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Trauma Therapy

Which Trauma Therapy is Right for Me?

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Trauma therapy is a type of therapy that can help you work through the emotional impact triggered by a traumatic event. Over 50% of people experience a form of trauma in their lives, and although not everyone is impacted by long-term emotional and psychological consequences, a traumatic experience can severely impact how you function in day-to-day life for many years to come.  Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, from sexual violence, severe physical injury, and chronic abuse and neglect to life-threatening events, being bullied and homeless, and healing from these traumatic events may require professional trauma therapy. 

If you experience flashbacks or nightmares, avoid certain places or things, consume alcohol or drugs to numb your emotions, experience reactive or emotional outbursts, struggle in relationships, or have a hard time trusting others, you may be struggling with the psychological and emotional impacts associated with your past trauma. 

Trauma therapy helps to address these signs and symptoms and can help you learn healthy coping skills to function daily. AKUA Mind and Body offers a wide array of therapies to help you overcome your trauma and any other unhealthy associated addiction and behaviors.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is one of the front-line treatments for addressing trauma and its related psychological impact. There are many techniques and approaches used in exposure therapy. Still, the idea is to expose you to the source of your fear in a safe environment until you are no longer afraid of it and can engage meaningfully. 

When we experience a traumatic event, we avoid anything that reminds us of this traumatic event, including places and things. For example, if you had a near-drowning experience, you may avoid all bodies of water, water activities, and the beach. If you were in an abusive relationship, you might avoid certain dates, such as anniversaries, or places you shared with your partner, such as restaurants, etc., so you do not have to relive your traumatic experiences. Your initial survival instinct is to “avoid and repress.”

Although this can be beneficial to survive in the short-term, over time, this can create a lot of fear and anxiety in your life as these triggers will find ways to manifest into your everyday life. Maybe you have a phobia of airplanes, enclosed spaces, or snakes. Exposure therapy embraces the belief of “let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Exposure therapy helps with an array of disorders that are related to past trauma, including panic disorder, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Types of Exposure

Graded: You are exposed to the source of your fear gradually in a stepwise approach until you can do what you fear the most. Maybe you are scared of bodies of water. With graded therapy, you would first look at a picture of a body of water, then go to the beach and look at the ocean, then put your feet in the ocean, then submerge your body into the ocean.  

Systematic desensitization: Methods that help you relax and get comfortable with each step of the graded exposure process. These methods can include meditation, relaxation exercises, music, candles, and deep breathing.  

Flooding: You are exposed to what you fear the most right away. This type of exposure may be used if your fear interferes with your day-to-day function. Although this type of exposure can help you overcome your fear or trauma faster, it can also be a traumatic experience, so this is used with extreme caution or may not be used in many individuals.

Which Trauma Therapy is Right for Me

Exposure therapy techniques

In vivo: This involves directly approaching the fear or trauma in real time. For example, if someone is afraid of dark alleys, this means exposing the person to a dark alley in real life.  

Imaginal: This involves imagining the fear or trauma coming true in reality. For example, suppose you are afraid of snakes or have experienced a traumatic experience. In that case, your therapist may ask you to write down or verbalize what you imagine would happen if you came into contact with a snake in a public setting. You may be asked to retell, re-read, or re-write this imagined experience repeatedly until your fear has diminished.  

Interoceptive exposure: Can help overcome a feared physical sensation. This may include running in place to increase the heart rate, inducing hyperventilation, having you spin in circles to create dizziness, or being exposed to hot conditions to induce sweating.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

This type of trauma therapy involves challenging your perspective about why the traumatic event occurred and trying to understand the thoughts and beliefs you have developed since this traumatic experience. This therapy technique can be performed without having to describe or relive your trauma in case you don’t feel comfortable talking about it or do not remember it. Often, when we experience trauma, we discover ways to cope with it, meaning that we blame ourselves, believe that the world is a dangerous place, and associate other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors centered on our trauma. CPT helps us process these thoughts and behaviors and teaches us healthy coping skills to replace these perspectives.  
The goal is for you to learn to cope with guilt and anger, build confidence, and change your perspective on important aspects of your life, such as safety, trust, control, self-esteem, and intimacy. Unlike exposure therapy, CBT dives deeper into post-trauma thought processes and their associated emotions and behavioral patterns.


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