Select a category to learn more about specific trauma, or continue reading below to learn about trauma as a whole.
Psychological trauma can occur when you experience, witness, or learn of a deeply disturbing or distressing event or series of events that cause overwhelming amounts of stress and lead to emotional, psychological, and physical dysregulation. However, it is not the event that causes the trauma, but rather your reaction to the event. What many people do not understand is that having a trauma reaction is not only psychological, but also physiological; it is not a mental weakness, but a normal, natural, biological reaction to an abnormal event. Many factors contribute to how you react to distressing events, including your history, genetics, transgenerational traumas, and how your body produces and releases chemicals and hormones in response to distress.
Having a trauma reaction after a disturbing or distressing event or series of events (including in relation to your vocation) does not necessarily lead to a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, there are six diagnoses under trauma and stress disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V (DSM-V). Sadly, some individuals believe that if they do not have a PTSD diagnosis or if the trauma wasn’t “bad enough” then they do not need or deserve treatment. However, any disturbance or dysregulation deserves attention in order to heal. If someone had a deep cut that required stitches, that person would likely seek medical care to heal the wound and get those stitches. They wouldn’t say, “Well, I didn’t lose a limb, so I don’t deserve care.” They would realize that while the cut would likely not be fatal, it would still heal much more quickly by taking appropriate action and seeking medical care. The same is true for treatment of a trauma reaction. There will always be others who have had deeper wounds, but that does not mean your wounds are not worthy of care.
PTSD and trauma reactions are most often treated with psychopharmacology (medication), psychotherapy (therapy), or a combination of the two. There are different therapy modalities that have become very popular in the treatment of trauma and PTSD, including cognitive processing therapy (CPT), exposure therapy (ET), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). However, some may be surprised to find that the therapeutic connection you have with your therapist plays a significant role in the success of your therapeutic outcome.
“Given the evidence that treatments are about equally effective, that treatments delivered in clinical settings are effective (and as effective as that provided in clinical trials), the manner in which treatments are provided are much more important than which treatment is provided” (Wampold & Imel, 2015).”
While the therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist is vital, having a well-trained therapist who utilizes trauma-informed, evidence-based therapies (therapies that have been tested and proven to help a majority of people) is also imperative. Although there are many evidence-based therapies, CPT was created specifically to treat PTSD. The characteristics of CPT are often much more appealing to individuals who have experienced trauma personally or through their vocation because they remain in control during the therapeutic process. Therapy is not merely being done to them, but rather they are playing an active role and learning new skills to change the way in which they process events and emotions. Since the client is learning skills in addition to going through therapy, not only are they less likely to experience symptoms of PTSD in the future despite experiencing trauma, but they are more likely to experience posttraumatic growth and develop new skills and outlooks that allow them to have an even higher level of functioning and resilience than before experiencing the trauma.
To learn more about CPT, please watch this 3-minute video