What is Trauma-Informed Therapy, Its Techniques, How It Works (And More!)
When we think of therapy, we think of opening up our hearts and spilling every traumatic part to the therapist. Therapy is our safe, non-judgmental place where we can help ourselves improve our mood, behavior, and feelings.
Trust me, we all need a place to feel secure, safe, and supported – therapy gives us that. But what if our trauma is the reason we feel unsafe even in therapy?
Can our trauma hold us back from seeking help?
In a word, yes it can. Here, we need trauma-informed therapy to help us. Trauma-Focused therapy is a special approach to therapy that acknowledges and even stresses learning how our traumatic past impacts our mental, emotional, and physical wellness. This type of trauma therapy focuses on understanding the connection between the trauma and our response to the said trauma.
Trauma-focused therapy aims to offer effective strategies to help us understand and cope with our emotions and thoughts connected to our traumatic past to live a healthy life.
Let’s take a look at how trauma-informed psychotherapy works!
What Is Trauma-Informed Therapy?
Trauma can mean many experiences. There is no particular type of trauma or a specific way people deal with or respond to trauma. The same trauma can have a different impact on someone and not all who experience a traumatic event may struggle with trauma later in life.
In the DSM-5, trauma is defined as “exposure to actual or threatened events that involve death, severe injuries, or abuse.”
There’s a test called Adverse Childhood Experiences that helps understand the level and type of trauma a child has experienced. Adults with a high ACE score are more likely at risk for physical disorders, mental disorders, or suicide than others with a low score.
There are 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences that researchers have identified. They are:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Physical neglect
- A family member with mental illness
- A family member with substance abuse
- Witnessing abuse against the mother
- Having a parent/relative sent to jail
- Divorce, separation, or death of a parent
Trauma-Informed CBT Techniques
Trauma-informed CBT isn’t about a specific approach but is about altering different approaches or interventions in connection with a person’s traumatic history, trauma triggers, and needs. A trauma-informed therapist takes into account their client’s emotions, feelings, and behavior that have been impacted by trauma.
A trauma-informed therapist always assumes that their client is or has been traumatized in the past and they take a very careful approach to not accidentally trigger their trauma response.
Trauma-informed therapists focus on these principles during the treatment:
1. Safety: A trauma-informed therapist ensures that their client is emotionally and physically safe in the sessions. The privacy of the client is always respected.
2. Collaboration: A trauma-informed therapist shares the power of decision-making with their clients. They aim to empower them by educating the client about the options available and making them an active participant and contributor in the healing.
3. Transparency: Clarity, trust, and boundaries are respected in trauma-informed therapy and the therapist ensures that they are honest in their approach with their clients.
4. Choice: In trauma-informed therapy, the client has the choice and control over what happens. A trauma-informed therapist provides the client a clear message stating their rights and responsibilities.
5. Competence: Trauma-informed therapists are always updated on new researches and techniques to help create the best strategies to help their clients.
What Does Trauma-Informed Therapy Help With?
Trauma-informed counseling or therapy can help individuals who’ve experienced trauma in the past – either as a child or as an adult. Even if you’ve not experienced trauma, trauma-informed therapy can still help you as it ensures emotional and physical safety during the treatment. Even if you don’t need trauma-informed therapy, this approach can still help you.
Trauma-informed therapy benefits can include:
- A better understanding of the trauma and its impact
- Reestablishing emotional and physical safety
- Identifying trauma triggers
- Building healthy coping skills
- Reducing traumatic stress symptoms and response
- Regaining control by processing the traumatic experience
Many experts believe that trauma-informed therapy can effectively help young adults and adults who have experienced trauma, heal and cope with their trauma. Trauma-informed psychotherapy can also help address issues such as shame and survivor’s guilt.
Before Starting Trauma-Informed Therapy…
Please know that there are some things you need to consider before thinking of starting with trauma-informed therapy.
1. Find The Right Therapist
Please understand that not all therapists are or will be trauma-informed therapists. Finding the right trauma therapist is important. You can find a trauma-informed therapist by asking questions such as:
- What are your qualifications (degree, professional title)?
- Have you had trauma-informed training before?
- What are your approaches?
- How long have you been practicing trauma-informed therapy?
- What is your experience in working with young adults with trauma?
- What kinds of trauma do you normally work with?
- Are there any types of trauma that you’ve trained to work with?
- What’s the pace you go for when treating trauma?
Remember, it’s OK to ask questions. Find the right therapist for you, the one you are comfortable with.
2. Be Ready To Share Your Trauma
In the initial session, you may be asked to share your trauma with your appointed therapist so be ready. In the first session, the trauma-informed therapist may ask about your history. They need this information to better prepare a treatment plan, so be ready. If you’re not comfortable sharing details, tell your therapist. They will make the adjustments according to your needs.
Although, some trauma therapists may not want you to open up about your trauma in the first session. They may want to understand your current situation first. If they don’t share their reasons, let it be. They will share when the time is right.
Therapy can be challenging but don’t give up. You need to be patient with yourself and your progress, no matter how slow it is.
If you’re struggling with trauma or if your trauma is affecting your social, personal, or professional life, it’s OKAY to reach out and seek professional help. A trauma-informed therapist can help you come up with the right (and effective) skills to cope with your trauma and heal.
If you need help, you can reach out to SAMHSA helpline number 1-800-662-4357 (for US residents) or iCall helpline number 9152987821 (Indian residents). You can also write to us at email@example.com if you’d like to connect with a professional.
I hope this article helped you understand more about trauma-informed therapy, its techniques, how it helps, and more! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!