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Best Types of Therapy for Trauma: PTSD, Childhood Trauma, and More

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Experiencing trauma or witnessing a traumatic event can harm mental health and permanently affect emotional and psychological function. Trauma therapy has been designed to specifically target and alleviate the effects of trauma by allowing the individual to process the feelings connected to traumatic events.

Trauma symptoms can lead to mental health disorders or substance abuse if left untreated. This can be especially true of complex trauma or repeated trauma.

Trauma therapy can help by guiding you through processing emotions, being patient with yourself, and learning how to enjoy life again.

8 Types of Trauma Therapy to Consider

When a person experiences a traumatic event, it impacts the amygdala, the fear center of the brain. The amygdala can be slow to heal from trauma, leading to increased emotional reactions to stimuli and other mental health symptoms. In some people, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even in those who do not develop PTSD, this increased activity in the amygdala can harm daily life.

Trauma therapy works specifically on reintegrating the traumatized brain. There are many evidence-based options when it comes to finding effective trauma therapy. But what makes each option different? And what will be most effective?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A common form of trauma therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapeutic method involves challenging and modifying unhealthy behavior patterns and negative thoughts. This form of talk therapy is highly recommended as a form of therapy used to treat trauma.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a type of CBT that is designed to target the mental health needs of young people affected by early trauma. Initially designed to help victims of sexual assault or abuse, it has since been expanded to help deal with other forms of trauma, including violence, physical abuse, and grief. Often, this form of trauma treatment involves bringing in non-offending family and caregivers as a form of family therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

With eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, specifically trained therapists use a specific set of eye movements to help people experiencing PTSD symptoms process their traumatic memories and change the way they're stored in the brain to help alleviate symptoms and reduce triggers.

Twice weekly sessions typically held over 6-12 weeks pair these eye movements with the focus of the memory of the traumatic event under the guidance of a licensed professional.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapeutic methods are based on the idea that traumatic events are not only held in the mind but in the body. With somatic therapy, your therapist will guide you to release pent up trauma with techniques such as body awareness and body grounding. This form of talk therapy is effective in dealing with past trauma.

Internal Family Systems Therapy

Internal family systems therapy hypothesizes that our personality is made up of a series of different parts, like different family members, all working toward what is best for the whole "self.” The IFS trauma therapist works toward getting to know all of these parts and helping those who have been most affected by psychological trauma.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)

This type of trauma therapy involves exactly what it sounds like it does...with the guidance of a therapist, the patient is exposed to the source of their fear to help reduce the anxiety connected with it. Exposure therapy tackles avoidance, which is a common trauma response. The APA highly recommends prolonged exposure therapy for treating trauma.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive processing therapy CPT allows patients to challenge and then modify trauma-related beliefs. This form of trauma therapy may include writing a detailed account of the traumatic event and learning to re-conceptualize it with the help of their therapist. This is a first-line intervention and is highly recommended by the American Psychiatric Association.

Narrative Exposure Therapy

Narrative therapy is newer among trauma therapies and involves working with a trauma therapist to "rewrite" your narrative in a way that gives your experiences meaning and helps to reshape your worldview.

In terms of treating PTSD symptoms or trauma treatment, the therapist may have the patient rewrite the narrative of their traumatic event until their traumatic memories no longer have a hold on them. It is conditionally recommended by the APA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Additional Trauma Therapy Resources

There are several other types of therapy that offer a trauma-informed approach. While the ones we mentioned are the most researched and popular, there are others available that can be helpful depending on the individual's needs. Some other types of trauma therapy available include:

Finding a Trauma-Informed Therapist

If you've experienced trauma and you're seeking therapy for traumatic memories or a specific traumatic event, trauma therapy can truly help you process and overcome the effects and improve your mental health. There are many effective therapeutic techniques, and which therapy you decide to go with may depend on what you are comfortable with or what therapist you connect best with.

In some severe cases of trauma-related issues that include mood disorders and extreme anxiety or depressive symptoms, a health professional may also prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to help regulate emotions. Talk with your health professional to see what they may recommend, and then search for mental health therapist who specializes in trauma therapy online through a trusted source like the APA or SAMHSA.

A trauma therapist in Austin can help you process your traumatic event and learn coping skills to improve mental health, manage stress, and enjoy life again.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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