Why trauma survivors must choose a trauma-informed therapist

Why trauma survivors must choose a trauma-informed therapist

Everyone has experienced some form of trauma.

Although the term ‘trauma’ ignites varying perceptions and opinions, reports show that most US citizens have experienced at least one manifestation of childhood trauma, known as Adverse Life Experiences or ACE’s.

Trauma-informed care

There are plenty of ACE’s studies to draw on when attempting to understand what causes trauma and how it presents symptomatically within individuals.

In 1998, the CDC (centre for disease control) and the Kaiser hospital collaborated to formulate the ACE’s study, and since then, over seventy papers have been published on the subject.

Traumatic event

The ACE’s study concluded that adverse childhood experiences were responsible for disrupting a child’s brain development. These traumatic events include:

  • Parental divorce
  • Parents or caregivers who suffered from substance abuse issues such as drugs and alcohol
  • Living with family members who suffered from mental illness
  • Experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse or getting exposed to violence

Sense of safety

Studies found that a disruption in brain function can lead to changes in how a person responds to stress. 

Furthermore, disrupted brain function also damages the immune system so monumentally that the impact shows up decades after the subsidence of a traumatic event.

Early childhood trauma also impacts a person’s sense of safety since they often (unconsciously) view the world through the lens of trauma-related events, impacting their lived experiences and adult relationships.

Evidence-based health outcomes

Research shows that most adverse life experiences are the leading cause of chronic illness.

Traumatic experiences in childhood often lead to poor mental health outcomes later in life, such as depression, substance abuse and even violence.

Physical health problems

Physical health complications are also the result of earlier traumatic experiences. These include:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Lung problems
  • Diabetes

Other implications

Other risk factors for those with adverse childhood experiences include the increased likelihood of divorce in adult life, addiction issues, relationship problems and suicide ideation.

The importance of trauma-informed therapy

Importance of trauma-informed therapy

The trauma-informed care approach asks, ”What happened to you?” rather than ”What is wrong with you?” Thus, two markedly different questions produce very different results, particularly under the lens of trauma-informed care.

Asking someone ”What happened to them?” shifts the tone from victim-blaming to recognizing and treating the person as a survivor. These distinctions within trauma-informed therapy get profoundly correlated to positive health outcomes.

Trauma-informed approach

A trauma-informed therapist operates under the assumption that the client’s experiences have deeply affected them, which allows the therapist to recognize and respond to clients in a way that ensures empowerment, safety and collaboration.

Cultural

A mental health professional who works under the trauma-informed modality also recognizes the impact of historical, cultural and gender issues and how they may impact an individual.

Cultivating safety

Since most trauma survivors experience a profound lack of trust towards others, a trauma-informed therapists’ first objective is to provide a safe platform that promotes trust and compassion before deep-diving into a client’s trauma history.

Treatment process

Trauma-informed therapists start by building a sturdy collaborative and supportive relationship with their clients.

All this occurs by empowering clients and honouring their choices and opinions about how they want therapy to go, what they hope to get out of the process and what they want and need from therapy.

Respect and compassion are critical components of the trauma-informed therapy approach.

Who benefits from trauma-informed care?

Everyone benefits from trauma-informed counselling.

The impact of trauma can often be so severe that an individual may not recognize the symptoms of trauma, believing that the way they feel or how they go about their lives is โ€˜โ€™just how life is.โ€™โ€™

Some people may never recognize that they experienced trauma at all, which often results in wide-ranging mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions.

Coping skills

Trauma survivors benefit from a trauma-informed approach mainly because trauma-informed therapists take the time to uncover what is bothering their clients by examining the lens through which their trauma impacts their experiences and relationships.

Essentially, instead of bombarding clients with questions about their lives, trauma-informed therapists seek to understand the circumstances of each person.

Trauma informed-therapy involves many different styles and techniques, with weekly sessions that usually last around fifty minutes, depending on the client’s preferences and needs.

What is trauma?

Trauma gets conceptualized in a wide variety of ways that do not always paint a full picture. 

For example, war veterans, victims of natural disasters, and people diagnosed with severe disease and victims of violence all get counted as trauma-related experiences.

The impact of traumatic events

However, many other life events can induce trauma within a person, resulting in a myriad of unpleasant symptoms.

Trauma is a strong, adverse response to disturbing and upsetting life events. A study based in the US showed that trauma affects between 50 – 60 percent of the general population.

Other studies show the correlation between trauma and increased mental and physical health problems and substance abuse.

Mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also get linked to trauma, although not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. 

However, reports show that 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Treatment must get made available to those experiencing symptoms of trauma. Fortunately, there are many evidence-based treatments available to help people recover.

Why trauma-informed care is vital for survivors of trauma

Why trauma-informed care is vital for survivors of trauma

Trauma can also take place within the context of relationships. For example, when a trusted person hurts our feelings, it often damages our sense of self.

As a result, our perceptions and our view of the world often changes in negative ways.

Being betrayed by a loved one can destroy our sense of self and our trust in others. 

Trauma-informed therapists recognize the impact of all this and thus seek to build an alliance of trust by ensuring not to re-traumatize clients and providing a platform of safety without judgement or ridicule.

The five principles of trauma-informed care

While there is no rigid way of practising trauma-informed care, there are several core principles that trauma-informed therapists use as a backdrop to therapy.  These include:

  1. Safety: The safety of clients begins at the outset. All this provides privacy and confidentiality of a client, emphasizing every individual’s physical and emotional safety. Patients will also be made aware of any next steps in the therapeutic process.
  2. Choice: Another essential aspect of trauma-informed care is choice. All this involves the client having complete control where consent is obtained each step of the way. The client fully understands their rights and provides a continuous license when needed.
  3. Collaboration: The patient collaborates fully with their treatment plan and doesn’t get treated as a ”sick” person. Instead, they are a partner in their care. Essentially, patients’ are the experts in themselves; hence any treatment gets decided upon mutually.
  4. Trustworthiness: Trust involves being transparent, consistent and honest, particularly when setting and maintaining boundaries. Therapists must never violate a patient’s trust in any shape, way or form.
  5. Empowerment: Lastly, empowerment is detrimental to the trauma-informed care approach since it allows patients to feel cared for, heard and seen by all involved in their care. The focus must be on helping clients build healthier coping skills for the future and the ability to regulate their emotions.

Final thought

Traumatic experiences can affect people in many psychological ways. 

Healing from trauma takes a lot of courage, work and commitment.

Clinical therapy is generally a safe option for trauma survivors as it promotes well-being and long-term recovery. 

However, recalling and describing disturbing events from our past can be incredibly confronting and may affect our mood and mental health.

Identify the right therapist for you.

Trauma survivors must seek the help and support of a skilled therapist or counsellor, who adopts the trauma-informed approach to therapy.

Furthermore, people must be upfront about their struggles and feel safe knowing that recovery from trauma is possible. Contact one of our specialists today to find out how we can help you in this process.

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