July 10, 2023
Can Therapy Help After Experiencing Medical Trauma?
Written by Guest Author
Medical trauma is an experience that evolves out of routine medical visits, in-patient or out-patient procedures, medical malpractice, or witnessing violence at a medical facility.
Symptoms of this stress may begin immediately or after a few weeks from the event.
These symptoms may include:
- Delayed (1+ months) or immediate onset of symptoms
- Out-of-body experiences
- Nightmares/night terrors
- Sleep disruption
- Emotional dysregulation
- Intrusive thoughts
- Onset or increase in panic/anxiety
Left untreated, symptoms of medical trauma can impact relationships, workplace satisfaction, and mental health.
If you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic event during a medical intervention, connecting with a therapist as soon as possible is critical in providing you with support, resources, and a sense of security.
If you’re wondering what therapy looks like, how to find the right therapist, and how therapy helps, follow along.
How Can Therapy Help?
The mental health field has long attempted to understand trauma and its impact on overall well-being; you’re in luck—there is a lot of expert research on this topic.
By engaging in your mental health and wellness, you will:
- learn skills to cope with your symptoms and
- grow in your ability to process your medical trauma story.
Individuals who engage in therapy also feel more in control of their emotions and actions as they return to baseline.
Therapy provides the added benefit of increased confidence, autonomy, and resourcefulness.
Whether you’ve experienced compounding events or single incidents within the medical community, treatment starts with understanding who to look for as a therapist.
Finding the right therapist can be an incredibly healing journey itself.
As you look for a therapist, your self-advocacy is on overdrive. Not only are you hoping to heal, you’re hoping to thrive.
The right therapist will see your symptoms as meaningful signposts.
Look for a mental health provider with extra training in trauma, such as training in:
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT),
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and
- Brainspotting, to name a few.
A trustworthy therapeutic alliance builds on a therapist’s ability to attune and attend to your needs.
If your first therapist isn’t the right fit, keep going.
After you’ve secured your intake session, you can expect the therapy process to follow this format:
This information-gathering session establishes you as a client and introduces you to your therapist. Your therapist will gather information to create a clear picture of your problem.
You will also review practice policies, paperwork, and payment, to name a few housekeeping items.
During your first few sessions, your therapist will continue to gather information for your treatment and will likely start equipping you with coping strategies to explore during your session.
The middle phase of therapy is not unlike a ping-pong match. You will experience epic moves forwards and moments of sadness, sometimes within the same session.
While this is considered normal, check in with your therapist if your symptoms worsen or new memories of your medical trauma appear.
In the Middle Phase of treatment, you will process most of the event and see your symptoms shift.
The ending phase of treatment may serve as a gateway to long-term work with your therapist.
While you conclude your work around the medical trauma you experienced, you may choose to give therapy a break or continue onward.
You Are Not Alone
Medical trauma is a severe violation of trust, safety, and security. When you entrust a doctor, you trust the medical field for your physical healing.
Medical trauma is never your fault.
Grounding & Self Soothing
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