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Common Therapy Approaches to Help you Heal from Trauma

Suppose you or someone you love has experienced a traumatic event or complex (multiple) trauma. In that case, you understand how debilitating and overwhelming it can be to think about the healing process.

Trauma affects the brain and the nervous system, and someone who has experienced trauma often finds it difficult to regulate their emotional responses to things. Many of the responses are involuntary and hard-wired, and one cannot simply “Get over it.” Trauma survivors suffer from PTSD and often anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, but many go years without support. Instead, they try (unsuccessfully) to manage the symptoms independently.

Unfortunately, this leads to unhealthy coping skills, which can actually exacerbate the trauma. The good news is that help is available. At Simi Psychological Group, our team is here to help. Whether you are looking for trauma therapy specialists, contact our office in the Thousand Oaks area by calling (805) 842-1994 to begin your mental health journey today.

When looking to begin therapy services, it is essential to know that many options exist. Knowing what is available, you can better understand which practice is proper for you if you need clarification on which type of therapy is best for you! Your team of licensed therapists can help you find the right path for your unique needs. Here are some of the most common approaches to help those healing from trauma.

Psychotherapy– When initiating therapy to address trauma, it’s essential to find a “trauma-informed” therapist. Traditional talk therapy is the baseline and jumping-off point, and a therapist will use specific techniques and treatment approaches based on the issue and the person. Trauma is a very specific set of experiences and symptoms, and many therapists, though very good at their job, just don’t have the extra training required when it comes to helping people heal from trauma.

EMDR- This stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Yep, that’s a mouthful. This specific treatment technique requires special training and certification on the part of the therapist, and it is among the best-known approaches when it comes to trauma. According to EMDRIA, the EMDR International Association, “EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.” Bilateral stimulation refers to the left and right sides of the brain being engaged alternately. This may be eye movements back and forth, or a tone being played in your ears, first right, then left, etc., or it may be tapping or pulse in your palm, right, then left, etc.  Basically, EMDR helps reduce the effects and symptoms of trauma using an approach that is more than talk therapy.

Brainspotting- Sometimes abbreviated as BSP, brainspotting is a technique derived from EMDR. It may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s actually a very “user-friendly” approach to trauma. While EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, BSP uses your gaze. Researchers found that unresolved trauma is stored or “stuck” in specific locations in the brain. As trauma survivor moves their eyes around slowly in different directions, eventually, they land on those “stuck” points, allowing for deeper access to those areas of the brain. By focusing on those points and holding their gaze there, they are able to remember, process, and get un “stuck” and, ultimately, heal.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is an approach that is based on cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s a skills-based approach, helping clients build a very specific set of tools to cope with stress and manage thoughts and feelings. Because DBT’s primary goal is to help people regulate their emotions, it’s a very effective form of therapy to help people heal from trauma. It incorporates mindfulness, helping people learn how to live in the moment, and focuses on improving their relationships with others as well.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-  When used for trauma, some of the specific interventions within the CBT realm include “prolonged exposure therapy” and “trauma-focused CBT.”  Prolonged exposure therapy (PE) teaches you to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations in order to reduce the emotional reaction and sensitivity, which in turn decreases PTSD symptoms. Trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT) was developed specifically for kids and teens but can be used with adults. With kids and teens, this treatment approach both helps the kids work through the trauma and empowers their caretakers through psycho-education, giving them tools to assist their children on this journey.

Somatic Therapy– Because trauma is felt and stored in our bodies as well as our minds, the use of somatic therapy is incredibly effective with trauma. Somatic refers to symptoms we experience physically in our bodies. Somatic therapy focuses on how our emotions can physically impact the body and works to “release” pent-up trauma. This approach teaches skills to help people develop greater body awareness and learn how to ground themselves emotionally and physically.

Group Therapy- Group therapy can be enormously helpful in providing support and helping you feel less alone as you process your trauma.  You can participate in group therapy on its own or use it in combination with seeing your individual therapist. Therapy groups generally consist of anywhere from 3-15 people, though usually, the goal is 6-10.

Pharmacotherapy– The use of medications to address specific symptoms experienced in trauma (in combination with working with a therapist) is very helpful in the healing process. Medications won’t make the trauma go away, but they can be used as you are processing and working through your traumatic experience/s to help with such things as intrusive thoughts, emotional reactivity, heightened arousal, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Sometimes by reducing these symptoms, you can make more progress in the actual processing of the trauma.

Trauma is defined as the response to a deeply distressing, life-threatening, or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, and affects their ability to manage their emotions and emotional experiences. PTSD- post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of trauma.

Working with a professional, trauma-informed therapist will help you feel less alone and help you reclaim your life. These treatment approaches are known for their effectiveness in treating PTSD, and more research is being done daily with exciting new options. Instead of trying to “just move on” or “get over it,” please ask for help.

Support is out there; the sooner you access it, the sooner you can find relief from your past traumas. Call Simi Psychological Group today if you are looking for support to help you or your loved one heal from their past trauma. To learn more about our trauma therapy services, call (805) 842-1994.

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