Trauma is any event that overwhelms us. There are little “t” traumas – everyday stressors and those that cause disruption to our development. And there is big “T” trauma – rape, assault, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and war. A concern with trauma – from therapist's perspective is development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is an exaggerated reaction to trauma, when the person's sense of self changes. After, a person may blame him or herself for the event as a way to keep the world safe.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to the DSM-IV-TR is:
Any one of the following:
- recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event
- recurrent distressing dreams of the event
- acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring
- intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues
- physiological reactivity
- efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with trauma
- efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections
- inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
- markedly diminished interest or participation in significant events
- feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
- restricted range of emotions
- sense of foreshortened future
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- irritability or outbursts of anger
- difficulty concentrating
- exaggerated startle response
The goal of therapy after any traumatic event should be for the person to regain a sense of safety in the world and/or of his or her own body AND completing the unfinished past by helping the client to assimilate and accommodate their experience. Yes, some time should be spent giving the person time to talk through what happened, but always with the purpose of furthering the person's understanding/grasp of the event.
Therapists at Philadelphia MFT are hear to listen and help with this process in a setting that focuses on client's needs.
This topic of the week was written by Brian Swope, MFT