Trauma Treatment and Inpatient Mental Health
What is emotional and psychological trauma?
A global study on the epidemiology of exposure to traumatic events shows that over 70 percent of respondents experienced some traumatic event. Among these respondents, over 30 percent had experienced four or more traumatic events. Some of the most common experiences included a life-threatening injury, unexpected loss of a loved one, and being involved in an accident. But how do these experiences affect our lives and the way we think? Let’s have a look at trauma as a concept, how it impacts us, and the treatment options available.
According to Bessel van der Kolk, author of the best-selling book, The Body Keeps The Score; trauma is an event that overwhelms your central nervous system, affecting the way you process and recall memories. Meanwhile, Peter Levine, who founded the Somatic Experiencing approach, describes it as the result of feeling fear and helplessness.
But despite the different definitions, experts agree that it can have a major effect, both biologically and psychologically. Some examples of traumatic events include natural disasters, like floods, fires, or hurricanes, physical or sexual assault, witnessing the death of another person, or the sudden death of a caregiver, such as a parent or guardian.
Trauma Effects on the Sympathetic, Parasympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are both part of the autonomic nervous system. Stressful events activate the network of nerves known as the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight-or-flight response. But once the threat has subsided, your parasympathetic activates and helps your body conserve energy.
However, trauma can affect the nervous system’s ability to regulate itself. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated, while the parasympathetic is inactive. Consequently, you experience panic and restlessness. With therapy, you can learn to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to alleviate anxious feelings.
What Are the Treatments for Trauma?
Mental health professionals employ different approaches to treat trauma, such as cognitive processing therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, the type of mental health services you receive is dependent on the severity of the mental health conditions you need help with. At URP Behavioral Health, we offer two forms of trauma treatment: inpatient and outpatient.
With inpatient treatment, you spend a few weeks at the treatment facility, undergoing various therapies to help you cope with symptoms. A team of therapists, psychiatrists, and physicians prepares an individualized plan designed to meet your needs. Typically, a residential treatment program includes:
- Trauma-focused individual and group counseling
- Developing coping strategies to live an independent life
- Evidence-based, trauma-focused therapy and non-verbal therapies
- Nutrition education and medication counseling
- Life skill training such as communication, vocational, and anger management
- Educational support to help residents become financially independent
Types of Trauma Therapy
With CBT, you’ll assess thinking patterns to identify and eventually change unhelpful and distorted thoughts. For instance, overgeneralizing that everyone is a bad person, so you can’t trust anyone.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
In DBT, your therapist helps you develop distress tolerance and mindfulness skills to cope with stressful events. Specifically, this technique targets emotional dysregulation so you can control your emotions.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
During EMDR therapy, you access traumatic memories via guided instructions and rhythmic tapping. This bilateral stimulation allows you to safely reprocess the memory in a way that no longer disrupts your life.
Art and Music Therapy
When you go through various traumatic events, it can affect your verbal memory of the experience. These non-verbal techniques have a calming element that makes it easier for you to recall the event.
Inner Child Work
This approach involves recognizing that your perceptions and behaviors as an adult are the results of childhood experiences. It focuses on re-parenting our inner child and meeting his or her needs.
In group therapy, you sit down with other trauma survivors and trauma specialists to talk about your experience. When you’re surrounded by other survivors, it helps normalize symptoms and gives you a sense of support.
This form of therapy focuses on confronting the upsetting feelings and thoughts in our unconscious mind. Your therapist will work with you to identify unconscious coping mechanisms and gain awareness of the painful feelings that resulted from a traumatic event.
PTSD, Chronic, Acute, Childhood Trauma: What’s The Difference?
When discussing trauma with your therapist, it’s likely that you’ll hear various terms. For a better understanding of terms like chronic, acute, and childhood trauma, let’s look at the differences between them.
Types of Trauma
- You develop acute trauma after a single dangerous or highly stressful event, such as an accident.
- When you experience prolonged exposure to dangerous or stressful events, it’s called chronic trauma. Examples include sexual abuse, childhood neglect, or bullying.
- Complex trauma develops as a result of repeated exposure to stressful events during childhood.
Acute and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
When you experience symptoms as a result of the highly stressful event can determine whether you have acute or post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the case of acute stress disorder, symptoms arise soon after the traumatic event and continue for at least 3 days but are resolved within a month. However, if symptoms persist beyond one month, the condition is diagnosed as PTSD.
Here are some commonly asked questions about trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, commonly known as EMDR therapy, is a technique that helps trauma survivors process the event on an emotional level. Other options include psychodynamic therapy, which helps you understand the effect of past experiences on current behaviors and feelings.
Research indicates that the stress response can implicate brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. These areas can undergo lasting changes as a result of traumatic stress. Studies show that the brain may rewire itself following a traumatic experience as a way to cope.
After a traumatic event, you may experience symptoms such as sudden intrusive thoughts about the occurrence and inability to concentrate. Some people report seeing visual images from the event and nightmares, which can affect their mood and cause confusion.
In some cases, it’s possible that the stress you’re experiencing isn’t the result of current-day events. Rather, the feelings of fear and anxiety result from unresolved trauma. It manifests in the form of behavioral, emotional, and physical behavioral symptoms.
Some techniques used to regulate the nervous system include exercise, meditation, and mindful breathing. These can calm an overactive nervous system during stressful events. More detailed approaches include increasing awareness about different triggers, focusing on the body’s response, and finding safe relationships.
Let us guide you towards healing
We know that seeking treatment can be overwhelming, but our staff is here to make the process as smooth as possible. We’re available 24/7 to address any questions or concerns you may have.