Trauma therapy faqs

Questions about trauma therapy

 

These answers are not in any way intended to be a diagnosis. They are here to help you decide if trauma therapy is the next best step for you and worth exploring further.

 

If your specific questions are not answered below, please consider making a time to speak with a therapist in person or by Skype or phone. Please note: These questions and answers are provided for general information purposes only.

 

They are not intended to minimise the pain and suffering that you may have experienced in surviving your childhood experiences and managing the symptoms of its aftermath.

Speak with a therapist. It's

easy, safe and confidential.

Frequently asked questions

1. How long does it take before I notice improvements with trauma therapy?


How long trauma therapy takes or when improvements are noticed depends on -

  1. The type of pain and trauma you experienced.
  2. The age you were when you experienced the pain and trauma.
  3. Your ability to consistently engage the trauma process over time.
  4. Your individual personality characteristics combined with your early history.
Some people notice improvement in their trauma symptoms in a few months. They feel less depressed, eating disorders clear up, careers imporve. Other people might require a couple of years of regular therapy before they get the long-term improvements especially in the body symptoms such as anxiety and panic disorders. For people with complex truama it can take between 4 - 8 years to experience the long terms improvements. Although this seems a long time, studies in the field of early, chronic childhood traumas have shown that part of the brain involved with emotions is smaller than normal and it can take at least eight years of therapy for it to approach normal size. So it's important to be aware that a emotion focused body-based truama therapy requires regular and consistent sessions over a longer period of time. It also requires a higher level of motivation, commitment and cooperation than most other therapies. If its complex trauma therapy then it's long-term. The above rationale alone makes trauma therapy a long-term treatment, but other reasons can affect the extent of the therapy. For example, what you want to get out of trauma therapy directly affects its duration. Some people come to primal with a specific goal in mind and stop when they reach this goal. Others want to understand why they feel and behave the way they do and will do whatever it takes to get well. Trauma therapy is not only about resolving the pain and trauma of your childhood. It's also about personal growth as a human being. For many people, the PROCESS itself is essential. It facilitates a deep understanding of what it is to be human. Using emotion-focused somatic trauma therapy in this way, it becomes a part of life. That means you can continue living your life while you slowly doing the therapy. The process is slowed down. That provides the time needed for integration to occur while you work through the different feeling layers. As the damaged ego of the child heals and integrates some people might also require education, especially if specific skills did not develop in childhood. So depending on what you're looking for primal trauma therapy can be as short as 18-24 months or as long as 8 to 10 years and longer.




2. Can I do trauma therapy myself?


It's possible to learn how to do the emotional processing part of trauma therapy yourself at home. To get the best results it's important that you have a safe space in which to do your therapy. Preferably this is space where you know you’ll not be disturbed or interrupted. Some where you feel free to make some noise if needed.


There are however a few things to watch out for if you do decide to try processing your feelings at home by yourself.

  • We have found that most people who start out processing their feelings at home and continue to process feelings in the absence of a therapist can become stuck in a feeling loop. That is, at some point, they end up feeling the same feeling repeatedly without dropping into deeper levels (abreacting).

  • Feeling the same feeling becomes comfortable (a feeling rut) and provides a type of cathartic relief, but no real healing progress is made. The feelings and symptoms persist as the deeper feelings are avoided.

  • Certain emotions and feelings are just too frightening to access by yourself, so it is easy to feel some feelings while actively avoiding others. A therapist can assess this and will gently point out when you might be avoiding some of the deeper feelings. The real changes in life come from feeling and integrating the core pain.

  • People who find it very hard to trust anyone will be attracted to the idea of processing their own feelings at home. There is no problem with this just as long as you are doing it correctly and moving towards healing as opposed to blowing off steam.

  • Allowing yourself to process your feelings safely at home is a great tool if you’re experienced with the emotion or body focused trauma therapy process. That usually comes with working with a therapist for a while.




3. I have been told that trauma therapy is re-traumatising. Is this true?


Some therapeutic modalities and therapists believe that helping a person to re-experience painful feelings associated with past trauma can re-traumatize them. It’s true that if you don’t feel safe with your therapist or you’re not ready to feel certain emotions and feelings from the past, being pushed too quickly into these feelings can increase anxiety levels. It can also cause disconnection and dissociation. Being flooded with too many painful feelings at once makes the feelings difficult to process. When this happens there is a risk of the person defending against the therapist and therapy process itself. Even when trauma therapy proceeds at your own pace, different stages of the therapy can result in increased anxiety levels for some people. It’s at this point that people (non-trauma therapists) become fearful and say it doesn't work or that it is re-traumatising the person. Anxiety levels can be reduced with the temporary use of medication or supplements. Timing the frequency of sessions until the underlying drivers of the anxiety are felt and integrated can also help. But, it must be noted that resolution of anxiety does rely on being able to fully engage the trauma therapy process, and that's not something everyone can or wants to do.




4. Are their different types of truama and how do I know if I've suffered trauma.


To heal trauma it’s important to distinguish between trauma that occurs as an adult and that which occurs as a child. A trauma occurring in adulthood is known as situational adult-onset trauma and those that occur in childhood are known as relational or developmental trauma (which includes any kind of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse).
This distinction is important as traumas originating in childhood are metabolized differently from those originating in adulthood. Situational adult-onset trauma develops when a person experiences trauma from one-of events such as natural disasters, war, assault including rape and mugging, major accidents including car, train, or plane crashes, or medical emergencies. It tends to be an event or an experience where the adult faces the possibility of death and annihilation and has extreme difficulty coming to terms with the meaning of the catastrophic event. It has been suggested that not recognising and treating adult-onset trauma when it first occurs can cause the intergenerational transfer of trauma symptoms.
A person who is having difficulty recovering from a traumatic event as an adult may benefit greatly from processing and expressing the emotions and feelings that are associated with the trauma in a safe and supportive environment.
Relational and developmental trauma which originates within the family itself includes any emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse and assault including neglect. This is often the major reason most people seek out emotion focused trauma therapy although many are unaware that they current symptoms may be trauma related.

Developmental trauma or what is called developmental trauma disorder condenses the previously traditional diagnoses of complex trauma, attachment disorder and conduct disorders into one disorder.

This means that children tend to absorb the traumatic experience into different self states and the defences they develop (such as dissociation) become a part of their overall personality.

Adults however find it much harder to metabolise the traumatic memory so it often remains psychically undigested and their post traumatic reactions may be more observable as separate from their other personality traits[1].

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of stress and trauma as emotional stress and stressors in childhood (which are expressed in episodes of hyperarousal and dissociation) are imprinted into the developing limbic and autonomic nervous systems of the early maturing right brain.

These structural changes in the brain leave you with inefficient abilities to mentally and physically cope with stress. This creates attachment problems and emotional and stress regulation difficulties which predisposes you to later posttraumatic stress symptoms and disorders [2].

[1] Boulanger, G. (2011). Wounded by reality: Understanding and treating adult onset trauma. Mahwah. NJ: Taylor & Francis.

[2] Schore, A. N. (2002). Dysregulation of the right brain: a fundamental mechanism of traumatic attachment and the psychopathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 36(1), 9-30. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1614.2002.00996.x




5. I am on antidepressants; does that affect my therapy?


In our experience, antidepressants may slow the trauma therapy process down. Sometimes this can be helpful, especially when emotions and feelings are very painful and overwhelming. Feelings that are too much and too overwhelming in the present can make it difficult to feel the pain from the past. Yet, feeling and integrating the pain from the past is fundamental to healing childhood trauma. In this situation, medication can help to release the pain gradually. This allows you to process and integrate your emotions and feelings in a more manageable way. Later the medication can be gradually reduced and stopped. Other drugs can also have an effect on your therapy. For instance, alcohol and cigarettes are a very effective way of aiding dissociation of mind from body, and nicotine seems to persist in the brainstem and be evident for up to three weeks. Thus the body is busy "remembering", but the mind does not comprehend what the body is doing which interferes with the emotional processing component of the trauma therapy. At the Jamillon Centre, we do not offer trauma therapy retreats/intensives or individual sessions to anyone who is currently drinking heavily or using recreational drugs. We request that you be drug and alcohol-free for a minimum of 6 weeks before the commencement of therapy. We do support the attendance to belief-based groups like Alcoholics Anonymous to support you in this process so you can begin therapy.




6. Will I need to do a residential trauma therapy intensive?


While a trauma therapy intensive can be an effective way to engage the process for some people, it is not advisable and may even be contraindicated. Learning to feel is not just about breaking through defences. It's also about feeling safe with the therapist and the trauma therapy process itself. Acquiring safety takes time, sometimes months or years. Some people do best with individual therapy sessions first while they explore the therapy and learn how to use the techniques. By doing this, they can work with their therapist to determine if a residential intensive would be beneficial and if so, what length of time would be best. A trauma therapy intensive does require a financial and time commitment, so it's recommended that you have some online individual sessions first. That's a good way to determine if the trauma therapy intensive will be helpful. If the trauma therapy intensive is right for you, it can provide a good opportunity to engage with the emotional processing component of your recovery, free from outside distractions.




8. Do your therapists have any mainstream training or degrees?


Yes, all therapists are required to have university healthcare degrees. Some of these programs provide theoretical and practical training. However, this is viewed as an extension only to the central trauma therapy training each therapist undergoes. Therapists have a minimum of at least eight years’ intensive experience as a trauma therapist. Before training each therapist is required to undertake a sufficient amount of their own therapy (current therapists have all done more than ten years) and attend supervision.




11. How do I get therapy?


The first step is to contact us by email. A time is then made for the initial session in which the assessment process will begin prior to starting feelings sessions. This allows you to meet the therapist and discuss whether an emotion focused somatic based trauma therapy is right for you.




10. How much does it cost?


Sessions fee for one hour is 160.00AUD. No Medicare rebates are available. One and half hour or open-ended sessions are available (pay per hour used based on 160.00AUD per hour). Trauma therapy intensives vary between one to ten days in length and are charged on a pay as you go basis. Read more about the therapy intensive process here...




What is the difference between counselling and therapy?


Although you might think there’s a difference between counselling and therapy they can and do overlap, depending on the approach of your counsellor or therapist. Generally though counselling is believed to be more focused on problems in the present, whereas therapy tends to be more concerned with healing your past and allowing the authentic you to emerge.

Both counselling and therapy can help you to understand how your past affects your current relationships and life and they can and do help you achieve your present and future goals. Counselling can be shorter in duration than therapy but this will always depend upon what outcomes you’re looking for.





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© 2015  Jamillon Centre - updated August 2020