Dealing with traumatic memories can take both persistence, and professional support in the form of trauma therapy.
In trauma therapy, the process involves helping the person suffering from traumatic memories to recognise and re-learn that they are now “safe”, and no longer required to overreact to different anxiety triggering situations and conditions.
It can take some time for the brain to establish new memory, and to confirm that it is now safe; and these memories need to be strengthened and reinforced, if they are to replace or counteract against the old traumatic memories.
Even when the conditions show some improvement, the brain can easily be triggered to return to old memories of trauma in some incidents, and divert back to old conditions and reactions. Therefore, persistence is required for overcoming trauma.
Key Processes of Trauma Therapy
One of the most commonly used treatment strategies supported by research studies is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), sometimes combined with other therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness.
The treatment process often involves a combination of the following procedures and processes:
- Psychoeducation about trauma and anxiety, to help people understand why what they are experiencing is happening;
- Assessing the current conditions, and identifying the anxiety trigger situations;
- Learning effective anxiety coping strategies (eg diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness);
- Imaginary and in vivo exposure to anxiety triggering situations, with newly learned coping strategies – both with and without the presence of a mental health professional;
- Understanding the traumatic events from different perspectives (cognitive restructuring);
When people repeatedly have new emotional experiences of feeling safe, and are able to utilise new skills for coping with anxiety – even though they may be confronting a trigger situation – it provides the brain with opportunities to re-learn new reactions and to form new memories.
Over time, these can begin to counteract against or replace the old traumatic memory, allowing a reduction in – or even eliminating – the symptoms of trauma.
Can Trauma Be Completely Overcome?
There is debate among mental health professionals, about whether or not trauma can be completely overcome. In some instances where traumatic memory is strong, it can be difficult to completely eliminate the symptoms of trauma, even with an effectively guided treatment process led by mental health professionals.
However, research studies suggest that by persisting with overcoming the old traumatic memory with effectively guided treatment, symptoms can be reduced to the extent that they no longer negatively impact daily life.
The process of trauma therapy is a long journey that requires persistence and long-term professional support. It is strongly recommended for anyone who is suffering from traumatic memories, to seek out professional help, as it is often difficult to overcome trauma naturally and in many cases, the symptoms can get worse due to the repeated avoidance of anxiety triggering conditions.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing cultural challenges, or problems with anxiety and trauma.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
NB Yu Takizawa is currently on extended leave.