Treatment Options For Trauma
It’s important to remember that talk therapy is not effective in treating trauma. Trauma is found in the body, not just the mind. For more information why talk therapy is not effective, read the following articles.
If you chose to work on your relationship, talk therapy will be needed to heal as a couple from the past betrayals, learn how to co-regulate triggers, and learn how to communicate. However, it’s important to realize that to minimize the PTSD symptoms of your triggers, you’ll need to do the deeper therapy to address your trauma.
The following are but a few of the treatment options available for people struggling with the effects of trauma. For more information, please click on the links provided.
My prayer is that something on this page will resonate with you and help you to rise from the ashes and become reborn!
ART draws on a variety of different techniques including Gestalt, Cognitive Behavior, Guided Imagery, EMDR and brief psycho-dynamic and exposure therapy. ART combines elements of these approaches with eye movements so that the sum of ART is more than its parts.
ART also uses metaphors which act as reinforcements for the changes made during treatment. The metaphors can lead clients to identify specific tools to help them in their daily lives.
Trauma and other intense, deeply felt experiences can completely overwhelm us if we don’t have other people in our lives to help us regulate our emotional response to them. However, sometimes these relationships fail and we’re left completely alone with these intense, unbearable emotions.
This is believed to be the cause of psychopathology in AEDP. It develops out of our use of maladaptive defense mechanisms in an attempt to cope. The more we rely on these unhealthy coping mechanisms, the more deeply ingrained our emotional and psychological problems become.
AEDP works by “undoing” this aloneness. This form of psychotherapy draws upon and blends components of a variety of theories and approaches, including attachment theory, emotion theory and emotion-focused therapies, body-focused therapies, other dynamic psychotherapies, and developmental mother–infant interaction research.
Art therapy, as the name suggests, involves creating art as a therapeutic tool to help facilitate emotional growth, and promote both mental and physical healing and recovery. Sometimes referred to as art psychotherapy, it is often used in combination with other forms of medical or mental health treatment. Art therapy can be beneficial for those recovering from trauma or addiction, working through grief, or coping with a disability.
While art therapy often involves drawing or painting, other types of artistic expression – such as sculpting, clay work, or creating a collage, for example – may also be used.
Creating art gives individuals the opportunity to express themselves more freely, gain insight and self-awareness, and work through difficult emotions in a manner that’s quite different from – and perhaps less intimidating than – traditional counseling or talk therapy.
Cognitive processing therapy – often referred to as CPT for short – is a short term therapy that was originally developed to treat rape survivors with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or symptoms associated with the disorder. Studies have found it to be one of the most beneficial treatments for individuals who suffer from PTSD.
Designed as a structured, short-term therapy, CPT helps trauma survivors learn to identify and challenge distorted beliefs and perceptions created by the traumatic event. This process enables them to break free from paralyzing feelings such as helplessness, fear, and distrust, and finally regain a sense of control over their lives.
Dialectical behavior therapy was developed by Dr. Marsh Linehan and her colleagues at the University of Washington in the late 1970s. Linehan, with a background in behaviorism, began developing the concept when she was seeking an effective form of treatment for women who struggled with suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as tendencies to physically hurt themselves (common symptoms of individuals with borderline personality disorder).
DBT is based on the concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy and is considered to be a form of CBT. However, it varies from CBT in that it also incorporates Eastern mindfulness practices and a dialectical perspective to treatment. Dialectical refers to integrating or balancing polar opposites in order to find the middle ground.
Majestic, powerful, strong, gentle, smart, and intuitive – these are just a few of the unique and wonderful characteristics found in horses. These incredible and beautiful creatures often play a very special role in helping individuals recover from trauma, mental health issues, various types of addiction, and other serious life challenges.
Equine-assisted therapy, also known as equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) or “horse therapy” as it’s occasionally called, involves the use of horses as part of the therapeutic process. In fact, when it comes to animal-assisted therapy, horses are the most popular and widely used animal. One of the primary reasons for this is because many people are easily able to connect with horses. Additionally, horses – like humans – are very responsive and social creatures.
It’s long been understood by mental health professionals that horses and other animals can significantly enhance the healing process in humans. By interacting with horses in various ways, individuals struggling with complex and challenging disorders such as PTSD, addiction, and anorexia are able to access and express previously blocked emotions, significantly increase their self-awareness, reduce their anxiety, and learn to communicate and solve problems more effectively.
Experiential therapy isn’t really a specific type of psychotherapy. Rather, the term is used to refer to different types of therapy, as well as therapeutic techniques, that require engaging in some type of activity or action such as role playing, sculpting, rock climbing, or using props.
Experiential therapy helps clients tap into underlying issues – such as unconscious conflicts, unresolved trauma, repressed emotions, poor problem solving skills, or maladaptive relationship patterns – that they may find difficult to identify and explore via traditional talk therapy alone. The experience itself gives clients an opportunity to improve their problem solving skills and practice new behaviors in a therapeutic environment.
Some types of Experiential Therapy:
- Art Therapy
- Equine-Assisted Therapy
- Gestalt Therapy
- Wilderness Therapy
The human psyche is incredibly resilient and adaptive most of the time. However, a traumatic situation or event can overwhelm it, rendering a person emotionally stuck – unable to recover from the impact. We often see this manifest in the form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While not everyone develops PTSD in the aftermath of trauma, many suffer from some degree of emotional scarring that plays out in other ways in their lives.
While there are many different types of psychotherapy that can help people recover from traumatic memories and the emotional distress that accompanies them, one that stands out in terms of both effectiveness and brevity is EMDR. EMDR is an acronym for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing”. The primary goal of EMDR is to help people reprocess these painful, unresolved memories in a way that frees them from their intense and unhealthy grip.
When treatment with EMDR is successful, the troubling symptoms subside. With PTSD, these symptoms include things such as nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and other highly distressing experiences and emotions related to the trauma that triggered the PTSD.
Gestalt therapy is an experiential, phenomenological, and humanistic type of psychotherapy. It’s based on the idea that, as humans, we have an inherent desire to find solutions to our own problems while constantly growing throughout life. “Gestalt” refers to the concept of a unified whole, which is how Gestalt theory views nature. The whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.
Unlike many other forms of therapy, Gestalt therapy doesn’t focus on your past. It also doesn’t focus on what is being talked about, per se. Rather, the primary focus of therapy is on the process itself – what’s taking place in the present moment within the therapeutic relationship. This includes your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions and how they are impacting the process.
The main goal of therapy is to help you become more self-aware, particularly in terms of recognizing and understanding the relationship between your responses and your present situation. This awareness includes your feelings, thoughts, and perceptions and the ways in which they impact your life.
Self-awareness is regarded as the key to making positive changes and reaching your full potential. Your past experiences in life are considered in terms of how they’re contributing to your current distress and struggles. Feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life often stem from old patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors that hinder self-awareness.
Guided imagery therapy involves the therapeutic use of visualization and “guided images” to bring about positive changes in thoughts and behaviors, reduce symptoms, and improve coping skills. The process is considered a specific form of hypnosis, as it requires getting into a highly relaxed state in order to access the subconscious mind by bypassing the conscious brain’s tendency to censor everything.
Although visualization plays a significant role in guided imagery therapy, the actual process involves much more than visualizing or imagining something in your mind. Guided imagery works by utilizing the unique connection between your nervous system and your visual cortex. This connection impacts your emotional state, as well as your physical state and makes desired changes more possible.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy, as the name suggests, focuses on the impact that people’s communication patterns, social interactions, and relationships with others play in various psychological problems. Interpersonal therapy was originally developed as a treatment for depression, although it has been found to be helpful for several other psychiatric disorders and emotional issues as well.
Often referred to as IPT for short, interpersonal therapy is based on the premise that depressive symptoms can be reduced by helping therapy clients improve their relationships and strengthen their social supports. The focus of therapy is fairly narrow due to the time-limited nature of the treatment. Key interpersonal issues are identified and worked on over the course of treatment. Although some discussion about past relationships can provide valuable information, IPT focuses primarily on clients’ current relationships.
Learning to express emotions in an appropriate and healthy manner is also an important part of interpersonal therapy. Since depression and other psychological problems (e.g. unresolved grief or trauma), it’s important to examine the impact that clients’ mood, anxiety, and behaviors may be having on their relationships with others. By exploring these issues, clients can make adjustments in the way they interact with others so that not only do their relationships benefit, but their emotional struggles do as well. Through the process, clients also learn to look at their relationships more objectively, which also helps benefits them emotionally.
With regards to individuals with PTSD (and those recovering from trauma but who don’t meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis), one of the biggest advantages of IPT is that it doesn’t require the individual to relive the trauma via re-exposure during therapy. This is important because many individuals have troubling interpersonal issues due to trauma-related symptoms, but are reluctant to seek treatment due to the exposure aspect that’s often involved.
Interpersonal therapy allows them to focus on the ways their disorder is causing problems in their significant relationships (e.g. emotional detachment, intimacy problems, anger, or aggressive behavior). By focusing on improving these relationships, IPT helps improve current symptoms and strengthen the buffer these relationships provide against developing PTSD in those who haven’t already. Initial research has shown positive results in terms of using this therapy approach instead of exposure therapy.
Many people just go through life on autopilot. Whether it’s their morning routine or how they handle stress, they don’t really stop and consider what they’re doing or why. In other words, they’re not mindful.
For example, if you’re prone to binging on sweets when you’re feeling sad or picking a fight with your spouse whenever you’re really mad at your boss, you’re not acting mindfully. You’re reacting rather than responding after careful consideration. To put it another way, you’re not being mindful.
Learning to be mindful is a key element in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Originally developed to treat those struggling with recurring bouts of depression, MBCT incorporates mindfulness techniques and practices, such as meditation, with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most widely researched and effective treatments for a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, and many other mental health issues.
Combining mindfulness strategies with CBT creates a powerful formula for helping those struggling with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, low self-esteem, and many other disorders and problems.
Poetry therapy is a unique form of psychotherapy that falls under the broader category of expressive therapy. It relies upon the use of poems, song lyrics, imagery, metaphor, and stories to facilitate personal growth, healing, and greater self-awareness. Poetry therapy involves the use of both published and original material. The therapist will use a variety of interactive methods, including having participants write their own poems and stories, read them out loud to the group (or just the therapist in individual therapy), and also read or listen to published works.
Poetry therapy works primarily by evoking an emotional response through this process of creating, writing, sharing, and listening. Poetry and literature – just like art, music, drama, and dance – have the unique ability to touch people very deeply. Individuals who don’t respond well to traditional talk therapy – which can feel a bit threatening to some – may respond very well to an expressive therapy like poetry. This may be because they find it easier to put painful thoughts and emotions into a poem rather than talk about them directly to a therapist. Also, another group member’s poem or story may resonate with them on a deeply personal level, giving them new insight into themselves or someone close to them.
In poetry therapy, the therapist – who has extensive training in psychology, literature, and usually group dynamics as well – selects poems and other pieces based on the needs of the individual client or group. For example, someone struggling with depression may benefit from a poem about finding the silver lining in a foreboding dark cloud or appreciating the joy – no matter how small – that can come in the most unexpected ways when they open their heart to it. Someone healing from trauma may identify with a poem about feeling vulnerable, or about putting the pieces back together after something has been broken and discovering it’s become something wonderful and new.
Poetry therapists also encourage their clients to write poems, song lyrics, or stories as a way of expressing their thoughts and feelings. Each individual’s creations gives the therapist valuable information about what’s going on inside that person. Often, a poem, story, or lyric will reveal something that’s not even in the client’s conscious awareness. The therapist’s task is to help clients find meaning in their creations, and also to explore and understand the emotional impact that someone else’s poem or story may have on them.
Positive psychotherapy – often referred to as PPT for short – is a relatively new and unique therapeutic approach that moves away from focusing on what’s wrong or negative to what’s good and positive. It strives to help you explore, identify, and build up your strengths – and what’s going right in your life – rather than dissect and “fix” your weaknesses and whatever’s wrong or broken in your world. That’s not to say problems and weaknesses aren’t discussed and explored; rather, building upon your strengths and helping you experience happiness in the present are viewed as the key to improved well-being and psychological health.
Positive psychotherapy is based on the idea that people find happiness in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, many people are robbed from joy and well-being in the present moment because they see happy times only in retrospect. Positive psychotherapy helps them identify present moment happiness.
It’s a rare person who goes through life without experiencing serious challenges or significant trauma at some point along the way. While some individuals have the resilience, support, and emotional strength to weather those experiences without needing therapy or other form of mental health treatment, others are not so fortunate. Trauma, in particular, has a way of turning your world completely upside down. Prior to trauma, life may seem safe, predictable, and comfortable – but in the aftermath, it can suddenly feel very scary, unpredictable, and even unbearable. It changes the way you feel about yourself, others, and everything around you. Therapy is often necessary in order to help you recover.
RTR combines hypnosis, guided imagery, stories, and multilevel communication to eliminate the challenging effects of trauma. By quickly getting to the root of the problem, negative and troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are quickly replaced with ones that are healthy and positive.
This treatment approach is beneficial for all types of trauma – whether it was a single incident or something that occurred repeatedly (e.g. ongoing sexual abuse). The trauma doesn’t have to be “huge” in order for RTR to help.
Rational emotive behavior therapy is based on the idea that irrational thoughts and beliefs are at the root of troubling emotions and dysfunctional behaviors. When we overreact to situations and lose perspective due to faulty expectations or distorted beliefs, it can cause serious problems in our lives, including interpersonal difficulties, psychological distress, and self-destructive behavior. Dr. Albert Ellis believed these irrational thoughts and beliefs are learned, and as such, can be unlearned.
His approach to treatment emphasizes taking personal responsibility, challenging and eliminating self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, and finding and choosing more rational and realistic ways of looking at ourselves as well as the world around us. Doing those things is the key to making positive changes.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is particularly effective for individuals living with PTSD, emotional reactivity disorders, or dissociative symptoms and disorders who’ve found little success with more traditional forms of psychotherapy. Although Sensorimotor has a strong talk therapy component, it directly targets the deep, physiological aspect of psychological trauma that is frequently overlooked in psychotherapeutic approaches that focus primarily on cognition and emotion.
This approach to treatment is based on the premise that painful emotions and unresolved trauma are stored – and trapped – deep within our body. In addition to manifesting in emotional and behavioral problems, they also manifest in somatic symptoms as well. Individuals who’ve experienced trauma early in life, as well as those who’ve experienced severe trauma (e.g. rape, combat, or a life-threatening experience) as an adolescent or adult, are particularly vulnerable to both hyperarousal (e.g. heightened anxiety or the “fight-or-flight” response) and hypoarousal (e.g. depression, emotional numbness, lack of energy). Additionally, many people aren’t aware of the connection between bodily sensations (e.g. knots in the stomach, sweaty palms, frequent muscle tension) and unresolved trauma. Much of this lurks at the unconscious level.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy utilizes a combination of mindfulness techniques that help you listen carefully to your body’s messages and gentle experiments (e.g. moving your body in a different way, breathing more slowly) to help bring these buried, unconscious issues into your conscious awareness. This enables you to explore and resolve them, which facilitates healing at the deepest level.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy blends elements of ancient Eastern philosophy, attachment theory, neuroscience, cognitive approaches, and elements of Ron Kurtz’ Hakomi Method (another body-centered form of psychotherapy).
Somatic experiencing is a powerful therapy that’s designed to help you heal from trauma by using body awareness. It was first introduced in 1997 by Dr. Peter Levine, who developed this unique approach to treatment.
According to Dr. Levine, “Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event”. He noticed that, although animals in the world are frequently threatened by predators, they are rarely traumatized by those events. A threat triggers a defensive survival response from the autonomic nervous system (ANS) – the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. Once the threat is gone and the animal is safe, it spontaneously discharges the extra arousal energy with innate mechanisms such as shaking or breathing deeply. This allows the animal’s ANS to return to its normal state.
Humans have these same innate mechanisms to recover from a threatening situation. However, unlike animals in the wild, we often end up traumatized by events that threaten or overwhelm. Instead of naturally rebounding from an experience that overwhelms us, our inherent capacity for self-regulation is often thwarted shame, rationalization, our own judgments about ourselves or what happened, and the anxiety our physical sensations trigger. When this occurs, the arousal energy that’s no longer needed becomes trapped or locked-in our body. This makes it impossible to heal from the trauma.
That survival energy can remain stuck for a very long time – months, years, and even decades – until our nervous system is reset and equilibrium is restored. Until that occurs, it will inevitably manifest in a variety of problems and troubling physical or psychological symptoms, such as insomnia, digestive problems, a weakened immune system, irritability, poor concentration, fatigue, panic attacks, and low self-worth. In many cases, unresolved trauma can trigger a full-blown psychiatric disorder such as PTSD, panic disorder, a specific phobia, or depression.
While traditional forms of talk therapy can certainly be helpful, they rarely address the somatic impact of trauma. Somatic Experiencing is a potent therapy because it enables you to release that trapped energy and finally break free from the trauma once and for all. Once that energy is discharged, your innate ability to self-regulate is restored and healing occurs.
Tapping is a combination of Ancient Chinese Acupressure and Modern Psychology that works to physically alter your brain, energy system and body all at once. The practice consists of tapping with your fingertips on specific meridian points while talking through traumatic memories and a wide range of emotions.
The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points. Tapping on these meridian points – while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion – will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.
Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is the sequential tapping procedure, that Dr. Roger Callahan discovered, provides a code to nature’s healing system. When TFT is applied to problems it addresses their fundamental causes, balancing the body’s energy system, and allows you to eliminate most negative emotions or fears within minutes.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) was developed by Gary Craig after training under Dr. Roger Callahan at the highest level. It’s a simplified version of TFT which verbalizes the statement, “even though I have this phobia, I utterly and completely love and accept myself.”
TIR is a rapid (compared to traditional therapy) method of effectively reducing traumatic stress from emotionally and/or physically painful events in the past. It involves re-experiencing past traumas in a completely safe environment, free of distractions, judgments, or interpretations.
People with PTSD are severely incapacitated by ongoing, uncontrolled remembrances of their traumas. In effect, they are continually reliving these incidents. Although survivors of all kinds of traumas with PTSD and flashbacks offer perhaps the most dramatic example of living in the past, the phenomenon is quite common to people in general. In normal life, most people can be triggered into momentary or prolonged reliving of past traumas of varying degrees of severity, with attendant negative feelings and behavior. TIR is a technique designed to examine the cognitive, emotional, perceptual, or other content of past incidents, to reduce or eliminate emotional charge contained in them, and thus to relieve the person of their negative consequences, whether or not a diagnosis of PTSD applies to this person.
Wilderness therapy, as the name suggests, involves outdoor excursions such as camping and backpacking trips that typically last anywhere from several days to several weeks. Nature is utilized as a unique, therapeutic environment for healing, growth, personal discovery, and positive change. Unlike more traditional types of therapy, wilderness therapy isn’t limited to a highly structured, one-hour-per-week therapy session that takes place within the sterile confines of four walls.
Although therapy clients are removed from their normal surroundings during this time, similar patterns of behavior – whether healthy or maladaptive – inevitably emerge. Clinical staff has the opportunity to observe, support, discuss, and provide feedback to participants on a daily basis. The calming serenity of nature combined with the absence of the myriad distractions and pressures of normal day-to-day life enables therapy clients to reap significant benefits from this intensive type of therapy.