When you’ve had a traumatic experience, you want to feel like your old self again as soon as possible. You don’t want to be anxious or on the lookout for danger; you want to feel comfortable in your own skin. How can you process trauma or how do you treat trauma?
How Can You Process Trauma?
Everyone processes trauma in their own way. No two traumatic experiences are exactly the same. Some people are able to process distressing events much more easily than others.
It may also be the case that you have either intentionally or unintentionally stopped yourself from processing trauma. This means you pushed it to one side because you didn’t want to have to deal with all your thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. Sometimes, it’s so long in the past that you can’t even remember the event clearly, but the memories still have a way of popping back into your mind. You just keep trying to suppress them.
What Are the Different Stages of Processing Trauma?
You process trauma in three stages:
The first step is to stabilize the situation. You’ll learn the best way to manage your current feelings related to the trauma.
In this stage, with the help of a therapist, you’ll process what’s happened.
You’ll give the event a place in your daily life.
How long you’ll spend in each stage depends on the severity of your trauma and your personal situation.
Which Factors Influence the Way Trauma Develops?
Trauma can lead to PTSD, but not everyone who has experienced something traumatic will end up with PTSD. Some people find it relatively easy to process trauma.
Whether or not you have the ability to process trauma well depends on several different factors:
- The type of event
Was there some kind of childhood sexual abuse or were you involved in a car accident? Different types of trauma may result in different symptoms.
- The duration of the event
How long did the distressing events take place for? Was it a one-off incident or did you experience years of abuse or neglect, for example?
- Your personal resilience
Each person has their own level of resilience. This determines what you are and aren’t able to process. Resilience is partly hereditary, but it’s also related to your upbringing. If you grew up in a nice, stable environment then it’s likely that you’re more resilient.
- Social support
Are you able to talk about what happened? Is there anybody you trust enough to confide in? Is there somewhere you can go when you want to pour your heart out and be taken seriously? If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then this will have a positive effect on your ability to process trauma.
- Biological factors
Women are more likely to get PTSD than men, and genetics also seem to play a role when it comes to susceptibility to post-traumatic stress.
What Can You Do to Help Yourself Recover from Trauma?
- Talk about your feelings
Find someone you can trust and talk to them. It will come as a huge relief.
- Eat healthily
Try to eat more healthily – even if it’s only a small improvement. Every little helps. Eating healthily and taking care of your body helps to improve your resilience.
- Make time for relaxation
Do something that you find relaxing. Whether that’s reading a book or taking a bath. Do some drawing or write about your feelings. Anything that relaxes you. Make sure you’re taking the time to do this, it’s really important.
- Get enough exercise
For example, go hiking or ride your bike. Exercise can help to clear your mind and it’s a great way to counter stress.
- Structure your day
Try to eat at fixed times. Go to bed early and get up at the same time every day.
- Ask for help
If there’s nobody around you can talk to – at least not about the thing that’s happened – then it’s a good idea to get in touch with a psychologist.
How is Trauma Treated?
Trauma treatment needs to be tailored to you and specific trauma symptoms. No two people are the same and every traumatic experience is different, so a customized approach is always required.
How is treatment structured?
In order to treat trauma, it’s important for the psychologist to have a good understanding of what’s going on. What’s happening in your mind and what are your symptoms? You’ll need to tell your psychologist the full story during a consultation. You’ll also need to discuss your medical history and family background. There may also be a psychiatric evaluation. From all this information, a psychologist can come up with a diagnosis and figure out an appropriate treatment strategy.
Types of Trauma Treatment
There are several different types of therapy that can help you to process trauma. Trauma can be treated using:
EMDR is short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a type of therapy where a psychologist aims to dull the emotional charge associated with a particular memory. The psychologist will ask you to focus on a distressing memory, bringing it from your long-term memory into your working memory. The therapist will then move their finger back and forth in front of your face. You’ll follow these movements with your eyes while thinking about the memory. Your vision will start to blur because your working memory now has a lot to process. This reduces the emotional charge associated with the memory.
In exposure therapy for trauma, you take your thoughts and memories and look at them in the context of your entire life. You’ll discuss your thoughts and memories related to a traumatic experience with your psychologist. You’ll also discuss other significant events in your life, both positive and negative. For each memory, you’ll talk about the feeling or emotion you associate with it. This will give you a good idea of which events and memories have a major influence over the way you feel. This can help you to process trauma.
Imagery rescripting means rewriting your memory of the traumatic event with the help of a psychologist. You’ll imagine a different outcome to the event, which will change your memory of the event.
When symptoms of trauma persist for a long period of time, we refer to this as PTSD. The treatment for PTSD differs depending on what has caused the symptoms initially. How did your post-traumatic stress disorder come about? For example, was it a one-off trauma: based on a single event? Or maybe you need treatment for ongoing or complex trauma, because it’s the result of traumatic experiences that have accumulated over many years? The approach for this will be different. A psychologist has the knowledge and skills to tailor your treatment specifically to your symptoms.
Personalized Counseling for Trauma
At iPractice, we offer psychological support. This includes treatment for trauma. You’ve already taken the first step: you’ve gone on a quest, collecting information, to try to figure out what’s going on in your mind and how you can process your trauma.
Contact one of our psychologists or talk directly through phone +31851308900 about your trauma symptoms and get some advice about appropriate treatment programs – no obligation involved. Or read more about when to consult a psychologist and how to match with a psychologist.
At iPractice, we use blended care. This is a combination of online and offline therapy. You’ll have face-to-face conversations with a consulting psychologist and you’ll also have access to an online psychologist in between.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and EMDR are common treatments for trauma (and PTSD).
The cost of treatment is reimbursed by most health insurance companies when there is a referral letter from the GP and when the GP can make an official diagnosis according to DSM-5 guidelines.
When you cannot process a trauma properly, it results in long-term symptoms: PTSD may develop. The symptoms then do not go away by themselves. Trauma therapy can help you recover from the trauma. Some people find it exciting or scary to go to therapy for PTSD. Partly because of the fear of reliving difficult moments when you discuss them with the psychologist. Remember that therapy will ultimately help you reduce fears and avoid avoidance reactions. For recovery from PTSD, it is important that you get proper treatment.
With the right treatment, you can recover well from trauma. There are various treatment methods available to help recover from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Treatment is always put together with you and tailored to your personal situation. Moreover, you can do a number of things yourself that will contribute to your recovery.
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of therapy in which you learn to look differently at your problems or memories. You learn, as it were, to have different thoughts about what happened, changing your feelings about the situation.
Trauma therapy lasts from 2 to 27 weeks.