Years ago, as a new therapist, I knew of the word trauma, but I didn’t know the finer details of what trauma is, how it impacts a person nor how it is treated. Let me share with you a few insights about what I’ve learned through the course of treating multiple individuals for trauma.
Trauma can be a buzzword, but in all seriousness, it is a real thing that occurs when someone has a specific world view that is challenged by some event that happens to or around them. For example, if Sam believes that traveling in a car is always the safest way from point A to point B, then he gets in a minor car accident, this event can be traumatic for him. As compared to Wanda who perhaps believes that car accidents can happen to anyone but that driving a car is safe for the most part. If Wanda gets into a minor car accident, she’s more likely to be able to accept this event into her life and move forward because her belief gave way for the possibility of an accident happening in the first place. The contrast between the person’s belief and an event that occurs in reality is less for Wanda; for Sam this event will likely come with a bigger shock. What’s the difference? Their respective belief sets.
Thus, the treatment of traumatic events is to assist the individual to develop an updated belief set that takes into consideration the possibility that bad things can happen, even to good people. The treatment helps them to grow belief sets instead of becoming trapped by them.
Trauma can happen to anyone! Not just people in the military, although that is the most commonly heard-of source of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it is by no means the only source. Car accidents, abuse, toxic relationships, serious illness, shocking world events, financial distress, work-place toxicity, bullying, race-related offenses, victimization from criminal violence or behavior, betrayal from a loved one, all of these and more can be the seedbed for trauma and the possible development of PTSD. Any of these events, if not dealt with and recovered from mentally as soon after the event as possible, can develop into PTSD. The sooner a person seeks help to process and make sense of such events in their life, the less overall impact it will have on their mental health, relationships and overall quality of life. Treating Acute PTSD, or the milder, not-as-long-lasting form of PTSD can often avoid the full development of PTSD. So reach out and talk to someone about it, even if it’s terrifying. A bandaid approach (just rip it off) in the safety of a therapist’s office may just be your ‘best bet’. How would it be if someone were to come to a surgeon’s table knowing that their appendix was about to burst? Well, in a sense, you can do just that when it comes to having difficult conversations about life events in a therapist’s office.
If you or a loved one experienced any of potentially traumatic events, or perhaps others I haven’t listed, and are experiencing difficulty with coping and overcoming, let me help. There is hope, a way through and out the other side of this. Granted, it may not be an easy road, but to leave these happenings unresolved will allow the event and the associated memories to fester, possibly translate into maladaptive behavior, and perhaps trickle down to the next generation. So take a courageous and proactive step to seek help for yourself now. You don’t have to go this road alone and a trained therapist can help.
If you’re curious about what treatment for such events is like, take a look at my next blog article titled “Recovering from traumatic events such as sexual abuse” or look into Cognitive Processing Therapy online. If you can give way to considering that a therapist can help, I hope you’ll reach out.