When it comes to trauma therapy, “Slower is faster.”
For those of you who may be hearing this for the first time, let’s break it down.
I tend to look at trauma therapy in three stages.
Focuses on building rapport with the therapist. This is such an important step that is needed for the therapy to be successful. The therapeutic relationship, particularly for those who have experienced trauma, is imperative. Without a good, trusting foundation, process will be difficult. You want to feel seen and heard by your therapist. You should never be put in a place where you feel like you need to take care of the therapist. They are there to provide you with a safe space.
Stage one work also entails helping you acquire coping skills and resources. For instance, if you’re having nightmares or insomnia, sometimes linking you to a psychiatrist may be helpful. It is also a phase where you can learn different grounding techniques to help with trauma symptoms, such as flashbacks, body memories, irritability, tension held somatically etc.
Focuses on working with the trauma and how it shows up in your life today. Some of my clients want to discuss details of the trauma and some don’t. This is subjective. You don’t need to talk about memories in order to heal. You can heal by addressing the ways in which trauma symptoms and memories “leak” out in your daily life.
Involves re-integrating into life (once trauma has been worked through). For instance, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, this phase may help address relationship issues (such as challenges with intimacy/sex/touch/dating). If you deal with social anxiety, this phase may address more about how to take safe risks in working on this anxiety, etc.
These stages of trauma therapy are not set in stone. They are client centered. You can be in stage three work and need to revisit stage one tools. This is simply a framework to work with, as therapy needs to be tailored to each individual.