“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Complex trauma refers to the cumulative and pervasive psychological and emotional effects of multiple challenging experiences over an extended period, often during childhood.
Abuse, neglect, chaotic family environments, and caregivers’ untreated mental health issues, to name some, can profoundly impact a person’s well-being and requires specialized therapeutic approaches to address its complex nature.
Let’s explore some of the therapy modalities commonly used for complex trauma:
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT):
TF-CBT is a well-established evidence-based therapy mostly designed for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. It focuses on helping individuals understand and process their traumatic experiences, challenge the beliefs emerging from past experiences, manage distressing emotions and behaviours, and develop coping skills.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):
EMDR combines some elements of cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and bilateral stimulation to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce their negative impact. It involves guided eye movements or other forms of rhythmic stimulation to facilitate processing distressing memories.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):
DBT is a comprehensive therapy initially developed for individuals with borderline personality disorder but has also shown effectiveness in treating complex trauma. It combines individual therapy, group skills training, and phone coaching to enhance emotion regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness.
Somatic Experiencing (SE):
SE is a body-oriented therapy that focuses on releasing the physiological and emotional impact of trauma stored in the body. It helps individuals regulate their autonomic nervous system and discharge trapped energy associated with traumatic experiences.
Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy:
IFS is an integrative approach that recognizes the existence of multiple “parts” within an individual’s psyche. It helps clients establish a harmonious relationship with their internal parts, allowing healing and integration of traumatic memories.
This somatic-based Therapy combines traditional talk therapy with body-oriented interventions to address trauma symptoms. It focuses on tracking and processing bodily sensations, movement patterns, and posture to facilitate the integration of traumatic experiences.
Psychodynamic approaches explore the unconscious and relational dynamics underlying complex trauma. The therapeutic relationship is central, and the therapist helps clients gain insight into unresolved conflicts, early attachment disruptions, and their impact on present-day functioning.
Mindfulness-focused trauma therapy:
This work modality emphasizes the importance of grounding techniques and self-regulation strategies and establishing a more compassionate relationship with the traumatic memories. These tools help individuals develop stability and control over their internal experiences, enabling them to navigate triggers and flashbacks more effectively. Additionally, this therapeutic approach often incorporates cognitive restructuring and somatic therapy elements to address trauma’s mental and physiological aspects of trauma.
It’s important to note that the choice of therapy modality should be based on an individual’s specific needs and preferences. Your therapist can help determine the most appropriate therapeutic approach for each person.