Counseling for Trauma
Many people will go through a traumatic experience in their lifetime. A traumatic experience can be almost anything since what counts as a trauma is really defined by your reactions rather than the external event itself. While many people can recover from trauma over time with the love and support of family and friends and bounce back with resiliency, others may discover effects of lasting trauma, which can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or post-traumatic stress far after the event has passed. If a person’s traumatic experience meets a certain level, therapists will describe that person as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The support, guidance, and assistance of a therapist can be fundamental to healing from trauma.
Kinds of Traumatic Thoughts
Do you find yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts related to your traumatic experience:
- If a bad thing happened to me, I must have done something wrong.
- Why did I let this happen?
- I should have done something to stop it.
- It’s all my fault.
- I shouldn’t trust people again.
- I always have to stay on alert for bad things.
- I should have known better.
These are only a few of the common thoughts that people work in trauma therapy. There are many other thoughts that people can have as a result of a traumatic experience, so if your thought doesn’t appear on this list, that does not mean you are not suffering. Make sure that you are speaking with a qualified mental health professional to understand your particular situation.
PTSD and Trauma Symptoms
PTSD and trauma symptoms are broken in to four groups. This helps therapists and sufferers organize the chaos of trauma response into understandable categories.
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts that force you to think about the traumatic experience
- Nightmares or flashbacks
- Anger and irritability
- Always being “on the alert” for danger
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
How Treatment Works
I provide a form of science-based trauma therapy called Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). CPT is a kind of talk therapy that helps people work on traumatic beliefs that develop following a traumatic event. According to CPT, if a person can change their beliefs, they can also change how badly they feel. I have seen CPT work very well in real-life situations and I am a big believer that it can help people heal.
Traumatic experiences can lead to thoughts that are extreme and dysfunctional when they are genuinely believed. For example, a thought such as “I am never safe.” can reasonably lead someone to be on the alert for danger 24/7. This belief can lead to the Hyper-arousal Symptoms discussed above.
To work on this issue, CPT helps people challenge these dysfunctional thoughts to find more reasonable alternatives. Through CPT’s steps and tools, someone can develop a reasonable alternative for “I am never safe.”. This new belief could be something like “I am never 100% safe, but my life is generally not filled with danger. If there ever is a problem, I can also respond and control many important factors.”
Believing this new thought can lead to a more relaxed approach to life and help reduce traumatic responses.
What Healing Looks Like
As you work on your PTSD, you will begin to notice that your PTSD symptoms will decrease over time. You may feel more open to meeting new people, more trusting of those you already know, and more capable of feeling happiness.
You may start returning to favorite interests and activities and find that you dread the passing of time less often. Your “I’m back there again” symptoms may genuinely decrease – fewer nightmares, fewer intrusive thoughts, and fewer moments of “reliving” the event.
As your old beliefs are transformed into new and more flexible ways of thinking, you may start to see the world in a healthier way. You can start rolling with the punches more easily, have fun with surprises, and experience life with fewer boundaries. Fear won’t rule your day-to-day, and instead, you will able to make your own choices.
If you want to see how therapy can help you, contact me today.