Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that can have a lasting impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Trauma can be caused by a single event, such as a natural disaster or a car accident, or by ongoing events, such as physical or emotional abuse.
Symptoms of Trauma Include:
- Flashbacks or intrusive memories of the traumatic event
- Avoidance of places, people, or activities that remind the person of the trauma
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Negative changes in mood or thinking
- Difficulty trusting others
- Difficulty feeling positive emotions
- Feeling detached or emotionally numb
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Symptoms of anxiety or depression
Trauma can also manifest itself in physical ways, such as through body aches and pains, headaches, and digestive problems.
People who have experienced trauma may feel a range of emotions, including shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, and shame. They may also feel a sense of vulnerability and a loss of control over their lives.
Treatment for trauma is varied based on the needs of the client. For single exposure traumatic events, we usually apply cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy, which helps individuals confront their traumatic memories and develop coping strategies. In other cases, we approach trauma work with psychodynamic therapy. Some clients seek out body work such as Sensorimotor Therapy. Medications may also enter the picture to assist.
It is important for individuals who have experienced trauma to seek support from a regulated/registered mental health professional. With the right treatment and support, people who have experienced trauma can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
If you’re wondering what psychotherapy for anxiety can look like, here are 2 examples. One using CBT and the other using Psychodynamic Therapy.
In a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) session for trauma, the therapist and the client work together to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors that may be maintaining the client’s distress related to their traumatic experience. The therapist may also help the client develop coping strategies and gradually expose themselves to their traumatic memories in a controlled setting.
During the session, the therapist may ask the client to describe their traumatic experience and the symptoms they have been experiencing. The therapist may also ask the client to rate the intensity of their distress on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most intense.
Once the therapist has a better understanding of the client’s trauma, they may help the client identify negative thought patterns, such as catastrophizing or all-or-nothing thinking, that may be contributing to their distress. The therapist may ask the client to come up with evidence for and against these negative thoughts, in order to help the client see that their thoughts may not be entirely accurate.
The therapist may also help the client develop coping strategies to manage their distress, such as deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. The therapist may ask the client to practice these strategies outside of session and report back on their effectiveness.
As the client becomes more adept at managing their distress, the therapist may encourage them to gradually expose themselves to their traumatic memories in a controlled setting. This process, called exposure therapy, helps the client confront their traumatic memories and learn to cope with their distress in a safe environment.
Throughout the CBT process, the therapist may encourage the client to set goals for themselves and track their progress. The therapist may also provide the client with homework assignments to complete between sessions, such as keeping a journal of their thoughts and feelings or practicing relaxation techniques.
Overall, a CBT session for trauma aims to help the client identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and gradually expose themselves to their traumatic memories in order to manage their distress more effectively.
Psychodynamic Sessions for Trauma
In a psychodynamic therapy session for trauma, the therapist and the client work together to explore the unconscious conflicts and past experiences that may be contributing to the client’s distress related to their traumatic experience. The therapist may use techniques such as free association and dream analysis to help the client gain insight into their unconscious thoughts and feelings.
During the session, the therapist may encourage the client to speak freely about their thoughts and feelings, without censoring themselves. The therapist may listen carefully for patterns in the client’s thoughts and behaviors and help the client make connections between their past experiences and their current distress.
For example, the therapist may help the client explore any past traumas or unresolved conflicts that may be contributing to their distress related to their current traumatic experience. The therapist may also help the client identify any defense mechanisms, such as repression or projection, that they may be using to avoid facing their emotions.
The therapist may encourage the client to express their emotions and thoughts in the session, even if they feel uncomfortable or difficult to talk about. The therapist may also help the client recognize any negative thought patterns or maladaptive behaviors that may be contributing to their distress.
Throughout the psychodynamic therapy process, the therapist may encourage the client to reflect on their experiences and emotions in between sessions, and may provide the client with homework assignments to help them continue their exploration.
Overall, a psychodynamic therapy session for trauma aims to help the client gain insight into the unconscious conflicts and past experiences that may be contributing to their distress related to their traumatic experience and learn healthier ways of coping with their emotions.
Your therapist will work with you to apply an integration of these two approaches or additional approaches. There is no one approach that works for everyone and that’s why Psychotherapy has to be tailored to the individual