NEED FOR TRAUMA INFORMED CARE

When you have the resources in place, you know how to handle the intensity of emotions and physiological sensations that come with reopening a scary can of worms. So your trauma informed therapist will help you use the right tools from your toolkit to re-story your narrative.


Why is it important to find yourself a therapist who is trauma informed?


Ever caught yourself in this vicious cycle of relationships where you keep re-enacting the same role, and your partner exhibits behaviours exactly like your ex or one of your parents? You thought that this time around, maybe things would be different… that they were not like your ex, and that they wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. Yet, you see one tiny thing, the ‘red flag’ and you feel your entire body paralyse in that moment, exactly the way it did when your ex exhibited the same behaviour with you for the first time. You’re probably frozen in that moment, maybe even collapsing, trying to make sense of what is happening, but it feels difficult to process anything in that moment. You numb it out and when you can finally get the words out and articulate what happened, it’s too late to talk about it. The moment has passed. Sound familiar?


I’ll get back to this in a bit, but I have a few questions I want you to answer before we come back to this.


What is trauma according to you? How would you define it? Does it have to be only about war veterans and survivors of sexual abuse? Is it okay to say that you may be carrying trauma without the PTSD label? What do you think is trauma informed care? Take a minute to think about this.


Back to that story about your ex…


You’re in shock about how you ended up making the same mistake again, realising that this relationship wasn’t all that different like you thought it would be… How does your body react to this thought? Probably not very well... You feel those uneasy knots in your tummy, the lump in your throat, and the dryness in your mouth. You want to crawl into a corner and cry. Or better yet, run and never be found by anyone. Do you think that all the decisions you make from that place are completely rational and well thought out? What emotions come up then? If you’re finding a bit of difficulty answering these questions, or feeling a sense of intensity, then there’s probably something we need to unpack.


Now, I don’t mean to box everything into the PTSD label and for sure, it limits someone’s experience when we try to box them all together with big words and jargon, because all of that is pointless when we don’t know what to do with the contents in that box. This is why you need a trauma informed therapist, regardless of whether you believe you carry trauma or not. Not just because trauma is no longer restricted to the traditional definition, but because we live in an extremely complex world, with even more complex experiences, which may have been impactful in ways that we may have not yet understood completely. When whatever you experience in the outside world, meets your inner world, it creates neural pathways that wire together, helping you create your own stories, realities and core beliefs. When some of these are faulty, it creates a system of destruction in those specific areas of your life. It’s like a ticking time bomb, waiting to detonate. Just the right trigger, and puff, it blows up. And the remnants are far scarier than you thought it would be.


We see the word ‘trauma’ being liberally used everywhere now. Everyone is talking about their traumas from their past relationships, their childhoods and the different origin stories that make them who they are. If we’re all talking about it collectively as a society, and can relate to these stories, it probably means that we all have wounds that need soothing. So how do we heal from it? Is it enough if we go to therapy and talk about it? Does just talking about it always help? How many times have we self detonated when someone forced us to share our story when we weren’t ready?


When you’re made to share your story of trauma as a way of ‘sharing your vulnerabilities,’ you’re technically re-traumatising yourself. This is because your mind and body is closely linked, and you’re reactivating neural pathways that were strengthened during your experience of any intense emotion or traumatic experience. You put yourself through the intensity of that experience, not knowing how to put off the unpleasant memories, thoughts and feelings that come with it. Of course there are a lot of supportive, amazing people out there wanting to help you out and see you heal. They probably believe that the way to do this is to force you to talk about it, even when you’re not ready. And your body will probably never be ready to do that, until you have the resources to actually deal with it. It’s like putting together Dumbledore’s army and training all the finest wizards that want to defeat Voldemort, before actually getting into the battlefield. It’s like your own personal patronus charm, something to help you conjure a sense of safety, hope and self control when you face your darkest, scariest experiences. Your friends can be great sources of support, but they’ll never be great therapists, and that is okay. That doesn’t make them bad friends, because it is not your friend or loved one’s job to be your therapist. This is one of the other reasons why you need a trained, trauma focused provider to help you work through these repeated cycles that you’ve really tried to change, but have been unsuccessful in.


Now let’s look at some maintenance or housekeeping tasks that a trauma focussed provider would do, before they actually get into the story of the trauma itself, to help you work through it.


1. Building safety


When you go to a trauma focussed therapist, they would first try to help you build a sense of trust and safety in your immediate environment, ie, the therapy room, and your internal world, ie, your own body.


2. Using destigmatising language


A trauma informed therapist understands you from the context of where you come from, rather than evaluate your behaviours as adaptive or maladaptive. They would understand the complexities that made you do the things you did, and the decisions you made, and will hold space for you to safely explore them, just the way a child safely explores a new environment, because they know they can always run back to their parents who serve as their secure base if something scary shows up. For this, the child needs to trust that their parents will be there when they run back, and will have their back no matter what. They will not label you or make you feel bad about what has happened, instead they will understand that your actions were a consequence of the context you were in, rather than a fundamental issue with your personality itself.


3. Creating a shame free, empowering space


A trauma informed therapist creates a shame free zone for you to open up parts of yourself that you’ve put off addressing for the longest time because of your fears of judgement from yourself and others. This is not just about creating a non judgemental territory for you, but also an empowering space that fosters genuine growth and healing from your past traumas.


4. Providing tools for working through the trauma


Once the groundwork is laid, it is easier to open the can of worms. By this time, you probably also know that you can trust your therapist to be able to handle whatever information you may hurl at them. They help you build a support network, give you resources that will actually work for you to work with the trauma when you really get into the nitty gritties of it. Remember the time I spoke about Dumbledore’s army? Something like that.


5. Understanding your cultural context and how intersectionality plays a role in how we process our feelings, thoughts and how it affects our body.


Have you ever shared a story with someone, only to feel like they didn’t fully understand where you came from? Your trauma informed therapist may not know exactly every single detail about the culture you come from, but they will make an effort to understand it from your perspective and worldview, hoping to bolster your confidence in sharing your story. Understanding you from your perspective will give them direction about where you’re feeling stuck and will be able to take it from there. A trauma informed practitioner may not always be intersectional in their approach, but in a country like ours, it is beneficial to see a therapist who understands the workings of different systems and their intersectional complexities.


Something as complex as therapy cannot be boxed into what it is, and what it isn't. It is a beautiful blend between art and science, woven together and delivered delicately in such a way that you get the most out of it. There are different theories that say different things about how trauma needs to be dealt with. While each theory has its own truth to it, it is important that you find yourself a therapist who has the qualities that make you feel safe, empowered, resourceful and unintimidated. Even if you’re feeling off about one of these things, it’s okay for you to look for another therapist who can provide the space for you to do the work.


Now let’s talk about actually doing the work…


When you have the resources in place, you know how to handle the intensity of emotions and physiological sensations that come with reopening a scary can of worms. So your trauma informed therapist will help you use the right tools from your toolkit to re-story your narrative.


This process usually involves mind-body work because just the way your mind remembers incidents, your body keeps score too. You need to rewire certain neural pathways in order to get to the other side, where your nervous system no longer feels the need to be in a state of hyperarousal when you’re in situations that cause you to get triggered. It helps you safely expose yourself to tiny doses of the trauma, only to the extent in which you can take it, and helps you actively reduce the intensity of it.


Remember the paralysis you felt when you went to the mall that you always used to go to with your ex? Rewiring your neural pathways not only allows you to go back to the mall without feeling the queasiness in your body, but also helps you slowly forget the memories associated with that. Neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that your new memories have the ability to replace old ones, thanks to the plasticity of the brain, and this can help you create newer feelings in your body that are no longer associated with the trauma.


Make sure to find yourself a therapist who not just knows what to do when you start speaking about your trauma, but starts laying the groundwork early on, even before you’re ready to go there. Trust your gut feeling. You are the expert of your own story, and your trauma informed therapist should be affirmative and understanding of that. If you feel off even without having any reasoning for it, it is okay for you to seek out another professional who may create a better space for you to work through your trauma in a way that makes sense to you.


Written By - Sanjana Prasad


Your mental health matters as much as your physical health. Don't hesitate to take a step towards your mental well-being. If you’re looking at talking to a professional, book your Initial Consultation with us on https://www.themoodspace.com/freeconsultation or write to us at info@themoodspace.com. Take a step towards bettering your mental wellbeing because you deserve it!


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