Trauma Therapy: What Can Make the Pain Better?
Trauma can happen to anyone.
When it does, it changes the course of a life, leading to painful memories, a loss of confidence, and susceptibility to anxiety and depression. Trauma can be caused by any type of abuse, including sexual, physical, mental, or emotional. It may be caused by engaging in military combat, watching a loved one die, experiencing a natural disaster, being in a bad accident, and more.
Depending on the person and the event, some people are able to recover from the trauma after the brain and body have had some time to process the experience. But, for others, the experience becomes stuck; the brain is unable to effectively cope with the event. As a result, these individuals will likely be diagnosed with some type of trauma disorder, symptoms of which can include long-term distress, exhaustion, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbness, and more.
The Importance of Trauma Therapy
People suffering from trauma disorders are more likely to develop substance use disorders as they turn to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications to cope with the stress. Anyone suffering from trauma, substance use disorder, or both can benefit from professional treatment. Trauma-informed therapies can help people manage their symptoms and reclaim power over their lives.
The Types of Treatment Used in Trauma Care
Experiencing trauma can seem very lonely, but it’s not rare. About 6 in every 10 men and 5 in every 10 women will experience trauma at least once in their lifetime. Not all will develop a trauma disorder, but for those who do, comprehensive therapy can help overcome the damage.
A therapist can diagnose the type of trauma disorder and suggest a specific type of therapy or mix of therapies. These may include any of the following:
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used mainly for cases of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In it, people learn how to recognize how their thoughts and behaviors have changed as a result of the trauma, and they learn how to replace negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones. For example, someone who has experienced trauma may believe that they are safer if they avoid life. As a result, they isolate themselves, which only exacerbates depression and anxiety.
Over a series of sessions, the person learns how to challenge this belief. As they change their belief about safety, their behavior will also change. They will participate in life more and feel more at ease.
Seeking Safety is a type of counseling designed specifically for those suffering from both trauma and substance use disorders. It can be used in groups or with individuals, and, unlike some types of therapy, it does not require clients to provide a detailed account of their traumatic experience. Instead, the Seeking Safety method recognizes that people often choose unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as using drugs or alcohol, as a way to deal with the mental and emotional pain they have from a traumatic event. Seeking Safety teaches clients 25 healthy coping skills, including asking for help, setting boundaries, taking care of themselves, being honest, having healthy relationships, and healing from anger.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is another effective treatment used for those battling trauma. This method combines the use of talk therapy with specific eye or hand movements to help clients re-engage with the trauma in a less intense way, for the ultimate purpose of reprogramming the brain to acknowledge and resolve the experience.
Over a period of time, EMDR can reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of trauma, the distress associated with memories of the trauma, and the potential for a substance use disorder relapse.
Other Types of Treatment for PTSD & Trauma
In addition to the therapies mentioned above, other therapeutic tools can contribute to trauma and substance use disorder treatment, including:
- Dialectical behavior therapy: DBT helps people develop skills to recognize and replace unhealthy behaviors.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT helps a person recognize that the negative thoughts they have are not realistic or accurate. Changing thought patterns will change behaviors.
- Group therapy: Many of the therapy modalities mentioned can be used in a group setting. Working with others who have had similar experiences can motivate clients to overcome their own challenges.
Trauma-related therapy will not remove the experience, the memory of it, or the pain associated with it. What it can do is help clients learn how to alleviate the impact of the trauma on their daily lives.
If you’ve suffered from trauma and substance use disorder, reach out to our team at Victory Addiction Recovery Center. Learn more about our trauma counseling programs and therapies designed to restore your quality of life.
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