What Is Trauma Therapy?

Medically reviewed by Lauren Fawley , LPC
Updated March 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article on trauma therapy might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources aside from trauma therapy.

Trauma can affect your life in many ways

Trauma is an intense emotional response caused by an experience that impacts or threatens your mental health, physical body, or life. There are many forms of trauma, such as medical trauma, disaster trauma, early childhood trauma, and racial trauma. Trauma affects people in many ways. The response to trauma may initially lead to shock and denial, with long-term reactions such as flashbacks or unpredictable emotions or physical symptoms such as headaches. If you have experienced a traumatic event, you are not alone and trauma therapy can help. 

Trauma therapy and counseling after a traumatic event, group therapy, and other treatment programs are available to help you find healthier ways to manage the emotions associated with trauma and are approved by the American Psychological Association. This article will explore how past trauma can affect you, different treatment options, and how you can find support.

How a traumatic event and PTSD can affect the brain

A traumatic experience activates the body's stress response, which involves the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex of the brain, especially after experiencing trauma in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These areas of the brain can experience lasting changes in those who experience traumatic stress. For example, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience increased cortisol and norepinephrine responses to stress.

The prefrontal cortex is associated with decision-making, planning, social behavior, and self-expression. Following a traumatic event, people with PTSD often show decreased prefrontal cortex functioning. In addition, they might develop increased function in the amygdala, which is related to processing threatening stimuli and fear-related behavior. 

These changes may lead to a range of reactions. For example, suppose you remember your traumatic event, and your amygdala becomes overactive. In this case, your brain may become hypervigilant and on high alert to ensure you're safe from danger. Trauma and phobia are two different terms, but trauma can cause a specific phobia. For example, many veterans living with PTSD might have traumatic memories that can relate to the sound of fireworks, and therapy with a certified therapist can help with techniques to work through these triggers and phobias associated with trauma. One type of trauma-focused therapy and therapeutic intervention is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, where you process specific traumatic events in a controlled environment through bilateral stimulation. 

EMDR is a form of trauma therapy that has been proven to be effective in treating PTSD or any event that has resulted in being traumatized. Many different therapies exist, and convenient affordable online counseling is a great avenue. The type and form of treatment often depend on the person, their ability to function, the number of sessions they are interested in, and the types available to them. There are multiple kinds of therapeutic psychotherapy methods to treat PTSD and trauma.


Types of treatment for traumatic events

Trauma-focused therapy, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), is a type of cognitive processing therapy that is evidence-based by the American Psychological Association as one of the many types of therapy to treat trauma. These trauma-focused treatments, such as prolonged exposure, can help with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or survivors of a specific type of trauma, such as sexual assault. Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive processing, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are all evidence-based types of therapy but do not serve as substitutes for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. In the wake of a traumatic event, therapy can serve as a tool to navigate the trauma and rewire neural pathways.

Trauma-focused therapy can be provided by a mental health professional who specializes in treating individuals who have experienced high stress and are showing signs of a trauma-related disorder and can be one of the best online counseling options. This type addresses the needs and mental health symptoms common in those who experience traumatic stress, which may impact your mood, sleep, or ability to cope healthily. Mental health services and mental health support are available for posttraumatic stress disorder through trauma-informed care.

However, note that there are many types of treatments that can be used to navigate traumatic experiences. Therapists may use a range of treatments for trauma survivors and various trauma-related conditions. Children and adolescents can often also receive treatment for trauma and cognitive restructuring that may result from PTSD in adults. Types of counseling and mental health care approved by medical reviewers and the American Psychological Association include cognitive processing therapy CPT, and dialectical behavior therapy DBT which are often techniques used by licensed therapists. These are helpful and effective grounding techniques to ensure clients feel safe throughout treatment plans to learn coping skills and manage emotional reactions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma counseling

According to the National Center for PTSD, if you've experienced at least one high-stress event or think you might have signs of traumatic stress, it is possible that  talk therapy can help you begin to process your experiences. The best online treatment process may include talking about your pain, exploring disturbing events and memories through prolonged exposure, and treating events in your past in order to help you address memories and live an empowering, fulfilled life.

With the help of a therapist who specializes in PTSD, you can take steps to heal and move forward with your life through different therapies and techniques that assist the therapeutic healing journey. You might prefer to find a trauma therapist in your local area or seek treatment from a therapist online, both of which can be trained in PTSD and trauma. Internet-based treatment for trauma-related issues can effectively manage significant distress and treat trauma and PTSD symptoms and related conditions like depression and anxiety disorders.  

As a summary:

Benefits of trauma-focused counseling after traumatic events

Trauma-informed professionals, including social workers, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, can help you work through symptoms of psychological trauma and PTSD in counseling, such as: 

  • Intrusive thoughts or memories (e.g., flashbacks, involuntary memories, or distressing dreams, especially related to PTSD)
  • Avoidance coping (e.g., avoiding memories, emotions, feelings, places, or activities associated with the traumatic event)
  • Cognition and mood changes (e.g., ongoing fear, self-blame, guilt, shame, or feeling detached)
  • Arousal and reactivity changes (e.g., angry outbursts, irritability, or trouble concentrating)

Other benefits can include:

  • Working with an informed therapist in trauma therapy may help you develop a better understanding of your trauma symptoms, triggers, and reactions
  • A certified PTSD and trauma therapist can outline symptoms related to PTSD, as well as treatment methods moving forward
  • A therapist may also help you find mental health resources that can assist you in your recovery
  • You can work with your therapist in counseling to identify a list of goals for your trauma treatment, which can help you track your progress
  • Therapy for trauma and alternate forms of therapies may allow you to dive deeper into what life can look like when living with PTSD, as well as ways forward

Common goals:

  • Working in therapy to successfully accept the reality of the traumatic event that occurred in the past
  • Working in therapy to eliminate or ease the symptoms of trauma and treating PTSD through counseling sessions
  • Working in therapy to shift your focus from the trauma memory in the past to what's happening in the present 
  • Working in therapy to boost day-to-day functioning outside of psychotherapy
  • Working in therapy to understand potential intergenerational trauma
  • Working in therapy to regain personal power and self-esteem 
  • Working in therapy to overcome addictions or other unhealthy or harmful behaviors caused by traumatic stress
  • Working in therapy to learn the coping skills and therapies needed to help prevent deterioration or relapse
  • Working in therapy to improve emotional and spiritual well-being with a certified therapist

If your goals differ from those listed above, talk to your therapist about including them. Trauma-informed and PTSD therapy is an individual experience, and you have the right to work toward any personal goals that you believe might help you heal. Whether you're working through flashbacks, guilt, fear, or another trauma response, trauma-oriented treatment involves using psychotherapy methods to treat these responses and provide relief.

Getty/Luis Alvarez
Trauma can affect your life in many ways

Online counseling with BetterHelp

At BetterHelp, you can connect with licensed trauma therapists who specialize in helping people who have experienced trauma or are living with PTSD, and you can begin trauma therapy. You can speak with a skilled trauma therapist based on your needs and preferences and schedule flexible online sessions via phone, video, or in-app messaging. Since web-based therapy can take place anywhere you feel comfortable and have a reliable internet connection, you may feel more okay talking about your experiences using this method. The best online counseling often cannot provide medical advice in life-threatening situations, so please consult a doctor or see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources. Therapy is often thought of as a resource for couples, relationships, dating, or personal matters, but it has proved to be beneficial in the treatment of traumatic events, as well.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling benefits

Online counseling can be an effective tool for overcoming a traumatic experience and PTSD. One study of evidence-based research assessed the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy on youth belonging to underserved groups. Researchers found that the telehealth intervention “demonstrated clinically meaningful symptom change posttreatment,” including a caregiver-reported reduction in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is another form of cognitive behavioral therapy CBT that is specifically catered to PTSD. These findings effectively show the comparability of web-based treatments to in-person interventions for treating trauma-related symptoms and mental health concerns.

Commonly, in-person appointments can cost around $100 to $200 a session without insurance, whereas online treatment may cost about $65 to $90 per week, depending on the platform. While many have strong thoughts, reactions, and feelings related to the price ranges of treatment, behavior therapy can range in price depending on location and type of treatment. All therapy platforms may have various rights reserved and terms of treatment. 

Counselor reviews

Below are reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people with similar experiences. 

“Grant pulled me out of the worst depression I ever had. Having been a survivor of complex trauma, I thought I had the tools necessary to continue my resilience, but I didn’t. I look forward to our sessions, and I always feel accomplished after. Thank you, Grant!”

Grant Rubendunst, LMHC

“When I started therapy I explained to Jodie that there were specific practical steps that I needed to address, as well as unpicking traumas. She has been skilled at allowing me to balance both, without feeling capsized by either one. She is positive and professional, caring and empowering. Highly recommend.”

Jodie Spradlin, LMSW


A licensed trauma-informed therapist can help you determine suitable trauma therapies for your symptoms, and they will not ask you to pursue treatments that you're uncomfortable with through online counseling. Instead, your therapist can provide support as you talk through your trauma or PTSD, learn about yourself, and explore means of treatment that help you begin to move forward. If you’re experiencing shame related to traumatic incidents, online trauma therapy and trauma focused therapies may provide a safe environment in which you can be more open and honest.

Learn to heal from the impacts of trauma
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