What is Trauma Counseling?
A traumatic event can be defined as a situation in which you feel that your life, body, or mind is threatened. If you can cope with the situation, it isn’t classed as traumatic, even if it is dangerous.
What one person sees as trauma another may see as sheer bad luck. It varies from person to person and can affect one person differently from how it affects the next individual. Some people are more resilient and can bounce back from a traumatic event far quicker than others. But while every person responds to trauma differently, we must seek a mental health professional's help after a traumatic experience.
Trauma therapy is a form of mental health therapy used by therapists to help the patient overcome any psychological trauma they may have faced in their lives. There is no one type of treatment for trauma, with some mental health specialists even employing several therapies in unison.
What Causes Trauma?
Trauma is generally caused by an intensely negative even that leaves a deep impression upon the subject, affecting them mentally and emotionally. While the majority of traumatic events are caused by physical violence, it can also be caused by a psychological incident. Some of the most common traumatic events include:
- Domestic violence
- Natural disasters
- Severe illness or injury
- The death of a loved one
- Witnessing an act of violence
While in most cases trauma affects those who physically witness a trauma-inducing act. However, a person may still be traumatized if they witness such an act from a distance. Generally speaking, young children are most susceptible to trauma and should be evaluated by a mental health specialist after undergoing any traumatic event.
What are the symptoms of trauma?
While there are countless causes and symptoms related to trauma, almost every person will exhibit a few basic symptoms of trauma. These symptoms include:
- Being shaken and disoriented
- Please don’t respond to stimulus as they usually would
- Become withdrawn
- May not seem present even when speaking
- Night terrors
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
Please bear in mind that the symptoms listed are common but are by no means exhaustive, with each person responding to trauma in their own way. In some cases, trauma may lay hidden beneath the surface, with even their closest family members and friends not realizing that something is very wrong. For this reason, anyone who has undergone a traumatic event must speak to someone, ideally a medical or psychological expert. Even if the individual shows no signs of trauma following the event, it may manifest further down the road, days, weeks, months, or even years later.Emotional Symptoms of Trauma:
Often the victim of trauma will unleash their anger and emotions on someone close to them, especially friends and family. It is behavior like this that makes life with someone who has been traumatized extremely tough going. Trying to help the victim of trauma can be especially trying as more often than not, the victim will resist and push the person trying to help them away.
Physical Symptoms of Trauma:
- Poor concentration
- Racing heartbeat
These physical symptoms can be as real to the trauma victim as a physical injury or virus and anyone faced with having to deal with individuals in such a state should do their utmost to manage their stress levels directly after the traumatic event.
Where can I find online help through therapy for trauma?
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How does trauma counseling work?
Before seeking therapy for trauma, you should have an idea of what you wish to achieve. Going in, you should also be aware of your trauma, the triggers it has caused, and how you react to these triggers. What helps more than anything else is having a set of clear goals that you wish to achieve through trauma therapy.
Some of the most common goals people have going into therapy for trauma include:
- To face up to the of the event without becoming trapped within it
- To lessen or eliminate the symptoms of trauma
- To move the focus from the past and the traumatic event to the now
- Improve your day-to-day functioning
- To reclaim your power
- Overcome addictions that area result of traumatic stress
- Learn the skills that will help prevent a relapse
What treatments are there for treating trauma?
So far, there have been three types of therapy that have proven effective when used to treat trauma:
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT)
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT)
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for those who have experienced trauma and has been created to deal with the traumatic event's thoughts. It is usually used to help children and teens, as well as their parents, and adult trauma survivors. It is known as a short-term form of therapy that usually only lasts between 8-25 sessions.
With TFCBT, the trauma victim learns about trauma and its effects on them and those around them. If the victim is a child, the sessions maybe with just the child, the child, their parents, or just the parents, depending on what is needed most of the time. Trauma counselors will teach the victim how to relax before prompting them to talk about the traumatic experience and develop what is known as a trauma narrative. Essentially, the victim learns how to express themselves and the way they are feeling appropriately. The cognitive aspect of the therapy involves looking at the thoughts the victim has concerning the event and learning how to use more positive and helpful thought patterns. Part of the therapy may involve returning to the traumatic event location, either physically or through virtual reality therapy. This is usually done gradually, so as not to overwhelm the victim. The idea is for the victim to find themselves in the same situation but now, they are equipped to deal with it far better than they originally were.
This is a form of therapy that is a development of previous methods of psychoanalysis and focuses on the content and conflicts that lay in the unconscious mind of the victim. At its core, this form of therapy believes that all our problems stem from the experiences we have had as a child, taking into consideration the effects that relationships with other people have on the way we think, feel and behave. This form of therapy relies on the relationship between the trauma victim and their therapist, with the main aim to gain insight.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a fairly new form of psychotherapy that was created to find healthier ways for the victims of trauma to process their experience. Generally, it seems to be effective faster than psychoanalysis or even psychodynamic psychotherapy. This form of therapy is based on the idea that the mind is on an ongoing journey towards mental health. The only time it is not moving towards this goal is when something is standing in its way. EMDR seeks to eliminate the block.
Other Therapeutic Approaches
While trauma therapy usually includes one of the three ways we’ve just described, it can also include several additional forms of therapy. These could include:
- Simple supportive counseling
- Hypnotherapy or
- Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
CISD is a form of therapy that is used directly after a traumatic event to give support to traumatized individuals and allow them to talk about the event and express any emotions it may have brought out of them.
How long does trauma therapy last?
Trauma therapy can last anywhere from a single session to months or even years of engaging with a therapist. It depends on what you as an individual need and want to get out of the therapy. Certain individuals may have very specific goals that can be dealt with in a few sessions, while others may take months to just uncover the actual problem.
What are the side effects of trauma therapy?
There are no written-in-stone side-effects, like there are with most forms of medication. However, there are certain things that you as the victim or close friend or family member of the victim might pick up once therapy has begun.
They may become more open and wanting to discuss certain issues with you. Alternatively, they may choose to only discuss matters with their therapist. This depends on the victim's personality type and the relationship they have with their friends and family.
Any one of us could be faced with a traumatic event at any time. It is how we deal with it in the moment and directly after the event that dictates how much of an effect it will have on us. We strongly urge anyone who has been through a traumatic event to spend time unpacking the event with the help of a mental health specialist or trauma counselor, either online or in-person.