PTSD and Trauma 

PTSD and Trauma Therapies It can be extremely difficult to manage the physical, emotional, and psychological harm that happens after experiencing a stressful life event like trauma. You may feel lost, alone, panic, and wonder how you can begin recovering. When prolonged stressors or recurring traumas (i.e., abuse) occur, there is an increasing deterioration of resources, or sources of support that help individuals manage their emotional distress. If you have experienced trauma, there is a variety of treatments and support available that can help you on your trauma recovery. In this article, we will review what trauma is, and what types of treatments are available for it. What is Trauma? What are Trauma Symptoms? Trauma can include a wide range of experiences such as sexual violence, physical injury, life-threatening events like a natural disaster, sudden loss, abuse and neglect, and being bullied. A person’s reaction to emotional trauma can be complex and difficult to predict. A person’s age, past exposure to traumatic events, social support, culture, family psychiatric history, and general emotional functioning are some variables that can influence their response to trauma. There are also numerous reasons why traumatic experiences can lead to post-traumatic stress. One thing you may not know is that when a person experiences a traumatic event, areas of their brain can change and operate in unhelpful ways. For example, the emotional part of the brain called the amygdala can become over-activated, in attempts to make the person hypervigilant to potential danger so it can defend itself, if necessary. Other symptoms of trauma can include anxiety, low mood, irritability, fear and panic, loneliness, low self-esteem, and guilt and shame. Flashbacks, and concentration difficulties, angry outbursts, social isolation, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sleep problems, and eating challenges, can be additional symptoms. Physical symptoms can include stomach aches, fatigue, headaches, chest pain, and sometimes, shortness of breath. These symptoms, if left unchecked, can become increasingly distressing and interfering for a person over time. While not all trauma survivors experience long-term negative consequences, we know that trauma can significantly impact a person’s physical and mental health, and overall functioning. Finding a therapist who is skilled at helping people process and move on from a past trauma, can be helpful for someone in talking about their pain, and starting to process what happened to them. Types of Trauma Therapy There are different types of trauma-informed therapies, and a therapist may decide to use one type or combine a few, to increase the effectiveness of treatment. Treatment will depend on the person’s unique situation, and ongoing challenges. For example, someone who is having trouble dealing with traditional trauma symptoms like flashbacks or anxiety, may need to learn coping skills before talking about their traumatic experience. Nonetheless, as with all trauma-informed therapies, the healing work is done within the context of a safe, supportive therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. The following are trauma-informed therapies currently being used at Greystones Health, to support trauma survivors: ● Cognitive processing therapy (CPT): This is a type of cognitive behavioural treatment that focuses on helping trauma survivors who are “stuck” in their thoughts about the traumatic event. This is done by helping survivors confront their feared thoughts and memories related to the trauma, and learn to correct the maladaptive, unrealistic, or problematic thoughts that may be maintaining trauma symptoms. ● Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT): This is a type of treatment model that is designed to assist adults in overcoming the emotional effects of trauma and resolving these effects. TF-CBT may help adults change their inaccurate beliefs that lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as beliefs that they are to blame for the trauma. TF-CBT also aims to identify unhealthy patterns of behaviours that develop as a result of the trauma and change them by identifying healthier alternative responses. ● Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) Narrative Therapy: This is a type of treatment that was designed to specifically strengthen important emotion regulation and social skills, and improve a person’s daily functioning by reducing their trauma symptoms. The narrative component in STAIR systematically integrates traditional trauma work i.e., prolonged exposure and cognitive processing of the trauma by organizing different trauma memories based on certain themes like fear, shame, and loss. The creation of a new trauma narrative is then supported by the exploration of underlying relationship patterns and expectations driving the trauma-related difficulties. Together, this treatment helps restore a person’s functioning, and establish healthy relationships with themselves, and others. ● Prolonged exposure (PE): This form of therapy is considered a behavioural treatment, that aims to change the learned behaviours that trauma survivors engage in (e.g., avoidance). Such behaviours are in response to situations, thoughts, or memories that are seen as frightening or anxiety-provoking by the trauma survivor. PE is implemented by having the person actively confront their feared situations, thoughts, or memories, and learn that their anxiety and fear will decrease over time. Depending on the needs of the individual client, trauma therapy may also include naturopathic care such as physical examinations, homeopathic medicine, nutritional education, and acupuncture, to better assess and treat mental and physical symptoms of trauma. Benefits of Trauma Therapy Trauma therapy aims to provide a safe environment for survivors to confront and process what happened to them, and learn coping skills to help with everyday functioning. It can help by providing survivors with a number of benefits such as: ● Knowledge on trauma and its effect on body and behaviour patterns ● Knowledge on personal triggers ● Reduce fear and avoidance ● Improve coping skills ● Build trust ● Challenge problematic thoughts and behaviours ● Offer validation How to Get Started If you, or someone you know have experienced some form of trauma and want to seek treatment for it, you can book a free in-person or virtual consultation with our psychotherapist to see which type of therapy would be best suited to you.
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