Healing From Trauma: A Guide To Treatment Option
Healing from Trauma: A Guide to Treatment Options. Trauma is a term used to describe a range of negative experiences that can cause psychological harm. Trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s life and can cause a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. The effects of trauma can last for years, even decades, and can be difficult to overcome without the proper help and support. In this blog, we talk a little about trauma and then dive into a guide to treatment options, including adjunctive treatment options, and how these treatments can help you heal from trauma.
‘t’ vs ‘T Trauma
When talking about trauma, we normally link the word to extreme events, like physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, natural disasters, car accidents, and other life-threatening events. But trauma is a lot more complicated than that.
Small “t” trauma refers to everyday, minor traumatic experiences that may not be life-threatening but can still have a significant impact on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. Examples of small “t” trauma include emotional abuse, neglect, bullying, or relationship problems.
Large “T” trauma refers to more severe, life-threatening traumatic experiences, such as natural disasters, sexual assault, war, physical abuse, or severe accidents. Large “T” traumas can have a profound and lasting impact on a person’s mental and emotional health and may require more extensive treatment and support.
Both small “t” and large “T” traumas can result in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.
Regardless of the type of trauma, trauma can manifest itself in many different ways, both physically and mentally. Common symptoms of trauma include:
It’s important to remember that everyone experiences trauma differently, and not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Symptoms can appear immediately after a traumatic event, or they may not appear until months or even years later.
Trauma Treatment – Healing From Trauma
Healing from Trauma: A Guide to Treatment Options.
All trauma treatment should always be conducted with the support and guidance of a qualified mental health professional. This is because treatment can be intense and emotional, so having a safe and supportive environment in which to process and manage these feelings is important. A mental health professional can help determine which treatment option is most suitable for you.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes can impact our emotions and behaviours and that by changing the way we think, we can change how we feel and behave.
CBT is a goal-oriented, time-limited, and structured form of therapy that typically lasts between 12-20 sessions. During CBT sessions, a therapist works with an individual to identify negative or distorted thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. The therapist then helps the individual challenge these thoughts and beliefs and replace them with more positive, realistic, and adaptive thoughts.
CBT also involves teaching individuals coping skills and problem-solving strategies to help them manage symptoms and overcome obstacles. This can include strategies such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques, exposure therapy, and behavioural experiments to test and change negative thoughts and beliefs.
Studies have shown that CBT can effectively treat many mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD. CBT has been shown to be as effective as medication for certain mental health conditions, and in some cases, the benefits of CBT can last longer than those of medication.
CBT can be an effective form of treatment for individuals who are motivated to participate actively in their own treatment and who are willing to work with a therapist to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs.
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) that is used to treat anxiety disorders and phobias. It is based on the principle that individuals can overcome their fears and anxieties by gradually facing and confronting the things or situations that trigger them in a safe and controlled environment.
Exposure therapy typically involves two stages: imaginal exposure and in-vivo exposure. Imaginal exposure involves helping individuals to imagine and confront their fears in a safe and controlled environment.
This may involve imagining a feared situation or object or writing about it. In-vivo exposure involves gradually facing and confronting real-life situations or objects that trigger fear or anxiety in a step-by-step manner.
Exposure therapy can be used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders, including phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for these conditions, and in some cases, exposure therapy can be more effective than medication.
Eye Movement Desensitisation And Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was originally developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can become “stuck” in the brain and lead to ongoing distress and negative thoughts, behaviours, and emotions.
During EMDR therapy, a therapist guides a person through a process that involves recalling a traumatic event while simultaneously engaging in a type of bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, tapping, or sounds. This stimulation is believed to help the brain process and integrate the traumatic experience, leading to a reduction in distress and negative symptoms.
EMDR therapy typically involves several stages, including history-taking, preparation, and desensitisation. During the history-taking stage, a therapist will gather information about the person’s trauma and symptoms.
During the preparation stage, a therapist will help the person develop coping skills and prepare for the desensitisation process. During the desensitisation stage, the person will recall the traumatic event while engaging in bilateral stimulation until the memory is no longer distressing.
Studies have shown that EMDR can be an effective form of treatment for PTSD, and it has also been used to treat other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and phobias.
Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves a small group of individuals working together with a trained therapist to address common mental health concerns. Group therapy provides a supportive and therapeutic environment where individuals can explore their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours with others who are facing similar challenges.
Group therapy can be beneficial for a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship issues. During group therapy sessions, participants are encouraged to share their experiences, provide support to one another, and work together to develop new coping strategies and insights.
The therapist leading the group acts as a facilitator, helping to guide the discussion and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate.
The therapist also provides feedback and helps participants understand their thoughts and behaviours, as well as how they may be impacting others.
Group therapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals who are struggling with social anxiety, as it provides an opportunity to practise social skills and form connections with others in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Group therapy can also be an effective treatment for individuals with trauma-related symptoms, as it provides a safe and supportive space to process traumatic experiences and develop a sense of community with others who have been through similar experiences.
Keep in mind that group therapy is not suitable for everyone and that individual therapy may be more appropriate for some individuals, depending on their specific needs and circumstances.
Adjunctive Or Supportive Trauma Treatments – Healing From Trauma
Healing from Trauma: A Guide to Treatment Options.
There are several adjunctive therapies that can help support more conventional therapies. These should not be considered as a stand-alone treatment, only being used in combination with traditional mental health treatments, such as talk therapy or medication. A mental health professional can help determine if adjunctive therapies may be a suitable option for you.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
Animal-assisted therapy is an alternative treatment approach that involves incorporating animals, such as dogs, horses, or even cats, into the therapeutic process. The goal of AAT is to improve physical, emotional, cognitive, and social functioning in individuals who have experienced trauma.
AAT can take many forms, including animal-assisted activities, such as visiting animal shelters or petting therapy animals, or animal-assisted therapy, which involves working with a trained therapist and a therapy animal to address specific goals.
Studies have shown that AAT can effectively treat several mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even substance abuse. Interactions with therapy animals can reduce stress, increase feelings of comfort and security, and improve social skills.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all animals are suitable for AAT, and it’s crucial to work with a trained professional to ensure the safety and well-being of both the individual and the therapy animal.
Somatic therapies are a type of alternative treatment approach that focuses on the mind-body connection and the role that physical sensations, movement, and posture play in the experience of trauma and other mental health conditions.
Somatic therapies aim to help individuals become more aware of their physical sensations, including sensations related to trauma, and use this awareness to process and integrate these experiences in a safe and therapeutic environment.
Some of the most common somatic therapies include:
- Body-oriented psychotherapy: This approach focuses on the use of physical sensations and movements to explore and process emotions and traumatic experiences.
- Somatic experiencing: This therapy uses gentle physical movements and touch to help individuals regulate their nervous system and process traumatic memories.
- Sensorimotor psychotherapy: This therapy focuses on the use of physical sensations and movements to address specific symptoms related to trauma, such as anxiety and depression.
- Yoga therapy: This approach combines physical movements and mindfulness practices to help individuals regulate their nervous system and improve physical and mental well-being.
Art therapy is an alternative treatment approach that involves using creative expression, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, or writing, to explore and process emotions related to trauma and other mental health conditions. Art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in art-making can help individuals access and express emotions that are difficult to put into words. This can help individuals process traumatic experiences, manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve overall mental well-being.
Art therapy can be conducted in individual or group settings and can be done with a trained art therapist or as part of a self-directed practice. The focus is not on the end product or the artistic skill of the individual but rather on the process of creating and exploring emotions through the art-making process.
Adventure therapy is an alternative treatment approach that uses outdoor activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, and wilderness therapy, as a means to help individuals heal from trauma and other mental health conditions. Adventure therapy combines traditional therapy techniques, such as talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, with outdoor activities to create a unique and immersive therapeutic experience. The outdoor environment and physical challenges can help individuals develop new coping skills, build resilience, and address mental health issues in a safe and supportive environment.
Adventure therapy can be beneficial for a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse. It can help individuals build confidence, improve interpersonal skills, and develop a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
Self-care is a vital aspect of recovery from trauma and can be an important complement to other forms of treatment, such as therapy, counselling, or medication. Self-care refers to the intentional and consistent actions that individuals take to promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Here are some self-care strategies for individuals experiencing trauma-related symptoms:
- Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to be an effective self-care strategy for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. Exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall physical and emotional well-being.
- Sleep hygiene: Getting adequate sleep is essential for overall health and well-being and is especially crucial for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding screens before bed can help improve sleep quality.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness refers to the practice of being present in the moment, focusing on your thoughts and feelings, and accepting them without judgement. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and promote overall well-being.
- Nutrition: Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for overall health and well-being and is especially important for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. Eating nutrient-rich foods, avoiding processed foods, and staying hydrated can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Social support: Connecting with others, whether through in-person or virtual social interactions, can provide a sense of community and support, which can be especially important for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. Joining a support group, reaching out to friends and family, or volunteering can help improve social well-being.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with trauma and self-care is unique and that what works for one person may not work for another. Be patient, kind and compassionate towards yourself.
Medications can be an effective adjunct to psychotherapy or other forms of treatment for individuals experiencing trauma-related symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it’s important to note that medication should never be considered a first-line treatment for trauma and should always be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy or counselling.
The most commonly used medications for trauma-related symptoms include:
- Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for individuals with trauma-related symptoms. These medications can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance, as well as improve mood.
- Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are a type of anti-anxiety medication that can be used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, phobias, and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). However, these medications can be habit-forming and may not be appropriate for long-term use.
- Mood stabilisers: Mood stabilisers, such as lithium, can be used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, especially in cases where these symptoms are severe or persistent.
- Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics, such as risperidone or quetiapine, can be used to treat symptoms of PTSD and anxiety, especially in cases where these symptoms are severe or persistent.
Bear in mind that everyone’s experience with medication is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Work closely with a mental health professional to determine the most appropriate medication and dosing for your needs. A mental health professional can help monitor your progress and adjust your medication as needed.
In conclusion to this blog, Healing from Trauma: A Guide to Treatment Options, there are many effective trauma treatment options available to individuals who are looking to overcome the challenges of trauma. Whether it be talk therapy, exposure therapy, EMDR, medication, group therapy, creative therapy, or self-care, there is a treatment option out there that can help. Remember that healing from trauma is a process and that it’s okay to seek out help when needed. With the right support and resources, individuals can move towards a brighter future and live fulfilling lives.