Trauma Therapy in New Jersey

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Trauma Therapy in New Jersey

Types of Trauma

Trauma comes in many forms. When most people think of trauma, they imagine a person struggling with a single, physically dangerous experience like an assault. However, the reality is that trauma can be mental, physical, emotional, social, or even financial. Trauma can occur after a single event, or trauma can happen as a result of repeated stressful situations that cause emotional or psychological harm. Trauma is divided into three types known as acute, chronic, and complex trauma.

Acute Trauma

This form of trauma is generally the result of a single traumatic event like a sexual assault, a car accident, or a surviving a disaster. The traumatic event occurred and it was severe enough to damage an individual’s emotional and physical sense of security. This ultimately will change an individual’s thought patterns and behavior. This form of trauma displays the following symptoms:

  • Unhealthy sleeping patterns
  • Neglecting grooming habits
  • Aggression or angry outbursts
  • Inability to trust others
  • The feeling of being disconnected
  • Extreme moments of panic and anxiety
  • Cognitive confusion

Chronic Trauma

This form of trauma is caused by an ongoing traumatic experience that consistently occurred for an extended period of time. Chronic trauma survivors result from experiences like domestic violence, bullying, ongoing military combat, or surviving a long-term illness. The symptoms start to occur long after the past traumatic experiences. This is very similar to individuals who develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Individuals suffering from this form of trauma experience the same symptoms as those with acute trauma, but also experience many additional, severe physical and psychological symptoms like complex digestive issues, flashbacks, and chronic headaches.

These individuals also have difficulty trusting which makes it very difficult for them to have a job or be involved in a romantic relationship.

Complex Trauma

This mental illness is the result of being exposed to several various traumatic events or experiences. Usually, this is caused within an interpersonal relationship like a loved one. This causes the person to feel trapped. This will often have a serious impact on someone’s mind. This is typically seen in trauma survivors of childhood abuse, long-term neglect, consistent unstable family life, domestic violence, and other repetitive, destructive situations. This form of trauma also makes it difficult to trust, build relationships or focus on building a career.

Regardless of the type of trauma that occurs after a traumatic event or series of events, it’s important to seek the help necessary to recover. Mental health professionals recognize that everyone experiences trauma differently. That is why trauma therapists use a variety of treatment methods in treating trauma as each person requires a unique treatment plan.

Explore Common Types of Trauma-Focused Therapy

Therapy comes in a variety of forms. Different types of trauma therapy can be more effective for different people and different situations. Trauma therapy can have a specific timeline in mind, or it can be an open-ended treatment. Here are a few of the most common trauma-informed therapy options.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of trauma treatment overall. This treatment involves your therapist helping you identify unhelpful thought and behavioral patterns from trauma-related issues. Once you recognize distorted and harmful thoughts, your therapist then teaches you techniques to neutralize those thoughts and create healthier habits. 

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy uses these techniques to help patients unpack trauma and recognize the ways trauma is distorting their thoughts. Then they use the therapy to develop more effective coping skills.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is very similar to CBT, but it’s a little more targeted to treat PTSD. Unlike CBT, trauma-informed CPT isn’t about improving general wellbeing. Instead, it has a narrow focus on trauma-induced behaviors. You do things like identify triggers and get tools for handling PTSD symptoms. CPT works by challenging your thoughts behind the cause of your trauma, so you can reframe it in a healthier light.

Prolonged Exposure

Often called exposure therapy, prolonged exposure (PE) is a type of behavioral therapy often used to treat trauma. This therapy involves exposing yourself to the things you fear to help you become better acclimated to them. If you decide to try prolonged exposure therapy, it’s very important to work with a trauma-focused therapist. They have the training needed to help you actually process fearful experiences instead of simply worsening your trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a cutting-edge trauma treatment that combines mental and physical exercises. The EMDR therapist guides patients through exercises where they move their eyes or tap the sides of their bodies while recalling traumatic events. This bilateral stimulation may help people to process memories of trauma. EMDR therapy also helps to desensitize you to traumatic events, so they’re less likely to bother you in day-to-day life.

What to Expect During Trauma Therapy

Whether you've tried therapy before or not, trauma therapy can be a little unusual. Knowing what to expect in advance can help you figure out if trauma therapy is right for you.

How to Decide If You Need Trauma Therapy

Of course, the first step to getting help for trauma is recognizing you need assistance. This can be quite tricky. There are no strict rules about who needs trauma-focused treatment. All sorts of traumatic experiences can trigger mental health issues, and different people will react differently to the same traumatic event. It’s important to remember trauma processing is unique to each individual and each traumatic experience.

You don’t necessarily need to be diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health conditions before you get trauma therapy. Therapy can be helpful any time you are struggling with the effects of trauma-related memories. It’s probably a good idea to speak to someone if you notice any of these issues.

  • You’re dealing with severe anxiety, depression, or fear
  • You find yourself unable to maintain healthy relationships with others
  • You’re struggling to work or fulfill other daily responsibilities
  • You get intense stress from random, seemingly-harmless situations
  • You no longer enjoy things you used to love
  • You’re turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with a trauma
  • You suffer from intense flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event
  • You go to extreme measures to try to avoid future trauma

Trauma Therapy Techniques

No matter which type of trauma-specific treatment you get, you will usually experience a few classic techniques during your therapy. The most common therapy technique is simply talking (talk therapy). You’ll sit somewhere comfortable and talk with the trauma therapist. You can expect them to guide you through various discussions. They’ll ask you questions, encourage you to describe your feelings, or inquire about your thoughts. In addition to traumatic events, you may discuss your daily life or plans for the future.

Your therapist may also give you “homework” to do outside of your therapy sessions. One of the most common exercises is a journal where you note events and thoughts related to your traumatic memory. This can be a helpful way of processing thoughts and ensuring you remember to talk about them in therapy. Other exercises can include challenging yourself to do things like talk to others or find a new hobby.

Some therapy may also include planning techniques like creating goals or rewards. Your trauma-informed therapist might encourage you to pick specific goals and then reward you for reaching those goals. This can provide a powerful form of motivation for overcoming certain types of trauma. Goals can focus on trauma-specific things like returning to the site of a former trauma, or they can be general wellness goals like eating enough food.