It used to be that when working with trauma, so much of our focus centered on helping clients process their traumatic experience.
But over the past several years, we’ve gained a better understanding that that’s just one piece of the work – and perhaps now more than ever, we understand that multiple approaches are often needed to address different facets of a client’s trauma.
For example, researchers like Martin Bohus, PhD are finding that social traumas like traumatic invalidation can play just as much of role in the development of PTSD as the traumatic event itself.
In the video below, Martin walks us through the link between traumatic invalidation and PTSD and why it often requires a distinct treatment plan.
Have a look.
And I would say when our psychological apparatus evolved, the first thing we learned is you have to stay in your group, whenever it counts. Since if you lose your group, you’re dead. So this means whenever you are threatened to be rejected by your group or getting out of your group, it’s a question of life and death. So when you think of social synchronization and what this means? My emotional system is equal to the system of my peer group, is the primary basic for survival. Social invalidation then means that my basic principle of social survival is questioned.
And so this means you are threatened all the time. You don’t know what to do, you don’t know how to interpret messages from others. You don’t know how to interpret your own messages. This means you are always on the level of fear of being rejected and abandoned, and this means you cannot do anything else but this. This means this patient cannot stay alone since they’re ruminating all the time. What happens is outside they cannot trust anybody and so on.
So when targeting this, I wouldn’t say that intrusions are less important than traumatic invalidation. It’s the same. The basic idea is that you understand these are two different systems. And the idea that some psychotherapists often have is that they have this one treatment for all systems. So if you treat the intrusions, then everything gets back. That’s not true. It’s like you have a multiple organ problem: you have a heart, you have a liver, and you have a spleen.
And if you have problems in the heart, the liver and the spleen, and you only take the spleen, then you have still problems in the heart and the liver. And then you have therapists who say, “Okay, the spleen is the most important. The other ones I don’t think so much.” I say, “No, no, no, you have three problems, and you have to target all these three. Otherwise you can save one problem, but this doesn’t mean that this client can create a life worth living.”
And so for this reason, I meanwhile think that if you want to understand complex PTSD, we have to consider at least the disorder is a dual hit [inaudible 00:04:50] pathogenesis. The first hit is the trauma, which may be sexual or physical trauma. And the other is a social trauma decision. And so going more in deeper details that this is a different mental process than the trauma itself and it requires a different treatment approach, then we get a little bit closer to the thing.
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Now we’d like to hear from you. What strategies have you used to work with the impact of traumatic invalidation? Leave a comment below and let us know.