Trauma is of many kinds--from the acute to the chronic, the physical, emotional, sexual, through neglect, political violence, war, natural disasters, and every permutation of these and other causes.
With advances in neurobiology, trauma therapy has taken great strides in recent decades, and new approaches to trauma therapy continue to be refined and developed.
In particular, the somatic (bodily) aspects of trauma responses are ever more recognized and understood, even to trauma that is not itself overtly physical. In other words, there are powerful effects in the body even from events and experiences that did not touch the body, such as emotional abuse.
Types of Trauma Therapy
Therefore, some effective types of trauma therapy address the somatic aspects in specialized ways, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), Somatic Experiencing, biofeedback, and others.
These specific forms of trauma therapy can be highly effective for some trauma. Much trauma, however, is very responsive to more general psychodynamic treatment, in the course of addressing issues in the broad context of one’s life.
In fact, if trauma is understood as a situation that feels threatening to one’s safety, rare is the person who hasn’t experienced some degree of trauma. In this sense, most therapy involves aspects of trauma therapy.
I have found that some of the most painfully formative events or phases in many people’s lives are phases they never thought of as unusual or traumatic. For instance, dealing with a chronically ill grandparent, which may have resulted in emotional neglect of children, financial hardship, a pervasive atmosphere of depression, and the like.
Trauma as Response
Some people have a tendency to discount their own suffering, saying in effect, “I shouldn’t feel this way. Just look at what so-and-so went through! My problems are NOTHING in comparison.” Here it is important to remember that trauma is not so much an event as a response to an event or experience. What is traumatic to one person may not be so to another, and vice-versa.
Each of us responds differently to events and stimuli, and how we respond at one time of life may differ drastically from how we would respond to the same or a similar experience at another time. An experience may be overwhelming to one person or at one time of life, but able to be integrated emotionally and psychologically by another person or by the same person at a different time. In trauma therapy, we are able to draw on resources that were not available at the time when such threatening experience occurred.
Exercise, Sleep, & Nutrition in Trauma Therapy
As part of trauma therapy, it is important that we monitor your exercise, sleep, and nutrition. These are vital parts of our overall health, because our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves are intertwined parts of a unified whole. Working on any one of these areas thus reaps benefits for all the others. Almost everyone has experienced the positive effects that exercise has on emotions and moods, and numerous clinical studies have shown that for some people, exercise can be even more effective than various psychotropic medications. Regarding sleep, some helpful approaches to many sleep disturbances may be found in the link below. In trauma therapy, in particular, these aspects of biological functioning are crucial to support on the path to healing.
Daniel Lehrman, MA, NCPsyA, LP provides Trauma Therapy in New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn.