Trauma is a widespread health concern resulting from violence, neglect, loss, disaster, war, and other emotionally harmful experiences. It can impact anyone of any age, gender, socioeconomic background, physical status, race, gender, or sexual orientation. If unaddressed, trauma increases the risks of mental health and substance use disorders. As this condition becomes more prolific nationwide, the need to examine and address the complexities of trauma is critical. Various studies suggest a multi-pronged approach that increases the efficacy of trauma treatment. We’re discussing a few trauma processing techniques that may help individuals assess what types of treatment may be best suited for their particular situation.
Complexities of Trauma
Not everyone who experiences a stressful or life-altering event will experience the aftermath of trauma—unfortunately., One of the most detrimental effects of trauma is how the individual experiences it. Noises, thoughts, memories, smells, and other harmless actions are known to trigger traumatic episodes and lead to long-term mental health issues.
Trauma is not a rare occurrence. Six in ten men and five in ten women will experience a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child abuse. On the other hand, men are more likely to face accidents, physical assault, disaster, and witness death or injury. If left untreated, the effects of trauma can develop into more serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Trauma, however, is challenging to treat given how it impacts every individual. Factors that can contribute to or worsen the symptoms of trauma include:
- Affinity to unhealthy coping strategies
- Having limited social support
- Experiencing multiple traumatic events
- Pr-existing mental health difficulties like anxiety or depression
- Isolation and environmental factors
Through treatment and trauma processing techniques, people may be more equipped to address the root cause of trauma and find constructive solutions for managing symptoms. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) asserts that the impacts of trauma can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive. Because of these nuances, it’s essential that behavioral therapy and psychotherapy address individual factors that surround trauma.
What is Trauma?
The term has been widely used for generations. Unfortunately, it’s been met with long-standing stigma. An article published in Psychology Today debunks various myths and misconceptions about the effects of traumatic events on our lives. In short, they can have a significant, lasting impact.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is the emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. More recently, however, the definition has expanded to incorporate any event that is considered emotionally or physically distressful or harmful. Following the event, a person may feel overwhelmed, helpless, shocked, or may have difficulty processing their emotions.
Trauma can have long-term effects on a person’s well-being. If symptoms are not addressed through various trauma processing techniques, they can develop into a condition known as PTSD. Different types of trauma include:
- Acute trauma: results from a single dangerous or stressful event
- Chronic trauma: results from prolonged exposure to high stress events such as child abuse, bullying, and domestic violence
- Complex trauma: results from exposure to multiple traumatic events
Trauma Processing Techniques
Several treatment options can help an individual to cope or face the difficulties of traumatic events. Through various trauma processing techniques, a person may be more able to address symptoms and improve quality of life. A few techniques are discussed below.
In the National Comorbidity Survey, a research study of 9,282 Americans aged 18 to 54, 60% of men and 51% of women across the U.S. have experienced at least one traumatic event in a lifetime.
One of the most widely utilized avenues in addressing life-altering events and resulting issues incorporates some form of mental health therapy. Ideally, an individual seeking therapy should consider a tailored approach that involves trauma-focused treatment. A few forms of trauma therapy include the following:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
This psychological treatment approach has proven effective for other mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. Research studies indicate that CBT is a highly effective form for trauma processing leading many toward significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. Additionally, its efficacy is greater than other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.
The advances in CBT are attributed to research and clinical practice, and its applications can help an individual uncover the underlying components of trauma.
As a form of talk therapy, CBT offers tools to help individuals become more aware of thoughts and beliefs. Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TFCBT) is a developed methodology that addresses thoughts associated with traumatic experiences. Additionally, it provides survivors with the skills to react to emotional triggers in a healthier way.
Practices may include:
- Recognizing one’s distortions in thinking and working on reevaluating these thought processes
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations and trauma triggers
- Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence
- Behavioral therapy, which focuses on modifying habitual responses like anger or fear to non-dangerous situations or stimuli
- Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Extensively researched and effective form of psychotherapy, EMDR is designed to help individuals process traumatic events and memories. This form of therapy focuses on changing emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from a distressing issue and, therefore, allowing the brain to resume its natural healing course.
EMDR therapy is broken into eight separate phases. A licensed clinician gives attention to negative images, beliefs, and body feelings relating to a traumatic event and then shifts focus to an optimistic belief that the issue is resolved. Typical EMDR sessions last 60 to 90 minutes and may be used with standard talk therapy or as adjunctive therapy with a separate program or therapist.
According to the National Health Institute (NIH), EMDR may also treat symptoms that accompany a traumatic experience, such as self-harm, stress, and anger. The EDMR institute has also conducted 30 separate trials, all of which have demonstrated positive outcomes. In a few of these studies, as many as 90% of trauma survivors reported no symptoms after just three sessions.
Learn more about EMDR and its application to co-occurring complex trauma and addiction by contact AspenRidge REACH directly at 720-650-8055.
Somatic therapy is based on the idea that traumatic experiences cause an impact on certain biological processes. Rather than impacting mental and emotional processing like EDMR, somatic treatment focuses on a person’s nervous system. The goal is to utilize somatic experiencing and different trauma processing techniques to help individuals recognize sensations that stem from mental health. This awareness provides tools to work through painful feelings and emotions.
Through various sessions, this form of psychotherapy helps individuals to release physical tension. Exercises can include:
- Breathing techniques
- Grounding exercises
- Massage therapy
- Physical exercise
- Sensation awareness
It may also include other holistic care options. The idea is to provide support to aid in developing new thinking patterns and behaviors that can address emotions and experiences as they come up.
The first step is to recognize how common trauma is and understand that every person may have experienced serious trauma. The premise for trauma-informed care begins with addressing the needs of an individual based on their personal experiences – past and present. The core principles of trauma-informed care include:
- Trustworthiness and Transparency
- Peer Support
- Humility and Responsiveness
For people who have faced traumatic experiences, trauma-informed care offers the opportunity to engage in a healthy and trusting manner to improve long-term health outcomes.
Other trauma processing techniques include approaches such as seeking safety. Centers that offer full spectrum dual diagnosis treatment services can cater programs to the individual. Seeking safety provides an approach that addresses a certain issue that arises after a traumatic event. The human system, after experiencing something high stressful or dangerous, may enter into what is commonly referred to as self-preservation mode. As a result, a person may become over sensitized to situations that may trigger thoughts or feelings of being in dangers.
There are several key objectives in seeking safety therapy that include:
- Helping clients attain safety in thinking, emotions, behaviors, and relationships
- Providing clients integrated treatment of substance abuse and trauma conditions
- Counteracting loss of ideals experienced from substance abuse and trauma
Overall, symptoms of trauma can appear as physical, emotional, or cognitive distress. Discovering different trauma processing techniques provides clarity on what approach may be best suited for you. For most, incorporating various techniques proves to be effective. Whether it’s combining cognitive behavior therapy (talk therapy) with EMDR, or seeking services that provide trauma-informed care, it’s critical you evaluate different options.
AspenRidge REACH Online Therapy
Trauma processing techniques are developed through various treatment methods. Given the complexities of trauma, there isn’t one sure way of overcoming its symptoms. Instead, it’s important to speak with treatment specialists that are knowledgeable and experienced with different forms of care.
The bottom line is, you don’t have to live with all-consuming symptoms of trauma. There is hope. However, without treatment, a person may continue to struggle to think straight, relationships may suffer, and there’s an increased risk for addiction and other co-occurring mental health concerns. Acknowledging negative feelings and difficult thoughts can help you discover an effective coping strategy.
AspenRidge REACH offers online support through its integrative care programs. We combine different methods that’s tailored to fit individual needs. Our initial intake process allows us to provide trauma-informed care while discussing the best options for you. The best part about it? Our programs are 100% virtual and just as effective as in-person treatment.