Traumatic events can change who we are. How we see ourselves and the world can be altered when we’ve been hurt by someone close to us or suffered a threat to our life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex-PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural reaction that can happen when we experience an event where our life is threatened such as exposure to combat, a natural disaster or an act of violence. PTSD can also be caused by the unexpected death of a loved one or witnessing traumatic events happen to others.
Complex trauma is different in that it is thought to be caused by ongoing trauma and/or abuse that occurs repeatedly over time. Often this type of trauma as a result of childhood abuse or neglect. It may also be caused by a traumatized parent who unintentionally creates ongoing stress for the child. Childhood sexual abuse and/or incest also has long term consequences for the victim and often leads to complex-PTSD.
A parent with a mental disorder or personality disorder can create relational trauma for the child through repeated violation of boundaries, rejection, betrayal, and confusion. This situation is difficult for the child as the parent becomes a source of trauma and a the same time the child needs the parent for reassurance and safety.
In this way, the trauma is not always a threat to physical life but is emotional in nature. The people who are supposed to protect us when we are young become the source of fear and distress instead.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Trauma-focused trauma therapy is designed to address the specific needs of men women and children who are dealing with the effects of early trauma. Trauma-focused CBT can be used to address either single incident trauma or ongoing trauma from childhood abuse.
Research has demonstrated CBT’s effectiveness in treating adults who have suffered a history of child abuse. It can be used to address the unique challenges children and youth suffer such as mood disorders and anxiety.
Early trauma can lead to guilt, anger, feelings of powerlessness and self-harm. In the case of children and adolescents, the non-offending parent or caregiver can sometimes participate in therapy as well in order to bring in a family-based approach.
The Benefits of Therapy for Trauma Survivors
If you or your child or adolescent has been exposed to a traumatic event or ongoing trauma it is important to get treatment. Untreated trauma can have lasting effects on the life of the child in many ways. Without help, it is difficult to stop bothersome thoughts and memories of the abuse. The effects of trauma can cause ongoing stress and impact sleep and appetite. Additionally, a healthy state of mind is essential for concentration and learning in school.
Early therapy for children and adolescents can help avoid the development of depression and anxiety later in life. Trauma-focused therapy can teach coping skills and help reduce the emotional symptoms associated with trauma.
It is important to find a therapist you feel comfortable working with who is trained and has experience working with trauma-focused CBT.
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