Trauma Focused Therapy
When you've experienced trauma, it can be excruciating. You may feel at a loss as to how to process what you've been through or how you can even start to heal. You just want to experience a sense of safety again. But the impact of trauma can cut deep. Even if you feel lost, there's hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
How Trauma Affects The Brain
There are many reasons that trauma hurts us and causes post-traumatic stress. One thing you may not know is that trauma physically changes our brains. When you experience a traumatic event, your mind changes. Areas of your brain that once worked in a particular way change based on hyperarousal due to trauma.
For example, the amygdala gets over-activated after a traumatic experience. When you hear the phrase "fight, flight or freeze" that's when you have a physical and emotional response to a trigger. You remember your trauma, and your amygdala becomes overactive. You're hypervigilant, and you're on alert, making sure that you're safe from danger. Your trauma is real, and your brain is telling you that you're hurting and need help. Mental health disorders, personality changes, and other symptoms can develop as a result.
Trauma focused therapy – Getting help for trauma
It's essential to find an experienced trauma therapist that can help you after you've experienced trauma. You need to talk about your pain and start to process what happened to you. This may sound scary, but think of it as an empowering statement. You truly have the ability to process past events and live an empowering, fulfilled life. One of the best ways to do this processing is to find a therapist who is skilled at helping people who have been through trauma. There are many kinds of therapy, but trauma focused therapy is explicitly focused on helping people who have had unfortunate things happen to them. Remember you didn't bring your trauma or any mental health disorders, personality changes or anything else upon yourself.
Psychological trauma can affect your life for many years after the event or situation that caused it. It isn't a problem that's easily resolved, especially if you try to do it on your own. However, talk therapy, especially EMDR therapy, and trauma focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has proven highly valuable in helping people overcome the distress, pain, and dysfunction that come from having lived through the most overwhelmingly threatening experiences. In fact, there is much evidence that EMDR therapy, CBT and other forms of trauma focused therapy can actually change the way your brain works after trauma, through something called Neuroplasticity. How does this work?
Neuroplasticity means that our brains are malleable. The pathways in our minds can mould and change over time. This concept is especially crucial for people who have experienced severe trauma, because it means that with the right tools, we can re-alter our brains in positive ways following trauma. According to scientific researchers Su, Veeravagu, and Grant (2016), three distinct phases of neuroplasticity occur after a person experiences trauma:
Directly after the trauma, neurons within the brain begin to die. Cortical inhibitory pathways decrease, which severely changes the mind. During this phase, which lasts one to two days, secondary neural networks are uncovered. These pathways may never have been used.
After a few days, new synapses form and neurons, as well as other cells, replace dead cells. Healing starts within the brain.
Within a couple of weeks, new synapses keep appearing. The brain starts changing, and new pathways are opening up. It is a critical time for healing from trauma. You can begin to rehabilitate your mind and body with trauma focused therapy.