After experiencing a traumatic event, like a car wreck or a divorce, you may consider visiting a mental health professional for the first time. Quite often, you can feel at a loss about how to begin the process of healing from trauma. You may even wonder what steps you can take to heal, and what trauma treatment options are out there.
Trauma is a severe stressor or series of stressful happenings that can cause an extreme emotional response. You can experience trauma from anything you find physically or emotionally harmful, such as:
- Assaults or attacks
- Physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse, including instances from your childhood
Everyone experiences trauma in their lifetimes, but your response to trauma doesn’t have to be the result of something that happened to you. You can experience emotional trauma as a result of something you experience personally or witness through another person.
Everyone responds differently to trauma. In fact, two people may respond differently to the same traumatic experience. That’s why it’s vital not to discredit your reactions to trauma. Don’t minimize your experience or emotions by comparing your experience with others. Review the symptoms of trauma and be honest with yourself. If you’re experiencing any of the following, you should consider seeking trauma treatment.
Symptoms of Trauma
How do you know if you have trauma symptoms and need help? Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, strained relationships, and thoughts of suicide
- Triggers related to the experience, such as hearing the same song you heard during a car accident, can cause you to experience stress, threatening feelings, and difficulty relaxing and feeling safe
- Adverse coping attempts, including self harm, alcohol and drug use, bullying, isolating, or difficulty being present
- Trauma-related behaviors, including severe anxiety, flashbacks of the traumatic experience, and avoidance like never revisiting the place where the experience happened
Trauma is unlikely to heal on its own. Instead, trauma that’s left untreated will continue to hinder, stunt, and negatively impact your emotional, social, and physical health. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, it’s important to seek trauma-informed treatment.
Benefits of Trauma-Informed Therapy
Treatment helps you manage your symptoms, improve your quality of life, and change your thought patterns surrounding the traumatic experience. Your brain is remarkable and capable of healing. By working with a specialized trauma therapist, you’ll be able to:
- Reduce the symptoms of trauma
- Work through past traumas and shift your focus to the present moment
- Identify triggers and learn how to cope with them
- Improve your daily functioning, including regulating your nervous system
- Reclaim your feelings of control, safety, and self agency
- Rebuild relationships
- Overcome addictions resulting from unresolved trauma
- Improve physical and mental health
- Develop healthy coping skills that serve you for the rest of your life
You can live a better life, even after facing trauma, by seeking therapy. It’s critical to find a therapist who specializes in the field of trauma, so you’re in the best hands possible. Look for treatment centers that focus on the core principles of trauma-informed treatment.
Core Principles of Trauma-Informed Treatment
Trauma-informed treatment is a way to approach counseling with the client’s past traumatic experiences in mind. This framing enables mental health care providers to approach clients with empathy. It also promotes an environment of safety, empowerment, and healing. Trauma-informed treatment also has other core principles.
“Trauma impacts us as a whole — our minds, bodies, behavior, self identity, spirits, relationships, and communities,” stated Carmen Dominguez, Clinical Director at Integrative Life Center. “Best practices must treat trauma in a holistic manner.”
When you’re looking for the right therapist, focus on finding trauma treatment that supports the ideology of holistic treatment. That means they should ask about your trauma history, rather than just focus on one event or your symptoms. Your therapist should also understand the widespread impact of trauma, and seek to understand all the ways it impacts you.
Although understanding your history of trauma is vital, it’s also important for your therapist to get to the root cause of your current symptoms or adverse behaviors. Your therapist should be able to recognize what events are traumatic, as well as the symptoms of emotional trauma. They need to find the root of your traumatic stressors, and understand how to address them.
Carmen said the relationship between the trauma survivor and their counselor is critical.
“We know that trauma happens in relationships. To heal trauma, clients need to experience therapeutic relationships that make room for authenticity, mutuality, and that foster trauma-informed consideration such as transparency, collaboration, cultural humility, voice choice, and self agency,” she said.
Your therapist should also be time-sensitive when addressing trauma. The longer trauma goes unaddressed, the longer you’ll be living with negative symptoms and a reduced quality of life. Look for a therapist who understands that acting as soon as possible is necessary.
When it comes to appropriate therapeutic interventions for trauma treatment, it’s important that you have a choice. You have free will, opinions, and preferences. The right therapist for you will invite you to join them in the decision-making process. This collaborative spirit helps you gain a sense of empowerment.
“We don’t want to assume that there is one way to heal trauma,” Carmen said. “There are many paths to healing.” Look for trauma treatment that includes you in the decision-making process rather than deciding for you.
Therapeutic options for treating trauma include:
- Psychotherapy. By talking to a professional, you can explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You’ll begin to understand why your mind and body respond to trauma the way they do and explore these responses in a safe, observant way.
- Equine-Assisted Therapy. This approach includes activities and interactions with horses to treat mental health conditions, relieve stress, improve confidence, and build relationship skills.
- Experiential Therapy. Used alongside talk therapy, experiential therapies like yoga, music, art, and play help you learn to express yourself in real-world situations.
- Support Groups. Talking with others who have had similar experiences as you can be invaluable. It also helps you feel connected and build relationships.
When you’re looking for a therapist, make sure they give you time to explore your options, and include you in the process of deciding what’s best for you. After all, you need to be comfortable with your healing process.
“We want to guide clients back to their inherent worth, to the intrinsic wisdom that is within them,” Carmen said.
At Integrative Life Center, we offer ongoing mental health support that includes you in the decision-making processes. We operate from a trauma-informed perspective, with therapists who are trained and knowledgeable in the trauma space. We’re heart-centered, providing a loving approach to emotional and spiritual healing.
If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health concerns, contact Integrative Life Center to learn more about our treatment options.