Rethinking Trauma: The Third Wave of Trauma Treatment

As someone who’s been practicing for a while, I’ve seen our view on the treatment of trauma go through substantial development. Our research, theory and treatments have all advanced considerably in the last 40 years. And as I reflect upon this, I’m seeing 3 waves in the evolution of our outlook. Looking back at when I first began to practice (in the late 70’s) our understanding of trauma was really quite limited. Of course we recognized the fight / flight response ever since Hans Selye introduced the notion back in the 50’s. But our prevailing treatment option was talk therapy….

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PTSD, the Brain, and Pain

A single traumatic experience can set off many different levels of pain, whether emotional or physical, acute or chronic. But can PTSD affect how the brain processes pain? Marla Mickleborough, MA, of the University of British Columbia and Judith Daniels, PhD, of the University of Western Ontario, wanted to find out whether the brain might actually mitigate pain in the presence of trauma. They gathered an experimental group of patients with PTSD and a control group of people who had experienced trauma but had never developed PTSD. Researchers placed the subjects in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner while…

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Fear and Shame: Loosening Trauma’s Grip

Often a trauma patient’s body seems to tell them, “There’s something wrong with me. Everything is my fault. I’m so ashamed.” It’s challenging, helping patients learn how to quiet the messages their bodies are sending them so they can self-regulate and heal. And for some clients, just hearing the word body can activate a fear response. So is there a way we can help patients begin to make peace with their bodies when they feel so vulnerable? According to Pat Ogden, PhD, it begins by helping them experience the body as a resource to aid their healing. Pat illustrates one…

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Helping Trauma Survivors Shed Feelings of Shame

For trauma survivors, one of the most insidious roadblocks to healing is often the debilitating feeling of shame that can linger after a traumatic experience. So how can practitioners help clients begin to reclaim a sense of self-worth? Kerstin Jung, PhD and Regina Steil, PsyD, at Goethe University Frankfurt, in Frankfurt, Germany, wanted to find out whether Cognitive Restructuring and Imagery Modification (CRIM) could empower adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to move beyond feelings of shame associated with trauma. CRIM is designed to help patients do two things: change the way they see themselves (Cognitive Restructuring), and change the…

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Resistance to PTSD: Could It Be in Your DNA?

Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD. So what might be boosting the resilience of the folks who experience trauma and don’t suffer from PTSD? According to Israel Liberzon, MD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, genetic factors might play a role. When combined with trauma in early childhood, a tiny DNA change (or a mutation), called a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), in a gene called ADRB2 could help predict whether or not a person will be more resilient (or more susceptible) to PTSD later in life. Inside of our cells, ADRB2 plays a role in how adrenaline affects our…

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Three Ways Trauma Can Change the Brain

The treatment of trauma can be some of the most complex work practitioners face. And for years, this challenge was complicated by not having a clear picture of the impact that trauma has on the brain. But scientific advances within just the past few years have opened the eyes of practitioners to what actually happens in the brain of someone who has experienced trauma. And according to Bessel van der Kolk, MD, there are three major ways that the brain changes in response to trauma. To find out what they are (and their impact on the body), take a look…

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