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  • Writer's pictureFiona Owen

Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Growing up with a depressed or alcoholic parent; losing a parent to divorce or other causes; or enduring chronic humiliation, emotional neglect, or sexual or physical abuse. These are forms of emotional trauma that are beyond the typical, everyday challenges of growing up.

Children who have been exposed to one or more of these experiences are likely to develop post-traumatic stress. Sometimes the symptoms do not emerge at the time due to the body trying to cope with the adversity.

The symptoms manifest when there is a significant trigger. Parents may not have been aware their child was traumatised at the time, especially if they themselves were struggling to cope with their own situations.

Complex trauma (CPTSD) is harder to diagnose and treat than a single event trauma because there are often layers of traumatic experiences with the complex trauma. Building up the resilience of people with complex trauma is an essential part of the repair process especially when the trauma started at an early age before the brain was fully formed.

When working with traumatised clients the focus is to enable to client to build resilience to cope when they are triggered. Triggering can happen from any of the 5 senses and sometimes there is no clear build up to indicate this is occurring. Often however anxiety levels will already have been raised due to the environmental conditions.

A traumatised person can seem to be acting inappropriately to the level of stimulus. For example when in an argument the level of conflict may seem to one party as being reasonable and to the other as extreme this is because the conflict will trigger repressed fear for the traumatised person which causes the individual to appear to over react. The fear is quickly converted to anger or to withdrawal as this is a secondary feeling used to protect the vulnerable self.

Building resilience needs to be done in a combination of ways. Firstly the therapist has to build a sense of safety for the client so that that the client will trust the therapeutic process.

Once this is established the therapist will work to enable the client to process and integrate the stuck trauma memories so they will no longer act as triggers. There are a variety of ways this can be done.

I work with whatever fits for the client, however the mains therapeutic approaches I use are:

1. Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing is one of the ways of working with stuck trauma memories. Sometimes the client will need to develop coping mechanisms to go through this process because the process requires being an observer of the trauma memory. A technique called the flash technique has been shown to be very helpful in enabling the client to be less sensitive to the memory.

2. Dream Therapy is another method that can help with reducing the levels of anxiety and fear around trauma memories

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