Trauma Center

TRAUMA CENTER: HEALING PSYCHOLOGICAL WOUNDS

A trauma center is a rehabilitative environment for individuals who suffer residual effects of past traumatic events.  A trauma center functions as a safe haven for trauma survivors – a place where these individuals can utilize all available resources to begin the process of healing their psychological and emotional wounds.

WHAT IS TRAUMA?

After a traumatic experience or series of experiences, an individual’s psyche may endure permanent damage that can only be treated by combined therapies in the setting of a trauma center.  A traumatic event can be defined as an event that overwhelms an individual’s power to digest any feelings or concepts that he or she associates with the experience.  In the case that a traumatic event leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, the physical chemistry of the trauma survivor’s brain is changed, impairing his or her ability to manage situations that mirror the traumatic event in any way.  If an individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder does not seek help from a trauma center, the inability to cope with situations and feelings that relate to his or her trauma will persist, and can worsen over time as the brain’s rewired arrangement becomes thoroughly entrenched.

WHAT IS A TRAUMATIC EVENT?

Treatment in a trauma center addresses both psychological trauma and physical trauma, which may coexist or exist independently of one another.  Psychological trauma  is most commonly caused by experiencing or witnessing sexual or physical abuse.  In the case of experiencing these forms of abuse, it is likely that physical trauma will accompany psychological trauma.  The body stores its own memories of the event, and as situational triggers can bring forward mental recollections of the original trauma, so can physical situations bring forward the body’s recollections.

Psychological trauma is also common in survivors of major catastrophic events, such as floods, volcanic eruptions, war, or terrorist attacks. In addition it can result from long-term exposure to seemingly milder situations, for example the slow death of a family member, or consistent emotional abuse. There is no general rule about what type of experiences cause trauma – an event that psychologically traumatizes one individual might not traumatize another.  Trauma is a personal affliction based on a personal experience, and thus requires the specialized treatment offered in a trauma center.

While there is no standard description of a traumatic event, these events are almost always characterized by a violation of some kind, be it a physical violation or a violation of an individual’s understanding of the world.  In either case the event perpetuates a state of insecurity, fear, helplessness, and confusion.  The treatment provided in a trauma center focuses on these central themes during group activities, and makes space for individuals to explore the unique aspects of their trauma in more personal settings.

WHAT DOES TRAUMA LOOK LIKE?

The major symptom of trauma is the mental and physical re-experiencing of traumatic events.  The return to the scene of trauma can be triggered by a diverse range of situations, and the controlled environment of a trauma center offers refuge from many such situations.  In addition to these ‘flashbacks,’ trauma survivors often experience persistent nightmares in which they relive traumatic events. A re-experience of trauma can be set in motion by a smell, a place, an image, a loud noise, a feeling, or any number of other triggers.  Common examples of psychosomatic reactions to triggers are panic attacks and dissociative episodes, where the body and mind, respectively, shut down in response to a re-experience.

Even when a trauma victim is aware of the triggers that may cause a re-experience, it is impossible to avoid all situations in which the presence of a trigger is a possibility. When the triggers are unidentifiable, it is impossible to avoid these situations. In the early stages of working through trauma, it is critical to minimize exposure to potentially triggering environments. A trauma center functions as a protected environment in which the trauma survivor can begin to explore memories of traumatic events in a cautious and controlled manner.

Because trauma survivors encounter these trigger situations frequently, they feel the need to be constantly vigilant – they perceive danger all around them.  This vigilance may result in insomnia, a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. This agitation also manifests as irritability and sudden angry outbursts. Because memories of a traumatic event can be a tremendous obstacle in everyday life, in some cases the mind will block out certain parts of the memory for survival purposes. While this helps alleviate the trauma in the moment, it can be detrimental to one’s psyche over time, as triggers continue to provoke emotional responses. In cases where memories of the traumatic event are mentally inaccessible, recovery depends on integrative and experimental therapies.  A trauma survivor in such a situation has the best odds of recovery in the setting of a trauma center, where he or she benefits from a multifaceted approach to therapy.

Some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder persist even without the presence of triggers. The constant fear of returning to the memory of a traumatic experience, as well as the pain of reliving that experience again and again, can leave a trauma survivor emotionally exhausted.  The nurturing environment of a trauma center is welcoming to those individuals who feel defeated by past trauma. As previously mentioned, it is also common for an individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to dissociate.  Dissociation is the mind’s way of numbing itself when emotional and mental activity go into overdrive. An individual who dissociates will be emotionally inaccessible, and may appear to be flat, cold, or distant. In some cases, dissociation leads to problems with memory and the tendency to become confused in ordinary situations.  For individuals who experience these symptoms, whose lives are constantly impaired by past trauma, treatment in a trauma center is crucial. The specialized care a trauma center provides will help them not only to work through the trauma itself, but also to relearn how to navigate the world around them.

CAN A TRAUMA SURVIVOR RECOVER?

As post-traumatic stress disorder is largely a condition of the mind and body acting of their own volition, individuals who suffer from it sometimes come to feel helpless against the condition.  When symptoms do not subside on their own, these individuals lose hope and begin to experience depression and loss of self esteem. Treatment in a trauma center will help these individuals understand that essential aspects of their sense of self and the world around them have been violated, and these wounds do not heal on their own.  In the care of a trauma center, survivors of traumatic events have the ability to commence the healing process. This process will not be easy, nor will it be quick, but it will offer these individuals the chance at a new life – a life in which they can finally be set free from the grasp of the events that haunt them.

Trauma Treatment

TRAUMA TREATMENT: PTSD TREATMENT PROGRAMS

PTSD treatment programs help these people regain the ability to lead normal healthy lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a debilitating condition that dramatically encumbers the lives of trauma victims.

WHAT IS PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is caused by traumatic experiences.  Essentially, PTSD manifests as an inability to cope with or move on from a traumatic event, trapping trauma victims in a perpetual cycle of reliving their most horrific experiences.  PTSD treatment programs aim to free trauma survivors from the constant fear of revisiting traumatic events – a fear that dominates the lives of those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The phenomenon of mentally re-experiencing past trauma is commonly referred to as a flashback.  Flashbacks, along with recurring nightmares about traumatic events are the fundamental symptom of PTSD.  The emotional turmoil that ensues with each flashback is a tremendous amount for the mind to process, which often leads to the phenomenon of dissociation, PTSD’s other key symptom.  Dissociation occurs when the mind shuts itself off from emotional input that may cause a flashback as a means of self-protection.  Though dissociative patterns may insulate a trauma survivor from emotional pain on a day-to-day basis, the mental barrier they create is strong and becomes a significant roadblock in recovery.  PTSD treatment programs work with individuals who have developed dissociative tendencies on reconnecting with their emotions and memories.  This step, though painful, must be taken in order for an individual to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

WHAT KINDS OF EXPERIENCE CAUSE PTSD?

PTSD treatment programs are designed to accommodate patients whose PTSD results from a wide variety of traumatic experiences.  Trauma is defined in terms of an individual’s personal reaction to a situation, not in terms of the situation itself.  Therefore, there is no concrete definition of what constitutes a traumatic event.  The definition is fluid and must be able to adapt to the experiences of all individuals who exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

That said, there are certain characteristics that tend to apply across the board to traumatic experiences.  The primary characteristic of any traumatizing event is a sense of violation.  In many cases, this takes the form of a physical violation (e.g. rape, incest, domestic violence).  In other cases, this may mean an emotional violation (e.g. loss of a loved one, childhood neglect).  A traumatic experience may also violate a person by forcing them to witness a violent or horrific act.  Though there is no strict definition of a traumatic event, it is easy to see how countless different experiences might traumatize an individual.  PTSD treatment programs work one-on-one with patients to ensure that each individual’s treatment plan is ideally suited to that individual’s particular trauma.  Tailoring the recovery program to the patient is an essential aspect of affective trauma treatment.

HOW DO PTSD TREATMENT PROGRAMS WORK?

PTSD treatment programs work by helping trauma victims come to terms with their experiences and cultivate techniques for coping with flashbacks.  The delicate issue here is that because trauma is fundamentally a violation, treatment must be executed in a way that maintains the patient’s sense of safety and security at all times.  This can be a very complicated prospect when progress in trauma treatment is often contingent upon facing horrifying memories and allowing difficult emotions to surface.

For some who enter PTSD treatment programs, a straightforward cognitive-behavioral approach is appropriate.  The cognitive-behavioral model of PTSD treatment involves an in-depth assessment of the original trauma and its aftermath, followed by the development and implementation of a structured plan which will allow the patient to cope effectively with situations likely to trigger a flashback.

Others come into PTSD treatment programs completely incapable of speaking openly about past traumatic experiences.  For these individuals, treatment has a different starting point.  In order to coax these patients into slowly beginning to explore their trauma, alternative therapies are extremely productive.  Therapeutic approaches like equine therapy and art therapy offer trauma victims the opportunity to forge a non-verbal understanding of their experiences.  Because traumatic experiences are so powerfully visceral, the brain stores memories of these experiences differently than it stores other memories.  The physical bonding that takes place between patient and animal in equine therapy and the hand-eye explorative process that occurs in art therapy act as muses which help patients get in touch with the many levels on which they experienced and continue to relive their trauma.

Additional alternative therapies, namely hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), can be highly successful as supplements to more traditional cognitive-behavioral PTSD treatment programs.  Operating under the same basic treatment model as cognitive-behavioral therapy, both of these disciplines seek to intervene in the patient’s mental processes by building new connections within the brain.  In both cases, a structured protocol is used to allow more direct access to the subconscious, where many of a trauma victim’s memories and emotions surrounding trauma are stored.

Effective PTSD treatment programs recognize that no single type of therapy is universally applicable to trauma victims and no specific treatment plan will be successful for all patients.  The best programs make a wide variety of treatment options available and encourage patients to experiment with different techniques in order to discover what feels right to them.

LIFE BEYOND PTSD

Though trauma survivors have no culpability in the situations that caused them to develop PTSD, it is up to these individuals to take recovery into their own hands.  Though others who love them may want to help, trauma victims must find the motivation to overcome PTSD and the willingness to push through the exhausting emotional work that recovery entails within themselves. With this honest desire to be rid of the burden of PTSD and the therapeutic tools available in a trauma treatment program, victims of trauma have the chance to free themselves.  The road may not be easy, but the reward is priceless.

PTSD rarely occurs alone. PTSD has been found to be co-occurring with a number of other mental health disorders, including depression, substance abuse disorders, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder. Therefore, when it comes to treatment of PTSD, mental health professionals often take into account not only the symptoms of PTSD that a person might be experiencing, but other difficulties as well.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.