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A Layperson’s Guide to Trauma Therapies and How to Choose One

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways:

  • Many Americans experience trauma.
  • Trauma often leads to mental and emotional issues.
  • There are several effective therapies specifically developed to treat trauma responses.

At least 223.4 million adults in America have experienced traumatic events in their lifetime, many of which lead to PTSD and other mental health diagnoses. Traumatic experiences can leave profound and lasting imprints on the body and mind. The impact may manifest immediately or not show up until years later, affecting your relationships, mood, and how you feel about yourself.

Trauma changes your brain and nervous system, causing dysregulation and mental health issues such as anxiety, panic, and depression. Trauma therapies emphasize soothing the nervous system, blending traumatic memories into the background, and supporting healing to combat those changes.

Everyone experiences and processes trauma differently, making it incredibly difficult to find the most effective treatment modality. There are various treatments for trauma symptoms, but the most effective are those specifically optimized for trauma healing. 

The right trauma therapy depends on your circumstances. This guide explains how therapy is helpful for trauma survivors, the various types that are most effective, and how to choose the best one for you.

Therapy and Trauma

Trauma is hard to understand. It doesn’t seem logical to the average person. It doesn’t play favorites, and it can show up after one horrifying incident or be delayed for years while bad experiences pile up before it comes out to wreak havoc.

Therapy helps integrate traumatic events into the rest of your memories and understand them, making starting the healing process much more manageable. Memories of the trauma stay around but diminish and have less power over you with time and therapy. 

Types of Trauma Therapy

Many therapy modalities work to lessen the effects of symptoms like PTSD and panic attacks. Some are evidence-based practices, or EBPs, which have proven effective in trials with applicable populations. 

Others are known to work through patient experience and other related sources. Some of the most successful therapies in treating trauma issues include:

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy

This EBP addresses the therapeutic needs of children and adolescents with trauma symptoms. It helps them learn to decode distorted thinking and better understand their behavior and other people’s motivations. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) treats PTSD and other trauma symptoms. It is most helpful for those who feel stuck in life because of their trauma. CPT shows patients how to challenge and transform obstructive beliefs about the trauma that keeps them stuck in their current pain cycle. The goal is to help the brain understand and think differently about what happened, stopping the adverse effects.

EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an unusual type of trauma therapy developed in 1987 by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro. There isn’t much talking involved, which is why it’s relatively uncommon for psychotherapy. The goal is to help you process and release traumatic memories using eye movements instead.

Patients hold a specific aspect of an upsetting event in mind while concentrating on moving their hand back and forth. Rhythmic tapping is also used sometimes. These eye movements help the brain reclaim the memory in a different context – because it wasn’t fully processed at the time due to overwhelming stress – by employing bilateral stimulation (or engaging both sides of your brain).

EMDR may yield results faster than other forms of therapy, such as talk therapy, for some people.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure (PE) is a PTSD treatment that involves facing the source of your fear to reduce the anxiety and symptoms, such as avoidance, that are associated with it.

PE teaches patients to control their breathing, how to effectively talk about their trauma, and confront their real-world fears. 

Sexual assault survivors might go to where they were assaulted to help their subconscious realize that the sexual trauma is passed and that they are safe, for example. 

Somatic Therapies

Somatic therapies use the mind and body connection to treat mental and emotional health issues. The premise is that traumatic memories are held in the body as well as the mind. 

Somatic therapy helps release pent-up trauma to relieve mental health symptoms and chronic pain. It utilizes methods such as brain spotting – to develop body awareness and grounding – using the senses to reduce anxiety.

Art Therapy

Accelerated trauma resolution therapy takes bits and pieces from other therapies to reprogram the brain’s memory storage process. Performing rapid eye movements while concentrating on a specific memory allows the client to counterbalance strong negative reminders and the associated physical sensation to that memory.

These are the therapies that are the most effective for treating trauma. The one that will work best depends on individual circumstances and goals. 

Choosing a Trauma Therapy

The right therapy is the one that helps you meet your goals, so identifying those goals is an excellent first step. Find a therapist who specializes in the issues you’re experiencing, and with your goals in mind, evaluate the various therapies together. 

Your therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for you, regardless of the type you choose. Having open conversations early in therapy about your goals for treatment and about the plan to help achieve those goals is crucial. 

Trauma isn’t the end of the world, no matter how bad it seems. The human psyche is a fascinating creation capable of much more than we can understand. The right therapy helps reign in those bad experiences and keep them in the past so you can live in the moment and build a prosperous future. 

Get Answers About the Healing of Trauma Therapies

Trauma therapies are incredibly freeing and liberating. The Counseling Center Group™ can help you learn how to control your emotions and change your behaviors. We provide therapies for groups, couples, individuals, and families. 

The Counseling Center Group is dedicated to helping you live a life you love. We are committed to providing relatively short-term treatments to achieve positive, long-lasting results. Our therapists use structured, evidence-based methods to efficiently help you reach realistic goals. Contact us today to learn more about trauma therapy and for more information on other types of therapy and how it could work for you.

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