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Trauma & PTSD Treatments

When we experience a traumatic event, such as physical or sexual assault, accident, disaster, or combat, our physical and emotional safety is threatened. We naturally respond with a range of reactions - numbness, confusion, fear, helplessness, horror, or disgust. The emotional and psychological toll of experiencing a traumatic event can continue to interfere with functioning, impair relationships, and erode overall quality of life well beyond the incident. And it is not uncommon for those who continue to struggle with the emotional pain of trauma to feel helpless and alone.

 

If you are struggling with the consequences of experiencing a traumatic event, and you feel stuck, know that help is available. Having the strength and courage to reach out for help by seeking professional services is the first step toward reclaiming your life. There is considerable reason for hope, even if you are feeling lost or overwhelmed.

Types of Trauma Reactions

Trauma can have a wide range of effects on the human mind. There are several ways in which trauma may present:

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves re-living the traumatic event through distressing, unwanted memories, vivid nightmares and/or flashbacks, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, experiencing negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, or feeling flat or numb a lot of the time. A person might blame themselves or others for what happened during or after the traumatic event, feel cut-off from friends and family, or lose interest in day-to-day activities. Having trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling angry or irritable, taking risks, being easily startled, and/or being constantly on the lookout for danger is common.

  • Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) occurs when a person has a reaction like PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or hearing that a traumatic event has happened to a family member or friend. A person is diagnosed with acute stress disorder when their response to trauma is immediate – that is, it occurs between three days and a month after the event.

  • Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) symptoms are often caused by ongoing or repeated trauma where the victim has little or no control and no real or perceived hope of escape. These experiences can lead to deteriorated self-esteem and having to cope with intense emotions throughout life. In addition to PTSD symptoms, this condition may also involve difficulties expressing emotion, extremely negative self-beliefs, problems maintaining healthy relationships and self-harm.

  • Personality Disorders e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) - many personality disorders arise following incidents of trauma and/or abuse in early development. 

How Treatment for PTSD Works

In recent years, mental health researchers have made tremendous advances in the treatment of the psychological struggles that often result as a consequence of trauma exposure. For example, several approaches to treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing symptoms and restoring functioning:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is based on learning theory, and treatment from this perspective involves learning new ways of approaching and coping with painful thoughts and feelings.

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) can be helpful for people struggling to regulate their emotional responses, improve their relationships, and maintain a sense of personal safety.

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) aims to cultivate an accepting, compassionate, and mindful stance toward our internal experiences while also using traditional CBT techniques to decreasing avoidance and encourage engagement in valued life activities.

 

Given that our treatments adhere to best practice and modern research, your treatment plan will involve the following key components:

  • Psycho-education (e.g., the role and functions of anxiety, how trauma is processed in the brain, how trauma disorders develop, etc.)

  • Changing behavioural and thinking patterns (e.g., learning to use relaxation/breathing skills, mindfulness skills, etc.)

  • Distress management skills (e.g., nightmare reduction skills, grounding skills to address dissociation, etc.)

  • Gradual and safe desensitisation to the experience of anxiety and triggers of anxiety (e.g., learning to continue important tasks while experiencing anxiety, identifying and responding to triggers in a constructive manner, etc.)