By Lisa Averoff, LMHC
Trauma is a Greek work that means wound. Today we are used to seeing it used in hospitals as “the trauma unit” or when doctors refer to trauma to the head or body. In essence it is a severe wound that causes damage to the body physically, usually from an unusual event such as an accident. The term usually used as a psychological trauma reference is PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In mental health, trauma to the psyche is identical as the one to the body. It is a severe blow that causes a deep wound to the emotional, mental and psychological health of an individual. Like a physical trauma it takes time to heal, with the help of trained professionals and support from the family and or community. People of all ages can suffer trauma: infants, children young adults and older adults are all susceptible to psychological trauma.
Psychological trauma can be a result of abuse: sexual, physical, emotional or verbal. It can also happen as a result of an accident such as an explosion, warfare, criminal activity or a disaster. The recent hurricanes and the mass murder in Las Vegas are current examples of trauma that one may be suffering. Clearly, a person who suffers trauma is in a situation where his body, his mind, his whole being is feeling the repercussions of the incidents that occurred. People become depressed, anxious, experience mood swings, insomnia, numbing, irritability or lose interest in life and relationships. Some turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. Sometimes it can be a one-time trauma, sometimes it is years or being subjected to trauma and we call that “complex trauma”. People do react differently but there are common themes in people who have experienced trauma.
Healing from trauma occurs on multiple levels: physically (with the help on doctors and psychiatrists), and emotionally (with expertise of therapists). Medical doctors help with balancing brain chemicals using medication. Therapists help with creating a “new normal” place and improve tolerance of the emotional upheaval caused by trauma. Therapy is provided in a gradual way so that the client is not overwhelmed by the re-experiencing of the trauma. The process that can take several months or even years in complex trauma situations.
Extensive research has been done after WW1 and more after WW2 with soldiers returning home suffering from “combat fatigue”. Today we have several techniques that have been researched and found to be helpful for trauma recovery, including techniques used by our therapists:
TF- CBT Psychotherapy teaches the patient to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma.
EMDR – Psychotherapy with CBT includes specific techniques with hand movements or any bilateral stimulation of the body while focusing on an external motion or sound. These techniques help a patient balance their thoughts and feelings, allowing them to process the trauma and move forward.
Prolonged exposure via Psychotherapy with CBT. This teaches you how to face your fears by talking about them and doing safe things you have been avoiding.
If you or a loved one have been affected by trauma or may suffer from PTSD, Family Psychology Associates can help with trauma resolution. We can help you identify problems and work to create a treatment plan to help resolve your difficulties and prevent additional issues. Anxiety disorders are often linked with PTSD and we can help with treatment and promote stress management for healthy changes in the daily routine. Contact us to schedule evaluation to get diagnosed and a treatment plan created to help with trauma resolution.