The Best Types of Trauma Therapy Techniques: Which One is Right for You
Trauma is a common problem for the modern individual. In fact, around 70% of American adults have suffered some sort of traumatic event, and some of them did so as children. Trauma is a serious issue because it is a risk factor in almost every behavioral health or substance use disorder
When someone experiences trauma, their brains and nervous systems physically change. This change can lead to a heightened sense of arousal along with increased problems with anxiety and depression. Thankfully, trauma therapy can help support the healing of both the mind and the body.
If you have a teenager who is struggling with trauma, remember that healing takes time. However, finding appropriate trauma therapy will reduce that time and give your teen the best chance of healing and moving forward with life after trauma. Here is a closer look at trauma therapy techniques and how they might help your teenager not only heal, but learn to thrive.
Benefits of Trauma Therapy
If your teen has suffered a traumatic event, your brain and your emotions have to heal. This cannot happen until you can integrate that traumatic event and understand it, and this is what therapy does. Without therapy, the traumatized individual suffers physical symptoms when something stirs up memories of their trauma.
Therapy does not remove the memories. However, it teaches healthy ways to deal with the resulting emotions. With these new skills, your teenager will be prepared to manage triggers and the resulting emotions in a healthy manner.
Finally, trauma therapy can help reduce symptoms like anxiety or depression after a traumatic event. It gives the person a safe place to express themselves. This can go far in the healing process.
Types of Trauma Therapy Techniques
Trauma treatment techniques are not a one-size-fits-all option. While there are principles that apply universally to trauma treatment, the reality is that you may need to explore several different treatment techniques before landing on the one that serves your teenager well. Often, effective treatment ends up involving multiple treatment methods to address trauma effectively.
Pharmacotherapy uses medication to stop trauma reactions. For example, if someone is dealing with intrusive thoughts or hyper-arousal because of trauma, medications can calm this reaction. Medication does not heal the trauma, but it does make the reaction more manageable. It can work alongside other therapies to help keep extreme symptoms at bay.
The most common type of behavioral therapy used in trauma treatment is exposure therapy. This involves gradual exposure to the things the person is afraid of, allowing them to face their fears head-on in a safe, controlled manner, so they are able to realize that the outcome they fear is not likely to happen. This therapy can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in trauma survivors. It can also help improve trauma memory problems, and it is a highly effective way to treat PTSD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps the individual change their incorrect thoughts to improve their ability to manage trauma, anxiety, and stress. It can teach the patient how to improve their normal reactions to trauma using techniques like breathing, identifying and replacing thoughts, or experiencing exposure therapy.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a treatment that involves eye movements and auditory processing to reduce trauma. It instructs the patient to follow a light or listen to sounds while thinking about a traumatic event. Though this treatment may feel unconventional, research shows that it is highly effective at treating trauma.
Psychodynamic trauma therapy seeks to identify the stage of traumatic response where the person is stuck. Once the therapist finds that stage, they can focus on helping the person move past that point, giving them the tools to allow their body to integrate and process the traumatic event. It also focuses on looking at the unconscious motivation behind the traumatic response you experience.
Therapy groups specific to trauma survivors can be a great way to heal after a traumatic event. A trauma survivor group provides a place to tell a trauma story with other people who understand.
Educational groups help trauma survivors understand what they are facing. Some groups focus on self-care and coping skills, which can be vital in the beginning stages of a trauma recovery program. Group therapy brings together a group of peers, usually under the leadership of a therapist, to talk about what they have gone through.
Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to help someone address the emotions they face due to trauma. Often, in a hypnotic state, a person is able to address feelings and emotions that they have trouble addressing when fully aware.
Residential Trauma Treatment
For teenagers who are facing PTSD or severe trauma responses, a residential treatment program may be the right choice. In residential treatment, the therapist has more control over the environment, and your teenager has more time to process their emotions in a safe and healthy way.
Residential treatment centers use many of the same techniques already mentioned, but provide the added benefit of a safe place to live during treatment.
Which Option Is Right for Your Teenager?
The type of trauma therapy that will work best for your teen is going to depend on what stage of the trauma healing process they are in, and, ultimately, what your child’s therapist feels will work best.
The best way to choose is to find a therapist that uses multiple techniques and then talk to them about the type of trauma your child has faced.
The key to this is to choose a therapist who has trauma training. The best way to find such a therapist is to interview several in your area, and ask them about their trauma experience. Look for one that has the right knowledge and training to guide your child toward the right trauma treatment.
What to Expect with Trauma Therapy
If you decide to pursue trauma therapy for your teenager, you can expect a few things. First, the therapist is going to work to build trust with the teenager. This can require several sessions before the real trauma treatment work begins.
Once trust is established, you will work with the therapist to choose the technique you are both comfortable with and feel would give the best possible outcome.
At your therapy appointments, your teen will need to re-visit the traumatic experience they suffered. This can be quite triggering, but therapy provides a safe place to address those events and the feelings they bring.
Over time, your child’s therapist is going to arm your teenager with skills and techniques they can use when they feel triggered. These practical skills will help them manage the overwhelming emotions they face when they are reminded of their trauma.
Your child’s therapist will also try to normalize what they are feeling, which can help them feel both validated and calmer. Trauma responses can feel very frightening, and normalizing them helps children and teens process them.
When working with teens, therapists will often bring in the parents, too, to teach them the techniques. By working together as a team, the therapist and the parent can set the child up for better success, and the parent will leave therapy with the knowledge they need to help their teenager.
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