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Traumas can happen anywhere and have a variety of outcomes on human mental and physical health. Some people are not able to recognize that they survive traumas and continue living without proper treatment and help, contributing to new problems and challenges. It is recommended to discover various perspectives of traumas, relying on evidence-based practices and theoretical underpinnings. In this paper, a reflective summary of the readings about somatic, spiritual, psychobiological, and social approaches to treating trauma will be developed.
The definition of trauma, its signs and effects will be given to clarify what kind of help should be offered to a particular patient in a certain situation – a counselor with vicarious trauma. The evaluation of personal experience will help to identify the main characteristics of trauma and choose the most effective treatment plans. Being a regular event in human life, trauma should not be a problem for the population but another disease that can be treated or prevented.
There are many methods to work with trauma and solve abuse issues. Practitioners have to consider the age of a patient, personal characteristics, and available resources. For example, in his intentions to study trauma in either children or adults, Purnell (2010) underlined the importance of attachment theory in the implementation of psychotherapeutic interventions. This theory is based on Bowlby’s concept of a secure base when the first contact with someone who provides comfort and safety occurs (Purnell, 2010). Affective and cognitive information is used to respond to danger, deal with fear and consider personal needs. The strength of this model is the possibility to develop the already gained attachment patterns and shape behaviors with the help of which coping with stress are possible.
Somatic experiencing is another form of treating traumas in people of different ages. Payne, Levine, and Crane-Godreau (2015) introduced a theory of human trauma and chronic stress as a possibility to analyze visceral or interoception experiences and musculoskeletal, including proprioception and kinesthesis, experiences. Compared to the already known cognitive therapies where attention is paid to emotions and cognition of traumatic memories but new experiences and effective resolutions.
Traumas may influence people physiologically and emotionally, and when the spirit of a person is broken, it is high time to search for some new solutions and therapies. Simington (2013) discussed trauma as spiritual disconnection and considered spiritual healing as one of the effective methods to help a patient. The idea of soul retrieval through dissociative experiences consists of four steps: healing, updating, soul-body integration, and processing. Reconnection with reality is the climax of this spiritual theory according to which people are ready to address their emotional, mental and social needs and deal with their traumatic past.
Finally, many people cannot get rid of the outcomes of trauma and continue suffering from physiological and emotional burdens. In this case, complex trauma-related disorders are developed and require specific help. Steele, van der Hart and Nijenhuis (2005) offered the theory of structural dissociation of the personality according to which the division into several prototypical parts with its psychobiological underpinnings occurs. This phase-oriented treatment consists of the stage of stabilization and the reduction of symptoms, the reconsideration of traumatic memories, and the necessity of personality integration that results in rehabilitation. Properly defined steps in work with trauma and abuse issues can be applied to different situations and help patients improve the quality of life.
Trauma Definition and Signs
Taking into consideration the discussions of the chosen readings and the approaches to deal with trauma-related problems, a clear definition and a list of signs of traumas can be given. Payne et al. (2015) mentioned that the word “trauma” can be used in different ways and contexts. The definition chosen by Simington (2013) on the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-MD) represents a number of effective characteristics.
Trauma is an “event involving the actual or imagined threat of death or serious injury to self or others, or a response to intense fear, helplessness or horror, in reaction to a traumatic event” (DSM-MD as cited in Simington, 2013, p. 1). Its major signals may include confusion and difficulty to pay attention to something, unexplainable fear or anxiety, shock, feelings of hopelessness. According to Simington (2013), the body usually loses its ability to respond, and the autonomic nervous system becomes overwhelmed. Children may start crying, and adults freeze or fight (Steele et al., 2005). In any case, behavioral changes are the most evident signs of this condition.
When a person experiences trauma, a professional counselor is probably the first person to address it. However, there are cases when counselors themselves are the victims of such events. Nowadays, this situation is known as vicarious trauma or the cost of caring when compassion fatigue results in behavioral changes. Because of working with people who have their specific traumatic stories and events, counselors are also exposed to the emotional residue and witness some fear, anger, or other negative emotions.
In fact, all the possible outcomes of trauma work on counselors are hard to recognize because much depends on how people are able to control their emotions and give advice. Counselors may feel a lack of interest in their job, lose sleep, change working places, be exhausted, have no motivation, and avoid their direct responsibilities. The personal lives of counselors are also challenged due to the inability to express their feelings and emotions in a proper way and build relationships with dignity and respect.
Sometimes, trauma remains unrevealed for a long period, leading to serious mental and emotional changes. My personal experience was one of such situations when traumatic memories challenged me and my role as a mother. When I was pregnant, I slipped and got spinal injuries that made me disabled for the rest of that pregnancy. I experienced terrible pain during the birth of my son and suffered from the same pain after the birth.
I could not guess that I had post-traumatic stress disorder until I talked to a doctor. Because of the impossibility to identify this emotional trauma at an early stage, its signs continued growing: fear to leave home, unwillingness to spend much time with the son, and multiple panic attacks. I was paralyzed with fear, and the doctor recommended me re-running the whole traumatic experience, remember all the details, and realize that there is nothing to worry about at this moment. As soon as I unlocked my unconsciously closed traumatic memories, I got a chance to become a good mother and feel safe.
Traumas can be of different types and lead to a number of outcomes. Despite the intentions to predict traumas, sometimes, people are not able to reveal they’re true problems and suffer from traumatic memories unconsciously. The theories by Payne et al., Purnell, Simington, and Steele et al. help to define the signals of traumas and choose the most effective treatment plans. Traumas challenge people, but there is always a chance to improve the quality of life using a counselor’s help and therapies.
Payne, P., Levine, P. A., & Crane-Godreau, M. A. (2015). Somatic experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. Web.
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Purnell, C. (2010). Childhood trauma and adult attachment. Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, 10(2), 9-13.
Simington, J. A. (2013). Trauma and dissociation: Neurological and spiritual perspectives. Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy, 3(3). Web.
Steele, K., van der Hart, O., & Nijenhuis, E. R. S. (2005). Phase-oriented treatment of structural dissociation in complex traumatization: Overcoming trauma-related phobias. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 6(3), 11-53.