“We need to slowly make our way to the heart of our wounds, develop an embodied and experiential consciousness of how they play out in our lives, and find new and healthier ways to relate to them. We cannot do this alone.”
Dr. Daniela F. Sieff, PhD, Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma: Conversations with Pioneering Clinicians and Researchers
Emotional trauma—and the scars it can leave—is one of the most common causal factors that can contribute to the development of disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and distorted body image.
According to data accumulated from 2013’s National Survey on Children’s Health, nearly half of all children in the US—almost 35 million children—have experienced at least one type of serious trauma that could negatively affect their future mental or physical health as adults, and approximately one-third have experienced two or more.
Arizona Scores Poorly for Childhood Trauma Exposure
Arizona ranked in the worst group—states with a proportion of children with two or more traumatic experiences that was significantly higher than the US average.
What does this mean?
It means that there is a real need for trauma counseling and therapy in every part of Arizona—from large cities like Phoenix or Tucson, to suburbs like Glendale and Chandler, to rural areas across the state.
Advances in Trauma Therapy
Luckily, behavioral science has advanced considerably in the past few years, giving rise to several types of trauma therapy that can be tailored to the individual.
Dr. Terence M. Keane, PhD, a Boston University psychologist serving as Director of the Behavioral Science Division of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, said, “The advances made have been nothing short of outstanding…Having this many Evidence-Based Treatments allows therapists to use what they’re comfortable with from their own background and training, and at the same time to select treatments for use with patients with different characteristics.”
Here are some trauma treatments that have proven to be effective, according to the American Psychological Association:
- Prolonged-Exposure Therapy—In a carefully-controlled and gradual manner, the therapist helps the patient in recalling memories of traumatic experiences, enabling the patient to regain control of their emotions about the past trauma.
- Cognitive-Processing Therapy—The therapist helps the patient correct any mistaken beliefs they may hold as a result of the past trauma—that the event was “their fault”, they “let it happen”, they are no longer safe, etc.
- Stress-Inoculation—Through counseling, the therapist teaches the patient several anxiety-reducing techniques, such as breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and positive self-affirmation.
- Cognitive Restructuring—The therapist helps the patient how to work past distorted or dysfunctional thinking such as blaming, labeling, overgeneralization, minimizing/maximizing, or “all-or-nothing” thoughts.
- EMDR, or Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing—The patient is guided by the therapist through this adaptive coping mechanism, and over the course of several sessions, the goal is to weaken the effect of negative emotions.
During a typical therapy session, the patient will be asked to recall a past trauma, while simultaneously engaging in lateral eye movements corresponding to the therapist’s finger movements, rhythmic tapping, or musical tones.
Over time, the thoughts are shifted from negative past traumas to more positive experiences, which are then associated with the movements. The patient can then learn to cope by initiating the physical movement whenever needed.
- Medication Therapy—There are several medications that are useful in trauma treatment, specifically for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, and nightmares. Typically-prescribed drugs include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prazosin.
The takeaway is this—if you live in Arizona and need counseling or some other therapy for trauma, there IS help and hope available to you. Recovery from past trauma is uniquely personal, and so must be your treatment strategy. If you need help, the trained professionals at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling will work with you to help restore your peace of mind.