1. What is Trauma Therapy?
Trauma Therapy is a psychological approach to helping people deal with the emotional aftermath of traumatic experiences. Trauma can have profound mental, social, physical, and financial impact on an individual and can affect normal daily functioning. Trauma therapy in Singapore helps patients process the traumatic event in a healthy and safe manner.
2. Types of Trauma Therapy
Trauma can have a significant impact on an individual's life and it is critical that the appropriate treatment be provided to individuals. Therapy modalities will differ based on the type of trauma experienced and its impact on the individual. There are a few different types of trauma therapy which can be used either in isolation or in combination to help treat an individual through psychological counselling.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy is designed to help patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events often lead to avoidant behaviour. In many cases, such behaviour can lower a person’s quality of life. Avoidance may also prolong PTSD symptoms as patients are prevented from fully processing their experience. As a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), PE involves exposing individuals to reminders of their trauma to help them process the negative intense emotions safely.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
Similar to PE trauma therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) informs patients about the effects of PTSD and helps them confront the associated negative emotions. However, CPT takes things a step further by addressing the relationship between the traumatic event and the automatic thoughts that are triggered by the memory.
By identifying errors in thinking, understanding where they stem from, and correcting problematic perspectives, CPT can help patients challenge and modify unwanted beliefs as a result of the traumatic event.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) is a form of behavioural therapy that’s focused on children. Younger patients experience trauma differently from adults and require an approach suited to their developmental needs.
One of the unique aspects of TF-CBT is that it recognises the invaluable role played by parents and caregivers. TF-CBT involves them in the process, teaches them communication skills to connect better with the child in their care, and provides support through stress-management techniques.
Eye Movement Desensitisation And Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR therapy works by using left-right (bilateral) stimulation to reduce the emotional impact of a traumatic memory. Based on concepts from CBT and other psychotherapy theories, EMDR therapy focuses on changing the way specific memories are stored in the brain.
During an EMDR therapy session, patients will be led through stimulation sets while focusing on the targeted memory. This is designed to desensitise the patient and help them dissociate the memory of the trauma from unwanted symptoms.
3. What Trauma Therapy Can Help With
Trauma can come in many forms and can be either acute, like a one-time event, or chronic, where it may refer to multiple traumatic events over a long period of time. Trauma therapy can help you cope with both types of trauma and can include any event or experience that causes emotional or psychological damage.
Some types of trauma include abuse, abandonment, accident, crime, losing a loved one, divorce, and domestic abuse.
4. What should you know when seeing a therapist for trauma therapy?
During the first session of trauma therapy in Singapore, your therapist will seek to understand the impact of the trauma in your life and propose appropriate treatment techniques. The initial psychological assessment period is crucial as several factors have to be considered when deciding the appropriate treatment. Every individual is different and responses to traumatic events may vary greatly. Besides the interventions mentioned above, offering psychoeducation and coping skills are one of the first few interventions that will be covered before proceeding to process the traumatic events.
Other important information to take note of are:
- Commitment Level
Therapists have to ensure that their patients have a high level of commitment to complete the full therapy process before they begin. Due to the nature of intervention, terminating trauma therapy pre-maturedly might exacerbate PTSD symptoms and cause individuals to be more entrenched in their negative beliefs and associations.
- Suicide Risk
It is highly recommended that trauma therapy client should not have engaged in suicide attempts or self-harm incidents at least 3 months before the psychological counselling starts. For high-risk individuals, Prolonged Exposure therapy can be delivered in combination with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), with DBT frontloaded to address suicidal or self-harming tendencies.
- Coping Skills
Coping skills will be required by a patient before they can be considered ready to begin trauma therapy. Such skills can help regulate the negative emotions and thoughts patients will face during the course of their treatment, without the need to resort to substance abuse or other unhelpful coping behaviours.
5. Benefits of Trauma Therapy
There are many benefits of trauma therapy. Not only will it alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, but individuals can also process the intense negative emotions as a result of the traumatic events, to re-gain normality in their lives.
- Reduce Avoidant Behaviour
Avoidant behaviour is common among sufferers of PTSD and will be addressed over the course of trauma therapy. Avoidant behaviour can have a negative impact on a person’s life ranging from minor inconveniences to major disruptions.
- Improve Coping Skills
Coping skills are very much a part of trauma therapy and they can instil a new sense of confidence in a person when they are equipped with the psychological tools they need to work through their issues.
- Regain Sense of Self-Worth
Mental health awareness is not always prevalent, and people who have suffered from traumatic events might find that their concerns are dismissed by others. Trauma therapy offers them a safe space where their emotional needs can be expressed, understood, accepted, and validated.
- Build Trust
PTSD can lead to altered behaviours stemming from insecurity and a disrupted sense of safety. Through counselling, patients are able to understand how traumatic events, and the emotions that stem from them, influence their relationship with others. Successful trauma therapy can help patients start building trust with others and form or renew connections.