Topic Spotlight: PTSD/ Trauma Therapy

topic spotlight
GLPG clinician Beth Atwell, MA, LPC

Trauma happens to everyone, therefore anyone can go to trauma therapy– even young children. There are therapeutic techniques that can be beneficial even if children aren’t at the point of being able to talk about their trauma.

It is beneficial for treatment to be sought when a trauma takes place. Addressing traumatic events early on can significantly reduce the effects of trauma on a person’s emotional and social functioning. When a person experiences a traumatic experience they develop a heightened sense of awareness and reactivity to future events that take place. Working through difficult thoughts and emotions associated with the traumatic event can decrease the intensity of the emotional reactivity and distress in a person long term.

Long term effects of not working through trauma: medical/health issues, difficulty in forming healthy attachments/relationships, dissociation, inability to function occupationally, increase in addictive tendencies/behaviors

What does trauma therapy focus on?

The goal of trauma therapy is to decrease the level of distress associated with the traumatic event. To help the patient experience an overall reduction in symptoms when thinking or being exposed to a person, place, or thing that is the root of the trauma reaction.

The focus of trauma therapy is processing traumatic events and identifying emotions experienced at the time of trauma as well as current thoughts and feelings about the things that occurred.

As with other modalities, trauma therapy explores triggers and seeks to assist the client in learning and utilizing positive ways to cope. Utilizing self-soothing skills on a regular basis is an extremely beneficial component of trauma therapy.

Trauma work is an intensive process that requires a longer-term commitment to treatment.

Warning signs that someone needs trauma therapy:

  • Inability to function in areas of their life including work, school, family, etc…
  • High levels of emotional distress include anger, sadness, anxiety/panic, fear & paranoia
  • Someone who seems scattered in their thinking or is perceiving situations differently than they really are
  • Forgetfulness, Memory problems, difficulty concentrating
  • Nightmares/flashbacks
  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite
  • Hypervigilance of surroundings
  • Feeling emotionally “numb”, withdrawn, or disconnected from others
  • Not being able to face certain aspects of the trauma, and avoiding activities, places, or even people that remind you of the event.

Does everyone need to see a therapist after a traumatizing event?

Individuals, couples & families experiencing traumatic events increase their quality of life when they work through the thoughts and emotions attached to the event. Lack of acceptance that the trauma occurred can perpetuate trauma responses and limit an individual’s ability to effectively cope with the stressors of daily life. Participating in trauma therapy can help individuals learn to decipher between neurotypical responses to situations vs. trauma responses.