-What is psychological and emotional trauma?
Trauma can be explained as experiencing a terrifying event that the brain is not naturally equipped to handle. When an event (or repeated events) like this happen, the typical ways in which we cope are not enough, and a person finds themselves not able to recover using their own resources.
-How are traumatic symptoms experienced?
There are many ways traumatic symptoms are experienced. The most common tend to be depression, anxiety (including intense fear and panic attacks), nightmares and flashbacks, and in some cases mental disassociation and “out of body” experiences. As you might imagine, having symptoms such as these can also lead to significant problems with intimate relationships, other family relationships, problems with work/career and other demanding situations, as well as physical health.
-What are common causes of psychological trauma?
Certain causes of psychological trauma can be more easily identified, such as clear acts or threats of violent, committed from one person to another. This includes sexual assault and other types of sexual abuse. Military combat, sudden personal loss (such as death in the family, loss of a home, etc..), and sudden incidents such as car crashes, can have severe traumatic effects too. Additionally, events and life circumstances better defined as micro-traumas, which have the tendency to be unrecognized and unaddressed (not by victims, but by health agencies, law enforcement, educational systems, etc..) also contribute to one’s psychological trauma. Severe verbal abuse, psychological neglect (particularly in childhood), chronic “micro-aggressions” or subtle threats, recurring in one’s life, are examples of this.
-How do people often cope?
Getting support from others, be it verbally, physically, or other means, is one important way in which survivors of traumatic events cope. Ultimately, this tends to be the most powerful method of coping, and is also one key component in processing trauma and bringing about long term improvements. Distractions, such as taking a walk, playing with a pet, listening to favorite music, or a hands-on activity like a puzzle, that occupies your mind, can be effective for short term coping. Developing a healthy self-care routine, which may include diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, and meditation, can help to manage mental health symptoms stemming from trauma.
-How is trauma dealt with in therapy?
Talk therapy is one of the most common ways emotional trauma is addressed in treatment. Talking about events of a trauma encourages these memories to emerge. This can be emotionally strenuous in the moment, but may help to present opportunities for further healing. The therapist offers a critical role of emotional support in this process. The therapist also helps to create a system allowing the client to arrive at their personal “safe place” when needed in this process. They also work with the client to develop practical tools for decreasing immediate distress out of session, and strategies for effective long-term stress relief.
-Other aspects of the therapeutic process..
An important part of trauma therapy is often centered around building up internal resiliencies allowing a client to proceed forward with the core work of processing. When therapy starts many clients are ready to begin the actual work of addressing the specific material of their trauma. This state of readiness has to do with several different factors; nature of the trauma, relationship factors of the client’s life, and other life circumstances and stressors. This state of readiness can be reached later in therapy if need be, allowing for multiple successful pathways depending on the person. Other clients will need extra time in therapy to develop the internal strength to successfully process the trauma(s) most acutely affecting them. This process connects and enhances some of the internal strengths, particularly those related to positive and supportive experiences with others, and tends to have effects that are noticeably uplifting, and ’emotional lightening’, for at least the short term. One key difference between these two distinct scenarios, is the latter will take more time to meet therapeutic goals of major symptom relief.