What is Trauma-Focused Therapy? What to Expect
What is trauma-focused therapy? The goal of trauma-focused therapy is to assist those who suffer from trauma with the management of their symptoms. The focus is to gain an understanding of the triggers and how to cultivate coping skills. This type of therapy is done in a way that will minimize the possibility of re-traumatization.
Symptoms that indicate the daily impact of trauma.When the symptoms of trauma are impacting your life daily you may find yourself struggling to pursue normal life activities.
Experiencing repeated flashbacks could be an indicator that you need to pursue trauma-focused therapy.
Severe bouts of insomnia.
Insomnia can often be triggered by medications or fatigue. If you are battling insomnia due to the anxiety or stress from a traumatic experience, trauma-focused therapy could help eliminate the issue.
If you find that you are isolating yourself from family and friends due to triggers this could be a sign that you require trauma-focused therapy.
Nightmares can be a result of various situations. Those who have experienced trauma tend to suffer from intense nightmares more frequently.
What to expect from trauma-focused therapy.
Trauma-focused therapy is usually a short-term intervention that can last up to 25 sessions. The length of therapy will depend on the intensity of your trauma and how it currently affects your everyday life. Most trauma-focused therapy, or TF, is done in three phases. Along with these phases, most TF therapists use the acronym P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. to assist with overcoming the effects of trauma.
The first phase of trauma-focused therapy is called stabilization. In this phase, the therapist will help you understand what is defined as trauma and the types of coping skills that can be used. This phase uses the first four letters of the acronym:
P – Psychoeducation: This technique revolves around learning to understand trauma and its normal reactions. By understanding normal reactions, the feelings of guilt can be reduced.
R – Relaxation: Through self-care, this component is initiated to reduce the arousal of the effects of trauma.
A – Affective regulation skills: These skills assist in learning strategies to identify, adjust, and regulate any upsetting emotions.
C – Cognitive processing skills: These are skills that will help you develop and build coping skills. You will also learn to manage stress to achieve healing.
The trauma narrative phase is the process of walking through the trauma by talking with the therapist. There is only one P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. component in this phase of treatment.
T – Trauma narration and processing: This phase incorporates the telling of the story into the treatment plan. The narrative will start from the beginning using the known facts of what occurred. This phase of the therapy can be difficult but it allows you to put together a narrative that can make the entire process easier.
This third phase is built around the process of consolidating lessons, building skills, and preparing you for a successful future. The final three components of P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. are found in this phase.
I – In Vivo Mastery of Trauma Reminders: This is the process by which you learn to recognize the trauma reminders or stimuli experienced daily. The importance of this component is to assist you in overcoming avoidance of general reminders and their effects.
C – Conjoint sessions: This specific component was designed for children who are undergoing trauma-focused therapy. The key to this is to bring reconnection to the family and instill healing and growth.
E – Enhancing safety: This is where the skills and insights of therapy are collected. This will help you be able to apply them in the future as you learn to deal with stressors and reminders. The plan used to apply these skills is created with the involvement of the family.
Types of trauma-focused therapy.
Depending on your level of trauma you can choose from several types of therapy. The best way to choose is to meet with a Christian counselor who can help find the best faith-based therapy for your specific situation.
Prolonged Exposure (PE)
This type of treatment gradually exposes you to traumatic memories. It also promotes learning that the trauma is in the past. It focuses on the idea that it is no longer able to harm you so it does not need to be avoided. This therapy includes the process of reconditioning how you respond to triggers.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
This type of therapy is focused on PTSD and its challenges. This strategy is aimed at helping you modify your beliefs about the trauma and how to overcome those challenges. The main tool of CPT is writing. You will write an account of the event in detail to help reduce the impact on your life.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Through the use of rhythmic eye movements, you and your therapist work together to process the memory of the event and how it was stored in the brain. This will reduce triggers and symptoms.
Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)
NET focuses on the stories about the experience. Your therapist will walk you through telling your life story in chronological order. The therapist will offer feedback as you recall your life and the traumatic experience.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
If your therapist feels that you would benefit from focusing on behaviors, thoughts, and feelings and how they are related you may be treated using CBT. This is the most common treatment for PTSD because it will help you understand how you think about the trauma you experienced. This treatment is designed for children and involves their caregivers.
How to choose a trauma-focused therapist.
There’s no official training for a therapist in the trauma-focused field but you should look for someone with experience in helping overcome traumatic experiences. Don’t be afraid to interview your prospective therapist. This will help you be more comfortable as you pursue trauma treatment.
There are some questions that can help you choose the right therapist as you seek treatment.
- What is their experience with trauma-focused treatment?
- Do they use an assessment process to track the progress of the treatment?
- Do they have the ability to provide joint sessions with a child and parent?
- How long have you been specifically practicing trauma-focused therapy?
- What role does medication play in your treatment program?
- Is your treatment program faith-based?
What are the benefits of trauma-focused therapy?
Trauma-focused therapy has many benefits for those who struggle with various symptoms and triggers of traumatic experiences. These experiences can affect many aspects of a person’s life. Once you have begun a treatment program you can begin to see the benefits of trauma-focused therapy.
One of the biggest benefits of trauma-focused therapy is that you will gain the ability to improve your coping skills and handle the thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma. As you learn coping skills you will also be able to make sense of the traumatic experience. Because you can reduce frustration, anger, and irritability, you can increase peace of mind and improve relationships and connections with those around you.
Biblically-based trauma-focused therapy.A Christian counselor can use the Bible to implement the various types of trauma-focused therapy. Since the goal is to gather information, develop a plan, and promote healing, a Christian counselor can assist you in using God’s word to reduce the effects of traumatic experiences. By using Scripture to encourage you, your counselor can help you understand that you are not alone through this process.
Using the Bible as a tool you will begin to realize how God provides healing hope and comfort. As you learn to be mindful of how God’s work can be applied you gain the ability to find peace as you process overcoming traumatic experiences.
Scriptures to remember.
As you progress through trauma-focused therapy here are some scriptures to keep close by as a reminder of God’s ability in healing.
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? – Psalm 56:8, ESV
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7, ESV
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. – Joel 2:25, ESV
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30, ESV
When to seek trauma-focused therapy.
Knowing when to seek trauma-focused therapy will help you choose the right treatment plan to heal effectively. Many Christian counselors are available to help you find a faith-based treatment plan to cope with the symptoms of traumatic experiences. These different therapy methods can be used to treat children as well as adults.
If you are experiencing any signs of trauma and its effects reach out to a Christian counselor near you. They can help you identify and manage the symptoms of trauma.
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