Kevin Hall BSc, MSc, Trauma Therapist
What is a Trauma and what is Trauma Therapy?
Trauma therapy aims to provide relief from healing for psychological scars which have developed as a results of traumatic experiences. Traumatic experiences occur in situations where a person is confronted with events and experiences for which their personal and individual options and resources are not sufficient in order to overcome a posed threat. Such scars can occur from sudden and very intense threats or during periods of continuous threat, anxiety and worry. When such events are accompanied by feelings of helplessness and defencelessness or even fear for one’s own life then this can badly shake up the view one has of himself or herself and the world at large.
Examples for experiences which can cause traumatic scars are:
Natural catastrophes, war, torture
Exposure to criminal acts such as rape, murder, kidnapping, armed robbery
Serious accidents, illnesses, operations
Psychological, physical and sexual abuse
Sudden loss of carers, close people, parents or homes
Emotional and physical neglect
Being witness to disturbing events such as those mentioned in this listThe psychological scars caused by such experiences trigger a variety of feelings such as anxiety, shock, sadness, anger, irritability, disappointment, bitterness and denial. Affected persons may also be haunted by flashbacks and nightmares. The body can respond to the stress by developing constrictions, pain and tensions. Depersonalisation phenomena such as feeling like an automaton or having a sense that everything around is blurry, “not real” or artificial are also a common occurrences.
How can Trauma be treated?Trauma therapy aims to address these issues within four main steps of treatment:
Orientation and StabilizationIn this phase a relationship between therapist and client is established in which clients can feel safe and open up. The client’s situation, resources and symptoms are assessed and hopes and goals for the future are jointly explored.
Further stabilization and resource buildingThe goals of this phase of therapy is to help clients to establish stability externally in their environment and internally within themselves. Clients are introduced to ideas and techniques for building self-worth, regulating emotions, feelings and impulses. This is the most important phase of trauma therapy. For some clients it may even be enough to stabilize them and strengthen their resources that further therapy work beyond this phase is not even necessary.
Trauma Confrontative WorkOnce clients have gained sufficient stability both in terms of their mental state and living conditions (e.g. social support structures, daily routine etc.) then it is possible to begin to work with the trauma material (memories, images and feelings associated with the traumatic experiences). Trauma confrontative techniques are used for this purpose. These methods aim to provide relief from post-traumatic symptoms such as flashbacks and intense feelings of panic, helplessness, horror, numbness, emptiness, guilt, worthlessness etc.
Clients are taught to exert control over memories and sensations which lead to emotional flooding. Behavioural techniques and hypnosis are used to “transform” trauma material so that it can be processed and integrated by mental processes. The objective is to enable clients to feel as unburdened as possible from their past so that they can build a sense of self that is not tainted by their experiences.
Saying Farewell to the Burdens of the Past. Planning for the Future.In this last phase of treatment clients are encouraged to say their farewells to aspects of their experiences which they do not wish to take with them into the future. Aspects of troubling experiences which help to increase resilience or enhance the wisdom of clients are also identified. At the end of the day it is important not to dispose of anything which could prove to be valuable.
A vision for an unburdened future and new goals are developed in a joint process involving therapist and client. It is important to ask questions here such as the following:
|How will you view and relate to yourself in your vision of the future?|
|What signs will present themselves to you to indicate the process here has been successful, sustainable or even that it is continuing to run on a deeper level bringing with it even more profound change?|
|How will you be able to recognise that the process and our work here has been successful enough? What quality measures would prove that to you?|
|What wishes, hopes and desires to have for the future?|
|What will you use the energy that was focussed on the past for in the future?|