What Is Trauma Therapy?

Trauma therapy is a type of mental health treatment that counsellors use to help people overcome psychological trauma. A traumatic event is defined as one in which you perceive a threat to your life, bodily integrity, or sanity. The other component of the definition is your reaction to the event or situation. If you can cope with the event, even if it is a serious threat, it isn’t trauma. Trauma occurs when your ability to handle the event is comprised.

At Castle Craig, we take a multi-pronged approach to treating trauma, knowing that it often takes a strategic combination of therapies to provide the best possible treatment and results for our patients. Our team is experienced in crafting unique treatment programs that help patients deal with trauma.  The best path forward is to find out what type of therapy the counsellor uses to treat trauma patients.

Goals of Trauma Therapy

Before you undertake any type of counselling or any endeavour at all for that matter, it’s important to know what you want to get from it, what you want to accomplish, and how you want your life to look when it’s over. It is important to be aware of your trauma, what your triggers are, and in what way do you react. It is also important to know what your goal in therapy will be? Is it to tell your story? To create awareness? To be at peace? To confront your abuser, or some other reason not listed?

The most crucial goals of trauma therapy are typically:

  • To face the reality of the past event without getting stuck in it
  • To reduce or eliminate trauma symptoms
  • To work towards shifting focus from the past to the present
  • To improve daily functioning
  • Raise awareness of hereditary trauma
  • To reclaim your personal power
  • To overcome addictions associated with traumatic stress
  • To gain skills that prevent relapse

You may have unique goals of your own based on the kinds of problems you’ve encountered since the trauma and the kind of life you want to move towards. Your Castle Craig counsellor is available to help you decide what you hope to gain from your time in trauma therapy.

Trauma Therapy in Group Sessions

All patients at Castle Craig are screened for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder using the PTSD questionnaire and a full psychiatric assessment by our Consultant Psychiatrist.

Trauma Therapy at Castle Craig Hospital is undertaken by experienced, qualified trauma therapists. There is a trauma group in which participants learn ways of dealing with the psychological and physical effects of the trauma. Some patients may require individual trauma therapy. The therapies of choice are Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Both therapies are recognised as the gold standard by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. As trauma memories are often held in the body, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy may also be used. Mindfulness is also practiced as this can teach people ways to regulate their arousal levels. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture and aromatherapy can be used to help the person relax.

The trauma treatment is holistic and helps the person re-process the trauma so that memories which are being re-experienced are processed into narrative, explicit memory rather than implicit and somatic memory. This means that these memories no longer intrude on daily life nor interfere with addiction treatment.

Types of Therapy Most Often Used for Trauma

At Castle Craig, we offer three main types of therapy which have been shown to help with move past trauma: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) therapy. Following is a brief overview of each.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or events, or through early neglect which can lead to attachment trauma. Typical traumatic experiences are childhood sexual abuse, childhood neglect, emotional and physical abuse, domestic violence, rape, military combat, accidents, acts of terrorism, illness and complex grief.

PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. But PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, in people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories. Specific symptoms can vary in severity.

  • Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
  • Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; or feeling detached or estranged from others.
  • Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

Many people who are exposed to a traumatic event experience symptoms like those described above in the days following the event. For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, however, symptoms last for more than a month and often persist for months and sometimes years. Many individuals develop symptoms within three months of the trauma, but symptoms may appear later. For people with PTSD the symptoms cause significant distress or problems functioning. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing) is an innovative treatment that helps patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to process negative memories and emotions that have been suppressed. It enables them to achieve their therapeutic goals rapidly, with recognisable changes that don’t disappear over time.

EMDR in PTSD and addiction treatment at Castle Craig

Prior to EMDR the therapist assesses the patient’s readiness and suitability for EMDR and develops a treatment plan. All Castle Craig trauma therapists are trained through EMDR Europe to the required level to practice safely.

During a therapy session patients are guided to revisit the traumatic event, consciously focusing on eye movements, sounds and body sensations. This process can be complex if there are many experiences connected to the negative thoughts and feelings. The EMDR therapy sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.

EMDR treatment ensures processing of all traumatic past events, current incidents that cause distress, and future scenarios that could induce a traumatic response. The overall goal is to produce the most comprehensive and profound treatment effects in the shortest period of time, while simultaneously maintaining a stable client within a balanced system.

After EMDR processing, patients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and that they have gained important insights into their mental processes: perception, memory, judgement, reasoning, and their behaviour. Importantly, these emotional and cognitive changes usually result in behavioural and personal change.

Our Abuse and Trauma Consultant, Linda Hill, is highly qualified with considerable experience in this area and provides expert consultancy and supervision of staff.