When an individual goes through a one off traumatic incident there is a possibility that they will develop symptoms of PTSD. Signs of PTSD includes great efforts to avoid thinking or talking about the trauma; intrusions of the trauma memory through bad dreams, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts; negative beliefs and mood related to the event; and irritability and agitation – a sense of being ‘on edge’ and overly alert.
PTSD can have a very significant impact on the individual’s life, and can make the person feel as if they have gone ‘crazy’. In fact, the symptoms of PTSD are a very common reaction to extreme and uncommon life experiences. PTSD develops because the traumatic event becomes ‘frozen in time’ for the individual and they act and feel as if the danger is still current. Trauma therapy aims to help the individual to process the trauma memory and re-appraise their beliefs about their own personal safety in the world.
We will first carry out a sensitive and gentle assessment of how the traumatic incident has impacted the individual. We will ask about the symptoms of PTSD and we will also be interested in other possible ways the person has been affected, including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, work stress and so on. After the first two or three sessions we will share with the client our understanding of the difficulties and a therapy plan will be discussed.
In line with the Government NICE guidelines, we treat PTSD with either Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or EMDR. We also bring in other models of therapy as and when this is helpful for the client, and this might include narrative therapy or psychodynamic thinking. The overall goals of treatment for PTSD are to:
• Understand what PTSD is and how it is affecting the client’s life
• Develop ways to cope with the strong negative emotions
• Process the trauma memory and ‘work through’ all of its associated beliefs, feelings and behaviours
• Develop a coherent narrative, or story, about the trauma
• Consolidate the progress made and reflect on the trauma as an opportunity for personal growth.
Complex PTSD can develop when a person has been through repeated interpersonal traumas, such as neglect; physical, emotional and sexual abuse; domestic violence and other sustained threats to personal safety. At Beacon House we understand that these experiences have a profound effect on the individual’s whole well-being and their patterns within relationships.
The imprints of early trauma in adults remain embedded as bodily and emotional memory even when the danger has passed. Even though there may be little or no conscious memory of their experiences, an adult who has suffered early relational trauma may well continue to experience dysregulation, rage, and a fear of intimacy yet a longing to be cared into adulthood. Individuals with Complex PTSD also suffer with the intense and overwhelming symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts and extreme hypervigalence. All of this can have a very significant impact on the person’s ability to enjoy life, have healthy relationships and feel stable and balanced.
Intervention for Complex PTSD is offered at a sensitive and gentle pace. The initial phase of the work focuses on developing a really good understanding of how the early trauma has impacted the individual and their day to day life.
The first phase of treatment will focus on stablisation and creating safety, both in the individual’s life and in terms of their internal emotional stability. If there are self-sabotaging or self-harming coping behaviors we will work steadily together to reduce the need for these coping strategies, and we will build up other more healthy resources. This phase can take place over weeks or months, and in some circumstances years, which all depends on the severity and complexity of the difficulties.
When, and only when, the individual is better able to tolerate negative emotions we may move onto Phase Two, which is where we work together to process and work through the trauma memories, which may be held consciously or held in the body with no conscious memory. We often move in between Phase One and Phase Two so that the therapy is flexible and able to meet the needs of the individual as they change and emerge.
Once trauma resolution has been achieved, the Third Phase of the work is around integrating and consolidating the shifts, emotional transitions and behavioural changes that have taken place across the treatment. We spend time thinking about the future, and how to manage the inevitable ups and downs of life and relationships.
At Beacon House we draw on a range of therapies to work with Complex PTSD, which includes EMDR; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Sensorimotor Psychotherapy; Lifespan Integration; Dialectical Behavioural Therapy; Schema based therapy and Jungian psychotherapy. Whatever approaches we offer, they are always offered collaboratively and within a trusting, safe and containing therapy relationship.