Therapy for Trauma


What is Trauma?

Trauma results from a one off event or or series of events, over time, that are emotionally distressing or life-threatening and which overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. Traumatic events cause feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, shock, diminish a person’s sense of self and, if truly overwhelming, will cause the nervous system to intervene with dissociation and freeze responses. These responses help to detach people from overwhelming emotions and experiences but can also lead to problems with full reconnection to the here and now. Traumatic experiences have lasting effects for many, impacting the individual’s functioning and mental, emotional, social, physical wellbeing. 

Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Living with a parent with mental health problems or substance misuse
  • Racism, discrimination
  • Psychological abuse, constant criticism, shaming, guilt inducing, invalidation, coercive control
  • Sudden loss or separation from a loved one
  • Violence, war, terrorism 
  • Natural disasters
  • Near fatal or fatal accidents

Symptoms of Trauma

  • Anger
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dissociation
  • Sadness
  • Self blame and responsibility
  • Lack of trust of self or others
  • Hypervigilance
  • Shame
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Chronically putting others first
  • Relationship difficulties, Trauma Bonding
  • Social isolation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Gastro Intestinal issues
  • Headaches
  • Numbing activities such as substance misuse, or sexual promiscuity
  • Self harm
  • Flashbacks
  • Rumination

If you’ve been affected by traumatic experiences, it’s important to remember that these symptoms are all normal reactions, even if they make your life difficult. Many of these physiological and psychological reactions are ways that your body, mind and brain are  seeking to protect you and to cope with the overwhelm. The after effects of trauma are often enduring because this is the way your body and mind attempt to resolve what is unresolvable and make sure you never have to go through a similar experience again.

Types of Trauma

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex PTSD/ cPTSD – It’s important to know that many instances of complex trauma have been diagnosed as various other mental health difficulties, so you may not realise that underlying other mental health diagnoses is a struggle with complex trauma.

Effects of Trauma on Childhood development

What happens in early childhood can matter for a lifetime. To successfully manage our society’s future, we must recognize problems and address them before they get worse. In early childhood, research on the biology of stress shows how major adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse, or neglect can weaken developing brain architecture and permanently set the body’s stress response system on high alert. Science also shows that providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships in the earliest years of life can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health Centre on the Developing Child: Harvard University

      In the first 3 years of life, children’s brains are in a critical period of development. Trauma impacts areas of the brain responsible for cognitive functions, such as short-term memory and emotional regulation. This is due in part to the fact that the body regulates stress through the release of two critical hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones are important in keeping people safe during times of danger but repeated or prolonged exposure during childhood alters the course of normal brain development and can leave a person unable to effectively regulate their stress reactions and remain primed for fight, flight, freeze reactions into adulthood.

      Therapy for Trauma

      Psychotherapy is a process that helps you to express and make sense of how you are feeling with the help of a supportive and skilled professional. The pace of therapy is always adapted to work with what you need. If looking backwards is too painful then explorations can initially be based on different ways of coping and finding safety in the here and now and learning to express emotions in a more creative and less verbal way. If you are looking to explore and make sense of the past and its ongoing effects, then psychotherapy is very beneficial for building this picture, helping you come to terms with the past and to learn to live more fully in the present. Whether you are looking for therapy for a single traumatic event or for trauma that has accumulated over time then different approaches are better suited for each of these scenarios, for example, CBT might be more helpful for a single event trauma and Schema Therapy is likely more helpful for Complex Trauma. 

      NeurOptimal Neurofeedback can be very helpful in helping with the physiological effects of trauma. Trauma changes the nervous system to be much more reactive and primed for fight, flight, freeze responses that aren’t reacting appropriately to the needs of the here and now. NeurOptimal directly trains the brain to harness its ability to self regulate, so if you have been living with an overly reactive body, then it is likely that your brain and nervous system need a little help getting back to resilient functioning. The brain continues to learn and change over our lifetime and NeurOptimal harnesses your brains’ Neuroplasticity, by helping it return to flexible self-regulation as it is designed to. If you can tell that your physiological state is not matching up to the demands of a situation, because it is over or under reacting, then NeurOptimal can help train your brain back to effectiveness. 

      Breathwork uses different breathing techniques to help regulate the nervous system. We know that the vagus nerve, the seat of our parasympathetic nervous system and our ability to return to calm after stress has nerve endings throughout our respiratory system and that breathing in certain ways changes activates parasympathetic activity. Breathing is also free and accessible all the time so it is a very handy way to regulate the nervous system and emotions 24/7.

      Brainspotting is a therapy technique that targets how the brain processes emotions and memories. Using eye position to find activated ‘brain spots’ for emotions or sensations in the body means that the brain can be harnessed to balance the source of anxiety in the deeper brain areas.