• Moving Through Trauma: How Individual Therapy Can Help

    In two previous posts, we explored how trauma can affect individuals and impact couples. In many cases, Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy can help both the traumatized individual and their partner. However, there are times when individual treatment may also be useful.

    Trauma takes many forms. It can happen any time events occur that change a person’s core beliefs about their safety, security, agency or self-worth. While many understand that dramatic events — such as those experienced in military combat — can create trauma, it also may result from other circumstances, such as a sexual assault, a car accident, a partner’s betrayal or even a childhood with abusive or neglectful parents. These are more common — and widespread — causes of trauma.

    Trauma is more likely to occur if the person is alone, isolated or not supported by others following the event. An individual’s response to trauma can confuse family members or their partner, provoking unwanted reactions such as anger or fear. This can create even greater disconnection, isolation and emotional deprivation.

    Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy helps clients out of these difficult patterns and shows them how to share emotion and be vulnerable with each other. Clarifying communications helps a traumatized person create a safe “base” that helps rewrite the emotional stories the trauma sparked. This perception of safety can mitigate trauma responses on a neurologic level.

    In some cases, individual therapy can also be helpful, and good options are available. We’re fortunate to live in a time in which effective new treatments for trauma are being developed. The Veterans Administration authorizes three types of individual treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Cognitive Reprocessing Therapy; Prolonged Exposure Therapy; and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

    EMDR is a research-based treatment that targets the memories that trigger unwanted fight, flight or freeze responses experienced by trauma victims. One of the advantages of EMDR is that the patient does not have to talk about disturbing events in detail.

    When the victim is ready to process a traumatic memory in a typical EMDR session, the therapist moves two fingers back and forth across their field of vision while asking them to follow the movement with their eyes. The eye movements stimulate the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which seems to enhance the processing of triggering memories. You can read more about EMDR at emdria.org, and there’s also an excellent book on the topic, Getting Past Your Past, by Francine Shapiro.

    If you’ve experienced trauma, know that help is available. Trauma doesn’t have to steal joy from your life and your relationships. We’re here to help. Contact Couples Therapy Orlando at couplestherapyorlando.com or by calling 407-579-2070. Moving through trauma — and toward a happier future — is possible.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.