Is Trauma Informed Therapy Right For Me?
By: Toni Hoy
Updated May 04, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
Trauma-informed therapy is centered on the understanding of the emotional, neurological, psychological, social, and biological effects of trauma on those who are seeking therapy and mental health services. Trauma experienced when young affects the mental well-being of individuals throughout life. If you are wondering, "Is trauma-informed therapy right for me?" and you have experienced trauma in your life, the answer is yes.
What is Trauma-Focused Therapy?
First, trauma can occur from any stressful even that impacts you emotionally and psychologically to make feel so overwhelmed you lose your sense of security or feel helpless. Physical harm does not have to happen for something to be considered traumatic. Trauma can result from a one-time situation or an ongoing stressor.
Trauma-focused therapy is a cognitive behavioral therapy that brings together the knowledge and understanding of how trauma affects the lives of those it touches with therapy for behaviors it has caused or triggers. For many, trauma experienced at some point in life makes it difficult to deal with other issues and problems that would otherwise not be of consequence.
Child abuse can cause problems such as addiction and other detrimental behaviors. Addressing the addiction or other detrimental behavior without recognizing the trauma that paved the way for these problems only prolongs the therapy and, in most cases, the therapy is never truly effective. When the trauma is recognized and understood through therapy, it is easier to treat and provide therapy for the other problems that are a result of the trauma.
Today it is well understood in psychology that traumatic experiences, even if they seem comparatively unrelated to present problems, do have an impact. Trauma does not go away because it was never addressed and treated; it just goes unnoticed and continues to hamper emotional, social, and physical health. Before the development of trauma-informed models, many problems were treated as if they were the trigger and the result. Today, trauma-informed therapy is the norm in all therapy settings.
During trauma-focused therapy sessions, a therapist will help you identify beliefs that you have that are directly related to the traumatic event. Then they will help you to overcome and correct these thoughts and beliefs in order to move forward. They will help you process through the event to see what your experience was and how it has impacted your life.
These sessions can also be helpful when attended with others that were involved in the situation. For example, family therapy sessions can be beneficial if the trauma that you experienced as a child was something that your other family members were a part of. You can work on improving your relationships with your family members as you also work on overcoming the trauma from your past.
What stops people from getting help for trauma-focused therapy?
While addressing the trauma is the only way that some people are going to be able to move forward in a healthy way in their life there are some common obstacles that they face in seeking help.
Some people just don't want to address the trauma that they faced in the past. It may be something that they are actively avoiding on purpose because it is too painful for them to want to remember. So, even though they may be able to improve their mental health by addressing the trauma, they feel that it would be better to just leave things alone so they don't have to put themselves back in that place again.
Other people don't seek out treatment because they are embarrassed that they would need help. These people have given in to the stigma that surrounds mental health. They don't want others to judge them because they need to see a therapist. This is one of the reasons why mental health stigma needs to be addressed.
And, still, other people don't seek help simply for the fact that it's inconvenient. They may have busy schedules or don't live near a counseling center and would be forced to have to take the time that they don't have in order to get help.
The last reason is that people don't think of their situation as "trauma." Many people think that traumatic events only include situations like war, death, kidnapping, and events to that magnitude. So, they don't want to act like they have experienced trauma because they don't feel right using that terminology. However, there is something that's called small trauma and can include any situation where you feel that your life or safety was in danger even if it really wasn't.
If you believe you are in danger then your brain is going to react like you are in danger. If you don't have a high level of resiliency when the trauma, large or small, happens to you then it will be a struggle for you to bounce back from it. Ignoring the situation or trying to sweep it under the rug will only make it stay hidden in your life. When you keep it hidden it will continue to impact you in ways that you may not have expected. That's why it's important to address things when they happen or when you realize that they have become an issue.
Is Trauma-Informed Therapy Right for Me?
If you have experienced trauma in your life it is important to understand that it affects your life now. The trauma left untreated does not go away. It buries itself in the psyche and emerges in destructive behaviors such as alcoholism/addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Trauma-informed therapy is right for anyone who has experienced trauma in their life.
Trauma-informed therapy addresses the underlying trauma that triggers undesired thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that surface. If the trauma is not addressed therapy cannot be effective. It is impossible to solve a problem when pieces to the puzzle are missing. A trauma-informed therapist uses psychotherapy techniques that are focused on understanding how that trauma triggers behaviors that seem unrelated.
In behavioral health settings, trauma-informed care is the norm. It is important for you to be honest and straightforward when answering questions before you begin therapy. The therapeutic relationship between your therapist and you is only effective if the therapist is aware of any trauma you have experienced even if you think it is completely unrelated to the problems you are seeking help with.
Through research and studies such as ACE or the Adverse Childhood Experience, modern psychology has uncovered the strong relationship between trauma and present adverse behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. If you have experienced trauma in your life, you will benefit from trauma-informed therapy.
You can begin your journey to mental wellness with BetterHelp. A recent publication looked at how effective virtual trauma-focused therapy was for military members, veterans, and public safety personnel. Looking at 38 studies, the authors found that virtual trauma-focused therapy was just as effective as face-to-face therapy.
Researchers also pointed out that digital delivery is likely to alleviate some of the practical barriers that prevent people from seeking help. With online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home or office – meaning that there’s no long commute involved. Plenty of others have already given testimony as to how BetterHelp counselors have helped them on their mental health journey:
“Joseph takes a caring, individualized approach for what I need to cover for my mental health, whether it's talking about past traumas or an ongoing crisis. He is attentive and recalls details that I wouldn't have expected him to, which really helps me know that there's a genuine rapport. I am a military and police veteran with divorce and relationship issues, post traumatic stress, and major depression. Sometimes I feel like I just want to update Joseph on what's going on in life when I don't really have a general direction in the conversation that I want to go in, and he shows interest even when I'm just venting. I would absolutely recommend him to a friend or coworker.”
“I feel very comfortable sharing some very serious and difficult issue with Laura. She is very respectful and insightful. Knowing that I can reach out to her and get helpful feedback and kind/understanding words is of great value to me as I work thought past trauma and attempt to face my life in a more positive and meaningful way. She does not push me to more than I am ready for but when I push myself to[o] far, she has been there to support me and provide guidance.”
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