What is Trauma-Focused Therapy?
Therapy provides a safe and confidential place for a person to talk to a professional about personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, or problems. People who go to therapy may have experienced a situation that disrupts and/or impacts their thinking, mood, feelings, or ability to relate to others. People may also seek therapy because they want a neutral and safe place to talk about general life experiences. Many people seek out therapy: adults, children, families, and even therapists themselves.
Everyone needs somewhere they feel safe and supported.
The therapist's role is to help the person understand their situation, teach strategies to express themselves and cope with future potentially stressful situations. The therapist can also offer the individual or family tools to help them manage difficult feelings and/or negative thoughts and behaviors.
What is Trauma-Focused Play Therapy?
Trauma-Focused Play Therapy is a specific approach to therapy that recognizes and emphasizes understanding how the traumatic experience impacts a child’s mental, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. This type of therapy is rooted in understanding the connection between the trauma experience and developmental, emotional, and behavioral responses. Trauma-focused therapy offers coping skills, evidence-based interventions, and strategies to assist your child in better understanding, coping with, and processing emotions and memories tied to traumatic experiences. The end goal is to enable your child to create a healthier and more adaptive meaning of the experience that took place in their life and handle daily life challenges and stressors.
Benefits of Trauma-Focused Therapy
Trauma-Focused Therapy can be beneficial to those who have experienced a traumatic event. By engaging in trauma-focused treatment, the client can learn more about what they are experiencing, how to address their concerns, and develop healthier coping methods.
The following are a few examples of the benefits of trauma-focused therapy:
Learn About Trauma.
Trauma-focused therapy provides a space for individuals, children, and their families to learn about normal responses to trauma and specifically how a traumatic event has impacted them. This discovery and learning type helps the client digest why certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors might occur, gives names and explanations to their experiences, and reminds the client that they are not alone in their experience.
A traumatic experience, by definition, violates the client’s sense of safety. This includes physical, emotional, psychological, and/or relational safety violations. A benefit of trauma-focused therapy is to assist the client in re-developing internal (emotional, psychological, relational) and physical (perceived boundaries, felt-sense, the environment) senses of safety through activities, evidence-based interventions, and discussions that target these domains.
Participating in trauma-focused therapy can help the client learn to identify, understand, explore, and express memories and feelings related to the trauma. Oftentimes, the client may feel or show reactions that appear to “come out of nowhere” or are out of proportion for an experience, but it may be that these are actually reactions to trauma reminders. Another benefit of treatment is that the client can learn to recognize what experiences or feelings may be associated with traumatic reminders (also known as triggers) and work to be able to adapt their response over time more appropriately.
Develop Healthy Coping Skills.
Trauma-focused therapy sessions aim to help clients discover skills and improve coping strategies to better respond to reminders and emotions associated with the traumatic event. Some of these skills include anxiety management, mindful coping skills, breathing, and other somatic strategies that may decrease their symptoms. Developing these types of skills in response to trauma supports resiliency or assists the client in “bouncing back” from their experience.
Decrease in Traumatic Stress Symptoms.
Engaging in trauma-focused therapy and working closely with the therapist can help the client develop and practice skills that help decrease traumatic stress symptoms and other mental health symptoms associated with the trauma. The client may experience decreased depression, anxiety, dissociation, trauma-related shame or guilt, and/or intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares.
Practice Trauma Processing or Integration.
Trauma-informed therapy aims to help the client regain power and control over past experiences by sensitively assisting them to re-narrate their story. Over time, the client may “process” or organize these unique experiences into their everyday life and make meaning of the event(s) and how they relate to the client's view of themselves and the world around them.