Therapy for Trauma
Therapy for Trauma
In the therapy community we say everyone has been through trauma. In trauma there is “Big T” and “Little T.” Big T is what the general population defines as trauma; experiences in Big T would be witnessing an assault or a murder, for example. Then there is Little T. Little T is smaller mini traumas we experience. Examples of Little T would be reliving an embarrassing experience or remembering a time you were let down. These experiences, both large and small, become traumas because they eventually become the gage for comparison when living day to day. Depending on what you’ve been through and what type of treatment aligns with your goals and interests, there are many ways to address trauma. Therapy for trauma primarily consists of three approaches.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Trauma
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches clients how to safely work through difficult feelings and thoughts connected to traumatic experiences.
When people experience trauma and become traumatized from those experiences, simple every day events become more difficult to get through. At first the differences might be subtle, too subtle to realize. Other times, it might start with a single panic attack. Soon everyday experiences like the sound of a passing bus, the glimmer of a knife on the kitchen counter or the smell of a cigar can catapult the brain into a trauma memory. When the brain is functioning through the lens of a trauma memory, emotions run high.
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills learned in therapy, a person learns to be more aware of everyday thoughts that influence emotions and behavior. Developing thought awareness creates more balanced thinking, helping you (and your brain) identify the validity and rationality for each thought.
2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy for Trauma
Using EMDR Therapy for trauma, clients first develop a trusting relationship with therapist. Once the relationship is established, clients learn techniques that control strong emotions and create a sense of safety. Then, through bi-lateral stimulation (left/right eye movements or left/right knee tapping) the left and right hemispheres of the brain learn to communicate with each other more effectively. This communication unfreezes trapped emotional and cognitive memories while reprogramming the brain’s neural pathway.
When individuals activate a trauma memory they are responding to the world from that trauma-focused place. When trauma is activated, emotional brain takes over and cognitive brain goes offline. EMDR facilitates the communication between emotional brain and cognitive brain, helping to integrate the two. This is a very powerful way to shift unwanted memories.
3. Somatic Experiencing Therapy for Trauma
With Somatic Experiencing, clients are provided with a safe place to focus on sensations and feelings in the body while cognitively revisiting trauma. This approach allows clients to tune into trauma memories that manifest as physical symptoms in the body. Being a watchful observer of these sensations ultimately releases the physical trauma memory from the body in an experiential exercise.
I know it sounds difficult, but the only way to process trauma and heal is to confront trauma.
Trauma memories make life feel harder than it is. A therapist who specializes in therapy for trauma can help ease suffering, reducing distress and helping you live more presently.