Trauma can affect every aspect of your life, and seldom for the better. Healing from even the worst trauma is possible, but it takes hard work and patience. Everyone’s experience with trauma is different, so there is no single solution or “correct” approach. Several therapies have proven effective in dealing with trauma, so with a little effort, you can find the one that works best for you.
Experts say that more than half of us have been through some sort of traumatic event. Trauma can arise from a single, intense event (assault, serious injury or accident, sexual violence, natural disaster, etc.), or repeated, prolonged exposure to stressful events (e.g. ongoing domestic violence, homelessness, chronic abuse or neglect, bullying, war). Basically, trauma is any event or experience — big or small — that causes emotional or psychological harm. For many, the traumatic experience profoundly changes their lives.
Trauma is a major risk factor in almost every mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. It often leads to anxiety, depression, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also contribute to substance abuse disorder.
Common Therapy Techniques For Treating Trauma
Trauma therapies focus on calming the nervous system, integrating traumatic memories, and healing the body and mind. Processing trauma helps the patient understand why they are reacting as if they are in danger, and to learn how to change those seemingly instinctive reactions. Many therapists will use combinations of techniques to treat trauma.
Some of the more common therapies used include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps people understand and change their responses to better manage the emotions caused by trauma, anxiety, and stress. CBT is a structured and action-based therapy. You will be guided through exercises and have between sessions “homework.” CBT can help challenge negative thought patterns that result from the trauma and teach new coping skills and techniques.
- Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT) is used for children and teens, helping them recognize false beliefs, correct unhealthy behavior patterns, and develop new coping skills. Parents or caregivers are usually involved in the process and learn the effective parenting skills needed to best help their child heal.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). CPT investigates the patient’s perspective about why the traumatic event occurred, and the thoughts and beliefs developed after the event. CPT’s goal is to help patients understand and think differently about the event, decreasing the negative effects.
- Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE). PE therapy involves exposing the patient to the source of their fears until they are not afraid of them anymore. Exposure is gradual so the patient can face it in a safe and controlled manner. They may be asked to imagine the trauma and describe it out loud or in writing. It fights “avoidance” of real-life situations, helping the patient approach places or do things they may be avoiding because of the associated trauma. PE often reduces anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR uses eye movements and auditory cues to reduce trauma. It helps people “reprocess” traumatic memories by engaging both sides of the brain (bilateral stimulation). The patient performs a series of eye movements or listens to sounds while recalling the traumatic event. Focusing on these physical actions helps the brain reprocess memories of the event in the background. Studies show that EMDR is highly effective.
- Psychodynamic Therapy. Psychodynamic therapy identifies the stage in the traumatic response where the person is “stuck.” Once found, they can move past it and allow the brain to process the traumatic event properly. The therapist helps patients understand how the past affects current emotions, behaviors, and relationship patterns, along with the unconscious factors that influence their behavior.
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) and Somatic Experiencing (SE). SP and SE make the patient aware of how the body reacts to stress, trauma experiences, and memories. Understanding these reactions and learning how to calm them is key to managing stress. These somatic therapies “release” stored trauma through the development of body awareness.
- Group Therapy. Groups specifically for trauma survivors are safe places to share a trauma story with others who have experienced similar events.
- Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis may help with the emotional distress caused by the trauma. When in a hypnotic state, patients can sometimes address feelings they cannot access when fully awake. It is an alternative for those who have not had success with other therapy types.
Sometimes medication is used to calm trauma reactions, making them manageable. It works hand-in-hand with other therapies to ease intense emotions so the other therapies can be more effective. However, medication does not directly heal trauma.
In some cases, other treatment techniques may be used. Therapists may suggest alternatives like Art or Music Therapy, Inner Child Work, Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), Narrative Therapy, or Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS).
Experts often recommend yoga and meditation as add-ons to therapy. Yoga trains people to regulate breathing and increases awareness of the body and its responses. Meditation helps redirect attention to the present moment, providing a level of control over intrusive emotions.
Trauma therapy can help heal the body, mind, and spirit, but it takes time. Trauma therapy cannot remove traumatic memories, but it teaches healthy ways to manage the resulting emotions and reduce the anxiety or depression felt after a traumatic event. Memories of the trauma will remain, but they will have less power.
Why Choose Bridges Of Hope?
Bridges of Hope is a Joint Commission accredited dual diagnosis adult substance abuse treatment program. Our program is designed to achieve long-term recovery. We are licensed by the State of Indiana Department of Mental Health & Addiction.
Our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. We leave nothing to guesswork as we utilize therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices. We place superior patient care as our highest priority and offer them all-inclusive treatment services.
Mission Statement: We provide hope and healing for anyone with alcohol and substance abuse disorders.
We connect everyone to their own personal journey, bridging the gaps previously unmet.