4 Steps to Recovering from Trauma
Recovery from trauma can happen for you.
No matter whether your traumatic experience occurred during childhood or just recently, you can and deserve to heal and move forward.
Many people are unsure if “trauma” applies to their own experience, since we often associate the word with traumatic events such as war, horrific accidents, violent assaults, or natural disasters.
Even if you haven’t experienced anything like that, you shouldn’t undermine your own need for care, by comparing your problems to those of others.
Usually when we have a negative experience, we are able to “get over” or “work through it,” as our brains make adaptive connections to explanatory information or positive beliefs.
When we experience trauma, our brains can’t process the extreme feelings in an adaptive way.
Any stressful experience that causes you to feel frightened, isolated, or helpless can be called traumatic. These are the mental health effects of trauma.
If your feelings align with any of those adjectives, you should seek treatment with a trauma therapist, so you can begin recovering from trauma and start feeling better.
Recovering from Trauma
Again, trauma is about your own experience of a past event or continuing stressor.
Likewise, healing from trauma is an individualized process, different for every person. Though we’d all love to feel better right away, recovery is not something you can rush. You shouldn’t worry about not “doing it right,” if it seems to be taking longer than you’d expect.
Depending on your situation, one or a combination of several treatment types may work well for you. These include, but are not limited to: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, psychopharmacotherapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), or brainspotting.
What to expect from trauma recovery
Recovering from trauma does not mean you’ll be completely free from the experience, but you’ll be able to live a normalized life, without overwhelming negativity from the trauma.
If trauma means isolation, fear, and helplessness, recovery means regained control and restored feelings of safety. There is not a numbered step program for trauma recovery, as this experience looks different for everyone.
However, there are four general recovery phases you will pass through as you become empowered, in control, and regain your well-being:
1. Difficulty expressing emotions
Whether the trauma is recent or from the distant past, it can be hard to talk about. You may not necessarily need to talk about the experience itself, but heal from the emotional experience.
For example, if you felt powerless in your traumatic situation, powerlessness may be a difficult trigger for you today.
You may have also internalized beliefs that you are not deserving of belonging or you’re all alone.
These are the factors that we will help you express and heal so you can transform those feelings and beliefs into empowerment and connection, for example.
2. Establishing a sense of safety
It’s important for you to feel safe, in order to reduce stress, and help the recovery process along.
Reducing negative emotions will calm your nervous system, and put you in a position of control from which you feel safe.
Regaining a sense of safety and stability is the focus in the second phase of recovering from trauma.
Some techniques for doing this include: mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), meditation, grounding skills, yoga with deep breathing, or even acupuncture.
Your own spiritual or cultural practices may be a good foundation for starting on your own.
Your therapist will discuss specific therapeutic strategies with you so you can feel safe and grounded in your body.
3. Processing the trauma
When you feel more emotionally stable, you can start processing the trauma in a healthy, adaptive way.
You will find individual or group therapy particularly helpful at this stage. Though it is important to be aware of your emotional safety, as you make meaning of your trauma.
In this phase, you may also grieve and express your thoughts and feelings about losses you experienced.
As you work toward understanding and processing your experience, you want to continue making adaptive connections, rather than provoke a “freeze” or a “fight-or-flight” type of response.
For example, recognizing that you were powerless in the situation, but are not powerless now vs. going back into the situation itself and getting stuck in fear.*
*Keep in mind that specific trauma therapies do not require you to go back through the traumatic situation or relive traumatic memories. This is why it’s so important to work with a therapist trained in trauma therapy techniques as this will help maintain your safety and comfort throughout the process.
4. Affirmation, self-recognition and reconnection
After processing your trauma, you still need to free yourself of its influence on your life. You are not your trauma. It is not the principle around which you organize your life.
You get to be in charge again and redefine yourself.
While trauma is part of your story, you are more than the trauma you experienced.
Once your sense of self is strong, the focus is on reconnecting and integration. Pursuing meaningful relationships with others, creating meaning and purpose in your life.
A trauma therapist can help you recover from trauma
If you have experiencing any situation that has caused you to feel frightened, isolated or helpless, it can be worthwhile to pursue trauma therapy.
You don’t want to minimize your experience as it can have a profound impact on your beliefs and feelings about yourself and impact your life in the present.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that you can only go as fast as the slowest part of your body can go. It’s important to be compassionate and gentle with yourself as you go through the healing process.
At Eddins Counseling Group, our therapists are skilled in working with trauma and we use additional modalities such as EMDR therapy, Brainspotting, Somatic Experiencing and Trauma-Focused CBT to help aid in recovering from trauma. Contact our trauma therapists in Houston to find out how we can help you heal or read more about trauma and PTSD treatment.
To start the trauma recovery process give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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