulse control
- Eating disorders
- Sleeping disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
When left untreated, the effects of trauma can significantly impact your ability to function and your overall quality of life.
What Does Trauma Treatment Include?
Trauma therapy is a holistic therapeutic approach. It switches the focus from “What’s wrong with you” to “What happened to you?”
Trauma-informed therapy involves acknowledging past trauma, identifying triggers, and learning healthy coping strategies to manage symptoms. Confronting and understanding your trauma is vital so you can heal and move forward with your life.
Carmen Dominguez, Chief Clinical Officer at Integrative Life Center, noted that trauma survivors often feel a loss of safety and control of their lives and that the goal of trauma treatment is to help reestablish these feelings.
“We want to bring them back to a relationship with their authentic self and offer them a greater sense of self-agency,” she said.
Trauma and its effects can also lead to mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. Trauma therapy helps get to the root of these conditions, so they can be treated in a trauma-informed manner.
Trauma Treatment Therapies
Trauma treatment can involve a combination of therapies. At Integrative Life Center, we create individual treatment plans for clients that may include the methods and modalities below, as well as others.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of talk therapy. It involves identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts and harmful behaviors related to trauma. Over time, CBT can help you develop healthy coping strategies to reduce symptoms.
Exposure therapy can help you face trauma by exposing you to the source of your fears for prolonged periods. Your therapist will create a safe space where you can confront your trauma-related fears, memories, and emotions head-on. Exposure can help you break your pattern of avoidance and eventually overcome these fears.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapeutic technique in which a mental health professional uses repetitive eye movements to reprogram memories associated with traumatic events. EMDR happens while you talk about your trauma. The goal is to help release emotions blocked by trauma.
Brainspotting works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of trauma. Like EMDR, a practitioner will guide your eye movements until physical signals reveal a brain spot. The aim is to identify trauma by examining how it manifests in your body. Focusing on each brain spot, your mind must deal with trauma and begin healing.
Factors to Consider that Affect Trauma Treatment
As in all types of treatment, some individual factors can affect which trauma treatment will be most beneficial for you. It’s helpful to understand these factors, so you can start treatment from an informed place and get the best possible outcomes.
Like with most things in life, you get out of therapy what you put in. Being unwilling or unprepared to face your trauma is one of the biggest barriers to trauma therapy. Maybe you’re worried about the stigma attached to therapy. Or maybe you’re scared about reopening old wounds. Either way, pushing past these hurdles and committing to your healing journey is crucial. A strong commitment is how you’ll get the most out of your trauma treatment.
Another factor to consider is the overall goal of your treatment. Not everyone is looking to achieve the same thing with therapy. So what are your objectives for seeking help? Is your aim to experience deep healing of your underlying trauma? Or do you simply want to learn coping strategies to help you function better in everyday life? This part is up to you.
The Intensity and Persistence of the Trauma
The type and severity of your trauma can greatly influence the treatment required. It also influences how long your treatment can take. A single recent traumatic event experienced as an adult often takes a shorter time to heal than deep-rooted childhood trauma. Trauma symptoms that have persisted for many years after the initial event can be more difficult to treat initially. But over time, healing from the trauma is still possible.
Having strong social support is crucial for healing from trauma. This support may come from close family and friends, or it may come from a support group. Either way, having people around who understand you and can offer support will make the treatment process easier.
Connection with Counselor
As an experienced clinician treating trauma, Carmen knows that the connection between the trauma survivor and mental health professional is also critical to healing. In trauma therapy, the counselor becomes an equal partner rather than an authority figure. They work alongside you and provide support during the recovery process. Carmen said:
“The No. 1 predictor of successful outcomes is the therapeutic relationship. To heal trauma, clients need to experience therapeutic relationships that make room for authenticity and mutuality and foster trauma-informed consideration such as transparency, collaboration, cultural humility, voice choice, and self-agency.”
At ILC, practitioners offering trauma-informed care are guided by five key principles.
These principles help nurture a relationship of mutual respect and trust between the practitioner and the client. They ensure your emotional and physical safety is a priority. And they reduce the risk of any further harm or re-traumatization.
An effective trauma treatment plan is not one-size-fits-all. Understanding and confronting your trauma in a safe environment is a vital first step in your healing journey.
At Integrative Life Center, our trauma-informed therapy program focuses on understanding trauma’s complex and nuanced effects on your life. We can then help you overcome and correct negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors linked to your trauma, allowing you to heal and thrive.
If you or someone you know has experienced trauma, seeking professional help as soon as possible is key. Contact Integrative Life Center today to learn more about how our trauma-informed therapy program can help.