What Is Trauma Informed Therapy?
Trauma informed therapy is centered around traumatic experiences and symptoms caused by the trauma. Discover the techniques and benefits here.
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is an experience that is too often stigmatized within society. It is important to understand it, in order to best be an advocate and reaffirm wellness within the lives of you and your loved ones.
Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event. Trauma can take many forms, from car accidents to violence to emotional abuse, and can often cause mental, emotional, or physical difficulties. Six out of every one hundred people in the United States will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at least once in their lives. 1
Read on in this article to lead more about trauma and how to overcome it.
What Is Trauma-Informed Therapy?
Trauma-informed therapy is a therapeutic approach centered around clients’ traumatic experiences and symptoms caused by the trauma. Unfortunately, trauma is a common experience, often occurring during childhood, with more than two-thirds of children reporting experiencing trauma before the age of sixteen. 2
The question commonly tied with this method is not “What’s wrong with you?” but instead, “What happened to you?” Trauma-informed therapists are knowledgeable about the effects of trauma and structure therapy sessions around helping clients recover from their trauma.
What Can Trauma-Informed Therapy Help With?
As the name suggests, trauma-informed therapy can be useful for anyone who has gone through traumatic experiences, whether as an adult or a child. Trauma-informed counseling considers how trauma may shape an individual’s beliefs, emotions, relationships, and behaviors.
Therapists can help individuals understand what trauma they may have experienced since not all trauma is obvious or easy to understand. For example, emotional abuse or witnessing an act of violence can cause trauma, just like physical abuse or the death of a loved one.
Events or Experiences Trauma-Informed Therapy Can Help
Trauma-based therapy can help with:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Adjustment disorders
Trauma-Based Therapy Benefits
Trauma-informed therapy is a great method of treatment to help those who face challenges in everyday life due to symptoms caused by trauma. One example is prolonged exposure therapy (PE therapy), which focuses on trauma education, breathing techniques to reduce stress, exposure practice with real-world situations, and talking through the trauma. Research shows that clients who received PE therapy had better outcomes than 86% of those who did not receive this type of treatment. 3
Techniques of Trauma-Informed Therapy
Although therapists may approach trauma-informed care therapy differently, some techniques and key concepts of trauma-informed care are commonly practiced to help individuals feel safe and supported.
Physical and Emotional Safety
Establishing safety in trauma therapy is an essential part of the process. Therapists will ask questions to learn how to best respect their client’s boundaries and create a safe, trusting space—emotionally and physically—where they can heal.
Trauma-informed psychotherapy involves the therapist actively collaborating with the client, meaning clients are directly involved in decision-making in their healing journey. This also means that the therapist will assist rather than direct.
Counselors will inform clients about what to expect from the therapy process, as well as the rules that govern a client-therapist relationship and the therapeutic process.
Trauma-informed therapists will often include stories of others who have struggled with similar experiences as the client receiving care. This can encourage and motivate people on their healing journey.
Cultural, Historical, and Gender Awareness
Trauma-based therapists will be aware of and set aside their own cultural biases and focus on understanding their client’s unique cultural and personal narrative.
Humility and Responsiveness
A trauma-informed therapist will ask questions to learn about clients’ feelings, behaviors, emotional processes, and what they think the reasons are behind those emotional processes.
Key Ingredients of Trauma-Informed Organizational Practices
Many health care organizations are moving toward trauma-informed care because they realize that, to best treat patients, they must have a full picture of their patient’s health and pasts. Trauma-informed intervention may improve client-patient connection, treatment adherence, and health outcomes.
Important Elements of Trauma-Informed Therapy
For trauma-informed therapies to be effective, especially those being executed in primary health care organizations with no prior trauma-informed treatment, several factors must be implemented, including:
- Communicating to staff and patients about trauma-informed care
- Engaging patients in organizational planning
- Training clinical and non-clinical staff members on trauma-informed care
- Creating a safe environment
- Preventing stress in staff
Barriers to Trauma-Informed Care
While many people could benefit from trauma-informed care therapy, not everyone is ready to try a trauma-based approach. It may feel more invasive than other types of therapy, and talking about trauma in therapy may be a daunting idea for people who don’t want to think about or re-experience their trauma in any way. It’s also important to note that not everyone has access to trauma-informed care due to finances or location.
Other barriers to trauma-informed care include:
- Not understanding different types of therapy, including trauma-informed therapy
- Not being ready to face trauma
- Embarrassed at the idea of needing or wanting therapy
- Not realizing they have experienced trauma
Benefits of Trauma-Based Therapy
Whether an individual chooses to try trauma-informed talk therapy or trauma-informed art therapy, this therapeutic method can provide many benefits that help people heal and improve their quality of life.
Learn About Trauma
Trauma-informed care allows people to truly understand what trauma is and how it affects them. Understanding trauma can help people better process and heal from it.
Many people who have experienced trauma live with hypervigilance or feel generally unsafe. Therapy can help re-establish people’s sense of safety as they work through trauma.
Sometimes, not understanding triggers for trauma responses can lead to unpredictable feelings and negative experiences. Therapy can help clients identify triggers and learn how to handle them.
Develop Healthy Coping Skills
Trauma-informed therapy techniques can help clients cope with difficult feelings and situations in healthier and more productive ways. 4
Decrease in Traumatic Stress Symptoms
Trauma-informed psychotherapy can be a great way to work through and treat PTSD, lessening its symptoms and accepting the traumatic experience.
Practice Trauma Processing and Integration
Trauma-based therapy teaches clients how to process their traumatic experiences with effective coping mechanisms and skills, which can actively be integrated into daily life.
Things to Consider When Starting Trauma Therapy
It’s important to remember that not all therapists are trauma-informed. Therefore, before scheduling your first appointment or during a consultation, you may want to ask the therapist if they have experience working with trauma. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as:
- What is your approach to clients with a history of trauma?
- Do you consider yourself to be a trauma-informed therapist?
- Are there any types of trauma you don’t feel comfortable working with?
- What is your pace for working through trauma?
It’s also important to know that you may be asked about your trauma early in therapy, possibly in the first session. If you know you’re not comfortable opening up about your trauma right away, be sure to ask about the pace of therapy prior to the first session.
Get Trauma-Informed Care Therapy at Essence Healthcare
At Essence, our compassionate and knowledgeable staff are trained to help improve the lives of those with trauma, offering support, evidence-based techniques, and a safe environment. Our trauma-informed approach prioritizes your healing journey by accommodating to your needs at the pace that works for you. Contact us today to learn more.