Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects millions of people all over the world. It’s a condition that we often associate with returning military but can have a much broader application. In fact, PTSD can be the result of any very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience. Essentially PTSD or Complex PTSD occurs as a result of that traumatic memory being unprocessed by the brain as having ended. It is therefore available to highjack the present as re-occurring or about to re-occur.
When it comes to treating this kind of condition there are a number of different options available.
This has been established as one of the most effective options for treating PTSD. The purpose of CBT is to look at ways of identifying, understanding and challenging what may have become deeply ingrained thought and behaviour patterns. It revolves around regular therapy appointments, as well as activities that are completed outside of the treatment room.
CBT usually consists of two major components: exposure and cognitive restructuring. The exposure therapy part of the treatment is designed to help people face the trauma memory in a safe and controlled way, whether that is via the use of mental imagery, writing or returning to places that might be relevant.
Being gradually exposed to trauma can make someone less sensitive to it over time. The second element – cognitive restructuring – provides the tools to make sense of a bad experience. This might be because someone is mis-remembering what happened or because guilt or shame about something that isn’t actually their fault are clouding a realistic perspective on the trauma. There are also some more specific types of CBTs that may be appropriate for individual situations, such as Stress Inoculation Training, which is intended to help reduce anxiety by teaching coping skills.
This approach to therapy revolves around supporting someone in processing thoughts and feelings that might be related to trauma. It involves paying attention to a back and forth movement (bilateral stimulation) while the memory, thought or feeling (the negative and positive cognition) around the trauma is brought to mind. EMDR has often been found to be an effective tool for trauma, although it has not yet been definitely established whether the movement or the exposure part of the therapy is what works best.
This type of treatment doesn’t spotlight the trauma as much as the impact that it might be having on someone’s life today. It looks at the current issues that someone might be processing and provides psychoeducation about how trauma impacts people as well as teaching tools on how to process and problem solve the issues that come up.
Although not usually offered as the main solution to PTSD, medication can often be used together with the therapies above. The most common medications offered to sufferers of PTSD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
PTSD and trauma are treatable with the right therapy and the right therapist. There are many different treatment options available today and it is always worth seeking help.
The Grove has a strong reputation for running high-quality CPD Trauma Therapy courses, many of which are externally accredited. Our CPD programme is expanding in 2022 with more courses and more intakes, giving more choice and opportunity to learn from the experts at our centre of excellence.