Effective Treatment Methods for Trauma

Trauma causes confused and scattered thoughts

Some of the most effective treatment methods for those battling with any kind of trauma are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy,  Narrative Exposure, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Brainspotting (BSP), and group therapy. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, medication may be a part of your treatment plans to help alleviate many symptoms of trauma such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. If you’d prefer to avoid medication, there are holistic tools that can be used to help alleviate these symptoms. Some of these tools are practicing meditation and mindfulness, journaling, art therapy, exercise, modifying sleeping and eating patterns avoiding alcohol and drugs, and other self-care activities. 

In my practice, I’ve found the integration of holistic methods, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Brainspotting to be the most effective treatment strategies for processing and reframing trauma. I have found Brainspotting to be highly impactful in the healing process by facilitating a very nurturing approach to processing trauma. 

What is Trauma?

Do you even know if you’ve experienced any life-impacting trauma? If you are dealing with such emotional disturbances as extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, helplessness, vulnerability, PTSD, and body pains, chances are, you’ve experienced a traumatic event(s). Traumatic memories fade over time; however, psychological and psychological symptoms remain. We develop an irrational belief system that influences our judgment, decision-making process, and ability to self-regulate. Our body then stores these unprocessed emotional responses in our nervous system, creating involuntary reactions in response to other events that remind us of these unprocessed traumatic experiences. Simply put, it becomes a bodily reflex. Not until this traumatic memory is fully processed with the body let go of these disturbing feelings that you carry. 

How to Release Trauma?

EMDR and Brainspotting have been effective tools in helping release these feelings. Brainspotting helps release these involuntary reflexes by using the field of vision to help access these stored files of unprocessed pain. We use the mind-body connection to help identify where the emotional and physical pain is stored. We access these brainspots while mindfully staring at a point, and periodically doing body-scans. Identifying the location of the feeling in your body while focusing on the spot helps cultivate a sense of presence. This helps to create an optimal state of healing and change, such as when you’re in a deeper sleep state (Hardy, 2020). 

In his article, “One Technique for Reframing Traumatic Memories,” Dr. Benjamin Hardy (2020) explains this optimal state of healing and change occurring when the following things are present- high performance, presence flow, and focus. He gains this information from the clinical psychologist and author, Dr. Don Wood. Dr. Wood founded the Inspired Performance Institute, a neuroscience program, in 2015. His passion for better understanding the effects of trauma on the brain led to him developing ways to restore optimal brain functioning and to restore optimal brain functioning and perform at a high-performance level. 

His method of reframing these traumatic memories is similar to Brainspotting. Dr. Hardy (2020) describes his technique for reframing as such: 

 …while in a safe environment with someone you trust, detailing a particularly painful memory…, throughout the narration, you get stopped by the listener and are told to detail aspects of the present environment, such as the couch you’re sitting on, or the lighting in the room, etc. Thus, throughout the narration of the story, you’re actually weaving in elements of the “safe” context with the former story. This is one way of neutralizing and re-coding what was once a stressful thing to now include elements of safety and security. Thus, in the next re-calling, that memory will also include elements and descriptions from the context where you described the story, which was safe…

In Brainpotting, a very similar concept is practiced when asked to do a body scan. When you are asked where the currently activated feeling is located within your body, you participate in this “weaving in elements of the “safe” context with the former story.” (Hardy, 2020). By continuing to focus on the pointer, you learn to focus your concentration on the memory and the feeling; instead of approaching the memory in fear. If we approach the memory in fear, we activate the fight or flight reaction (also recognized as anxiety). Rather, we learn how to approach these memories in a more tolerable state of mind. As a result, as we learn to approach these memories and feelings while in the moment. And, we stop avoiding them, which helps us cope with anxiety, depression, and trauma. 

As you may see, the mind-body connection is powerful. The stronger the connection, the more power we gain in controlling how we respond to our thoughts and emotions. In the book, “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” Echart Tolle (1999) explains the body’s reaction to the mind best: 

Mind, in the way I use the word, is not just thought. It includes your emotions as well as all unconscious mental-emotional reactive patterns. Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind- or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body…Research has shown that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body. These biochemical changes represent the physical and material aspects of emotion. Of course, you are not usually conscious of all your thought patterns, and it is often only through watching your emotions that you can bring them into awareness. (p.25)

Brainspotting works on bridging this mind-body connection as it combines both psychology and physiology. Brainspotting appears to take place at a reflexive level within the nervous system. By processing and reframing a traumatic memory, you work towards eliminating unwanted emotional and physiological responses. These responses are what have been causing you much distress. And, as a result, strengthening the mind-body connection, leaving you feeling more grounded, present, and at peace. 

Eliminating exterior triggers, avoiding unpleasant topics, and ending toxic relationships are all helpful, but it’s not until we become comfortable with our internal “Being,” that we start healing. 

References

Ackerman, C. (2020, November 2). Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Life after Freud. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavioral-therapy

Hardy, B. (2020, February 6). One Technique for Reframing Traumatic Memories. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/quantum-leaps/202002/one-technique-reframing-traumatic-memories

Tolle, E. (1999).The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Namaste Publishing and New World Library, 25.

About Kasia Ciszewski 13 Articles
Mental health therapist who provides counseling services to teens, adults & couples. Specializes in anxiety, stress, grief, bereavement, depression & life transitions.

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