Healing From Trauma and Abuse
Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are much more familiar concepts these days. Most people are familiar with the terms and many people understand the signs of trauma. Fortunately, research has advanced also in understanding at a neurological level what is happening in the mind of a traumatized person. And perhaps more importantly within the past 10-20 years, we have a much better understanding of how to do trauma treatment and bring about relief and possibly resolution of trauma symptoms. For example;
- We know that a person who has suffered trauma can not simply ‘get over it’. Their mind is stuck in a loop of thing, feeling and reacting they can’t get out of by themselves.
- We know that the looping the mind is doing is the mind trying its hardest to heal itself by making sense of an experience – except that the trauma experience does not make any sense.
- We know that anxiety always accompanies trauma and depression very often accompanies trauma too.
- We know that trauma symptoms can be caused by a traumatic event (Acute trauma); a traumatic pattern in early life (developmental trauma); or by a traumatic event very early in life, before the person has developed language, in which case the trauma is stored in the body and emotions, but not in words.
- We know that trauma typically has to be treated with talk therapy. But talk therapy usually isn’t enough. Therapies that target and heal the body and the emotions are required for full healing and recovery.
- We know that trauma is about an experience that was profoundly unsafe. That profoundly unsafe feeling carries on long after the traumatic event has ended. And so, trauma treatment must, first create a felt sense of safety in the therapy office.
Trauma treatment requires a competent therapist to accurately tease out these issues so that the person receives the best treatment. Effective treatments for each of trauma exists, but it is very important that you work with a therapist who is astute and up to date on treatment options. The competent clinician who treats a traumatized client needs to have a general perspective on how trauma undermines a person’s basic assumptions about how the world and their own life operate in order to help a person re-establish a coherent perspective. It is also important to take into account the cultural perspective of traumatized clients.
Acute trauma is the ‘normal’ kind of trauma that comes to mind when we hear the term. A dramatic event that the person didn’t see coming rocked their world and left them shocked and reeling. The event might be a motor vehicle accident, sexual assault, robbery or some other form of criminal violence. Trauma treatment in these kinds of cases is frequently relatively brief and efficient since the trauma is constrained to an event or a small period of time.
In contrast to acute trauma that is discrete and contained in terms of when it happened, developmental trauma occurred as a pattern of behavior and interactions over a long period of time, in childhood. These patterns aren’t abusive in the way we normally think of that term, but they are still damaging. For example, a parent who is not able to reliably regulate their own anxiety, may unintentionally communicate to their child a) that the world is not a safe place, b) being a grown up is a scary thing, and c) that it is the child’s role and responsibility to regulate the parent’s emotions. These kinds of dynamics can create trauma effects in the child, such as a distrust of others and apprehension toward ‘being adult’ and an over-developed sense of responsibility for other’s feelings. Not the recipe for a full and abundant life. This creates a few challenges for treatment. The individual may not immediately recognize that the behaviors and interactions were dysfunctional, because the person wouldn’t know anything different.
Childhood abuse can take a variety of forms: some obvious and some more subtle. Obvious abuse like physical violence and sexual exploitation need no explanation. Other forms of childhood abuse such as verbal violence, emotional manipulation and emotional neglect can be equally damaging, but more difficult to recover from since the wounds aren’t apparent.
Vicarious or Secondary Trauma
Vicarious or secondary trauma is equally potent but much less understood and accepted than the kinds of trauma described above. Police officers, firefighters, other emergency responders as well as counsellors and social workers witness and hear stories of traumatic events that have happened to others. But witnessing and hearing about can have the same effect as experiencing it oneself.
The symptoms can be similar, including hyper-arousal, numbing out, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts and collateral effects including substance abuse. What makes vicarious trauma more difficult to deal with is that the helper may have difficulty accepting that witnessing can have a traumatizing effect since they were doing their job helping others.
Since one’s spirituality is so central to who we are as people when one’s spirituality is exploited and hijacked for someone else’s advantage, the effects can be particularly damaging. This makes spiritual abuse is a special case of the abuse of power, and particularly difficult to recover from. The therapist’s at Russell & Associates can bring a reasoned perspective and an empathetic response to this kind of abuse and facilitate the recovery and healing from spiritual abuse.
How Our Trauma Treatment Can Help
The therapists at Russell & Associates are caring, patient and skilled in identifying the factors involved in these forms of abuse and they are highly skilled treating trauma and abuse with clinically proven techniques. Call us today to get started on your healing journey.