The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connection. Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation.
–Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
What is Psychological Trauma?
When we experience a real or perceived threat of danger our brain sets off a series of responses that are designed to help us. However, for some people the response of this experience does not resolve, either safety is not provided and or the brain does not have a chance process the events. The details as to why someone may experience long lasting impacts of trauma after the event occurred (also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is still being understood. What scientist and health professionals do know is that trauma effects the brain and the body in sever ways. Often people who experience trauma talk about feeling stuck and different after the event.
It is important to know that we can recover from trauma! Concepts such as Post Traumatic Growth are helping break stigma and neuroscience is providing more information in regards to how we can heal our brain’s response to trauma. Trauma recovery is possible!
What Does Trauma Recovery Look Like?
The stages described below are based on the pivotal work of Dr. Herman. Although these stages can be helpful in understanding the recovery process, it is important to note that the stages are not a rigid prescription, rather a guideline to provide simplicity and clarity. Recovering from trauma is complex and unique to each individual.
Stage 1: Safety
Creating physical and emotional safety through making personal choice, and developing healthy relationships (i.e. a therapeutic relationship with a professional)
Stage 2: Remembrance and Mourning/ Processing
Re-telling of the traumatic experience in a therapeutic and safe way that allows you to reclaim their power and transform the traumatic memory
Stage 3: Reconnection
Reclaiming your world, connecting with others and your community
How Can Therapy Help in Trauma Recovery?
Having a relationship with your therapist that helps you feel safe and empowered allows for an environment where healing can take place. This relates to the first stage of trauma recovery. Therapy can also help provide a place to process traumatic events through therapeutic techniques like EMDR. There are also therapeutic groups that address trauma which can help break the feelings of isolation as well as promote the processing of the events. Trauma recovery will look unique to each person and it’s important to find a therapist that you feel you have an respectful and trusting relationship with.