TRAUMA & PTSD
Clients who experience trauma or PTSD will have developed it after one or multiple traumatic events or stressful situations. Trauma can come from many different situations and will last throughout the rest of your life. Effective therapy will help you function normally and heal from some of the lasting effects of trauma-inducing events.
Trauma refers to the emotional response a client has to an event like death, accident, rape, natural disaster, family loss or break, physical harm, etc. Trauma affects the brain in multiple negative ways including the heightened hormones of stress and fear. Being exposed to stress or fear for a lengthy period of time can affect cognitive and emotional functioning in order to survive.
Mental health problems can come from repeated trauma and make it hard to function on a normal rhythm during interactions with others. Many people experience trauma and abuse during childhood, but many teens and adults can develop mental illness from trauma later in life.
What Is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that develops in those who may have witnessed or been a part of a traumatic event. Many events can lead to PTSD such as natural disasters, car accidents, war/combat, assault, intimate partner violence, bullying, or terrorist acts.
People with PTSD will have intense thoughts, disturbing images flash through their minds or relive the experience altogether. These may occur in instances of flashbacks or nightmares. Triggers for PTSD can vary from person to person, but sometimes a certain touch, loud sound, or stressful situation may take them back to that place and time.
Managing PTSD can be a lengthy process. It affects the way people think and act and may lead to outbursts or amnesia. Therapy is especially helpful for PTSD clients because it helps them to work out thoughts and resist bottling up complex emotions. Symptoms can appear up to 3 months after the incident or it may take even longer. Experiencing PTSD long after the event is nothing to be ashamed of.
Other Forms Of Trauma
Trauma is categorized into three categories to best help clients and our specialists at Red Willow to understand how the trauma occurred and for how long.
Acute: This type of trauma results from a singular instance.
Chronic: Repeated trauma or prolonged trauma like neglect, domestic violence, and abuse.
Complex: Exposure to trauma over varied and multiple events that are invasive and interpersonal in nature.
Therapy Techniques For Trauma And PTSD
Depending on the severity of your trauma or what symptoms you are experiencing will help to determine what therapy will be most effective. Here are some common therapy methods and treatments that can help those who have experienced trauma or the mental illness that comes with it, gain more control of their life.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
CPT focuses on reevaluating the traumatic event. This helps the client view themselves, others, and the world around them in a different light. Sometimes a person feels stuck after they develop PTSD and want help reorganizing their thinking.
CPT helps a person to develop new ways of thinking about their trauma. This is helpful for those that have shame about the events that have led to their mental health diagnosis or trauma diagnosis.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
This therapy technique focuses more on behaviors and gradually exposes the client to their trauma which may include memories, emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and more. Those who have trauma often move into an avoidance mindset, where they push those they love, those who were with them when the event happened, or stop participating in activities that could trigger symptoms.
Some therapists will use imaginal exposures, like recounting the details of an event, or interoceptive exposures, like creating feared physical sensations that are not harmful to the client. All of these can help a client realize that they are no longer in danger.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy
EMDR is different than talk therapy and does not require the client to explain what happened during their traumatic event. The client will do eye movements or tap their fingers while focusing on an image that relates to their specific trauma. This helps the brain to become unstuck and resume a more natural healing process.
EMDR is completed in fewer sessions than talk therapy and is not focused on changing thoughts and behaviors.
Using medication in combination with other methods is also effective. Mental health professionals may prescribe SSRIs that can help with panic or anxiety. Using medication alone will not heal your trauma.