Trauma Therapy

Phase two includes the following tasks:

  • We desensitize you to traumatic memories and triggers.

  • We reprocess the memories that are contributing to your current problem(s).  (For more information about how I use EMDR therapy to help desensitize triggers and reprocess memories, please click here.)

  • I support you in grieving the losses associated with your trauma.  All trauma involves some amount of loss, and these losses need to be worked through as part of the healing process.

The third phase in Herman’s model is called reconnection.  This phase is about reconnecting with life now that the trauma is no longer getting in your way.  In this phase, we work together to help you reassess different aspects of your life, explore what you have learned and how you have grown as a result.  You figure out what you want your “new” life to look like based on the healing that has taken place and how you want to move forward.

 

This phase is also sometimes referred to as post-traumatic growth.  Post-traumatic growth is the idea that going through a trauma, loss or other difficult experience can often lead to personal growth.  Many accounts throughout history and across cultures have documented the reality of post-traumatic growth, and it is also now being validated by modern research.  Post-traumatic growth involves positive changes in the way you see yourself, others and the world, in your relationships and in the way you live as a result of the difficult things that have happened to you.

Phase three includes the following tasks:

  • We review what you have learned in therapy and how you have healed and grown.

  • You establish a sense of yourself outside of the traumatic experience.  This includes understanding on a deep, emotional level that the trauma does not define you and is not who you are.  You see yourself as a survivor and recognize your own strength and resilience.

  • You understand your relationships differently.  We may discuss reconnecting with people from whom you had previously detached as a result of the trauma, changing how you set boundaries with others in your life, changing or distancing yourself from unhealthy relationships and seeking out and developing new relationships.

  • I may support you in considering the role of community in your life and connect or re-connect with supportive communities.

  • I may support you in re-engaging in activities that you had previously abandoned as a result of the trauma, and discovering new activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.  This may include new hobbies, self-care routines or even a new career.

  • You may find a new sense of purpose or a new mission in life.  This sometimes might include finding ways to help other people who have experienced similar trauma.

  • We may explore how your healing and what you have learned affect your spirituality, religious faith and/or existential beliefs.  You may experience a deeper sense of spirituality and connection.

  • You may experience a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude in life and relationships and be more likely to experience positive emotions in general.

I work with all of my clients using a trauma therapy approach.  This does not mean that I only work on trauma issues or that I will disregard your goals for therapy if they are not trauma-related goals.  What it does mean is that I follow what is called the triphasic model of trauma therapy, and I apply this model to all of my client work.  I will help you address whatever your goals are, whether or not they are trauma-related goals, from within the framework of this trauma therapy model.

 

The triphasic model, as the name suggests, divides therapy into three phases, and it is based on the work of psychiatrist Judith Herman.  Herman explained the need to divide trauma work into these phases in order to safely and effectively address the trauma without causing additional harm to the client.  The three phases are safety and stabilization, remembrance and mourning and reconnection.  These phases are not always linear.  I always start with phase one, but we may sometimes move back and forth between the phases depending on what is needed.

Phase One: Safety and Stabilization

The first phase of Herman’s triphasic model is establishing safety and stability.  Before beginning to open up traumatic memories, we need to make sure that it is safe for you to do so.  If we try to do too much too quickly, we run the risk of re-traumatizing you and making things worse.  Before moving on to phase two, your life should be relatively stable, and you should be able to utilize coping skills to calm down and stay in control in stressful or upsetting situations.

Phase one includes the following tasks:

  • We build rapport, create a therapeutic alliance and establish norms for working together.

  • We explore whether or not your basic needs are adequately met (housing, food security, physical safety, etc.).

  • I educate you about your specific issues and about the neurobiology of both trauma and therapy techniques.

  • We review information about your history and your current life to form a holistic understanding of your problems and their origins.

  • I support you in developing and strengthening coping skills and self-care routines.

Phase Two: Remembrance and Mourning

Herman’s second phase is called remembrance and mourning.  This phase is what most people typically think of as “trauma work.”  This is when we work together to address what happened in your past and put it to rest.  Before moving on to phase three, you should feel like the past memories no longer bother you, and you should no longer feel “triggered” in situations that remind you of the past experiences.  Any mental health symptoms related to your traumas (including nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, etc.) should be resolved.

Phase Three: Reconnection

To learn more about Trauma and PTSD, please click here.