Healthy Living

Understanding Trauma – How Therapists Help Clients Heal and Thrive

Trauma is an overwhelming and life-changing experience. It can impact a person’s ability to maintain healthy relationships and work or attend school.

Accidents, loss of loved ones, assaults, natural disasters, and war can trigger trauma. It can cause unpredictable emotions, flashbacks or nightmares, and strained relationships.

Understanding the Symptoms

Many people experience a range of emotional and physical reactions after trauma. It’s important to remember that these are normal responses to abnormal circumstances.

Trauma can result from a single incidence (such as a vehicle accident, natural disaster, mugging, attack, or other life-threatening act) and from a pattern over time (such as chronic stress, child abuse, or persistent bullying). The severity of the symptoms is determined by your subjective emotional reaction to the unsettling circumstances and how you deal with them.

Some trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic experience. Others are hyper-vigilant and respond to triggers that bring back memories and feelings of the event, such as anniversary dates or a person’s name. Others use a variety of behaviors to reduce tension and stress, including self-medicating, compulsive, or impulsive strategies.

Identifying the Cause

Trauma is a reaction to upsetting experiences, which can affect each person. Trauma can have long-lasting effects, so getting help is crucial. Symptoms of trauma may include flashbacks, nightmares, and hyperarousal (feeling constantly alert). People with trauma can often feel ashamed of their reactions to stressors. As a result, they may withdraw from their social networks or only seek support from those who have experienced trauma.

Trauma has many causes, including natural disasters, war, robbery or murder, car accidents, physical and emotional abuse, life-threatening medical diagnoses, and childhood neglect. A traumatic experience can cause posttraumatic stress disorder, harming a person’s life. It can interfere with their ability to work and maintain relationships and affect their health and well-being. Trauma can affect how a person perceives their safety, their beliefs about their future, and their perceptions of their ability to manage stressors healthily.

Developing a Plan of Action

Trauma survivors must find a therapist to help them deal with distressing thoughts and memories. In addition, the therapist must have experience in treating trauma. Choosing the right one may take some time. Survivors should seek a therapist who makes them feel comfortable, respected, and understood.

Traumatic experiences include any situation that causes a person to feel overwhelmed and powerless. They can be a single event, such as an accident, a violent attack, or ongoing events, such as abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma. Individuals can also experience vicarious trauma from watching a friend or family member go through traumatic events, such as a car accident.

Behavioral responses to trauma include the avoidance of triggers, such as certain sights, smells, and sounds that remind individuals of their traumatic experiences. They can also avoid certain activities, such as crowds or dating, to prevent re-traumatization. In treatment, a client may learn to manage these symptoms and become desensitized to the associated emotions by using coping strategies like mindfulness practices, cognitive restructuring, and trauma-specific desensitization approaches. In addition, they can learn how to tolerate and regulate difficult emotions without self-medicating or engaging in high-risk behavior.

Developing a Support System

A support system is a group of people who offer mutually supportive emotional and practical help. Typically, it includes close friends, family members, and coworkers. Often, it also includes healthcare professionals like therapists.

When someone experiences trauma, they may experience a variety of reactions to the event. These can include anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and nightmares. They may also experience physical symptoms like tension headaches and tense muscles.

Trauma survivors need to reach out for help when they need it. However, it can be challenging to do so, especially in the aftermath of trauma. People may feel they don’t deserve help or are a burden to others. Alternatively, they may engage in self-destructive or self-harming behaviors to cope with the pain and stress.

Despite these challenges, trauma survivors must seek help from friends and family. In addition, they should seek out a counselor who specializes in trauma therapy. Counseling services can help them develop a healthy and effective support system, learn coping strategies to manage their symptoms and achieve long-term recovery.

Developing a Healthy Relationship

A therapist can help individuals heal from trauma and regain control over their lives. Individuals need to find a therapist who specializes in treating trauma and has experience working with survivors. They should also feel comfortable discussing their trauma with their therapist and be treated with compassion and respect.

Many survivors feel alienated from their families, friends, and other social supports because they believe they will not fully understand their experiences. They may even blame themselves for the events that occurred. In turn, this can further isolate them from others.

Other traumatic reactions include idealization—when a survivor demonstrates inaccurate rationalizations or justifications of their perpetrator’s behavior. Individuals can also experience a form of vicarious trauma from close contact with someone who has experienced trauma, which can mirror the symptoms of PTSD. For this reason, family members and friends must support and encourage survivors to connect with other people in their daily lives.


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