Helpful Therapies for Trauma Survivors
by Lynette Danylchuk, Ph.D.
The following is a list of therapies which may be helpful for trauma survivors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the interaction of thoughts with feelings and behavior. This therapy teaches people how their beliefs and thoughts impact their emotions and teaches them to challenge negative thought patterns, developing ways to take charge of thoughts and access more positive and helpful emotions.
Exploring the dynamics of the psyche, Psychodynamic Therapy looks at the patterns of feelings and behaviors that are learned in a family of origin (the family in which the person was raised) and how these patterns transfer into the present life in a habitual manner. It brings these patterns to consciousness which allows people the ability to challenge the patterns and change them.
Somatic Therapy (Body Therapy)
Somatic Therapy views the body as the unconscious mind and works with emotions as expressed through the body. It teaches people to become conscious of how emotions are stored or expressed physically through tension, pain, disconnect or numbing, providing the opportunity to express them more consciously.
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy teaches a person skills to manage affect so that feelings and thoughts are present at the same time giving people more control over impulsiveness and runaway emotions.
Psychoanalytic Therapy uses the stream of consciousness from the patient and a neutral “blank screen” by the therapist allowing for maximum transference through which the patient is supposed to learn about their internal world and how they transfer it onto the external world. The therapist's neutrality forces the client to rely on assumptions which are created by past experiences, so the therapy brings those assumptions and experiences to the conscious mind where there is a possibility of change.
Hypnosis allows people to go into altered states of consciousness to access what is not normally available in everyday consciousness. It is, in effect, a way of focusing the mind to attain more of what the person is needing—relaxation, connecting to thoughts, feelings, etc.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that helps a person to complete the “stuck” or incomplete processing of upsetting experiences, including abuse and other trauma. It includes certain distinctive features, such as the use of eye movements or various other forms of bilateral stimulation (BLS) to facilitate the person's own innate healing processes. However it is important to understand that EMDR is a complete therapy approach with several different phases.
Energy therapy works with the energy in the mind and body, noticing where there is an excess or deficit of energy in the body and attempting to balance the person's energy.
Gestalt Therapy views difficulties as connected to more than the individual's experience and focuses on here-and-now experience and personal responsibility. The objective of Gestalt Therapy, in addition to helping the client overcome symptoms, is to enable her-him to become more fully and creatively alive and to be free from the blocks and unfinished issues which may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment, and growth. Techniques often include confronting the influence of other people or aspects of self through work with an “empty chair” externalizing the internal problems and seeing it as a whole.
Ego States Therapy
Ego States Therapy looks at the many aspects of the self and what emotions and beliefs they carry and how to fit them together in a way that fits into one's life, being able to identify aspects of self (i.e., adult, child, teenager, or business person, athlete, artist, etc.) and value all parts, accessing them at appropriate times.
Emotional Release Therapy
Emotional Release Therapy allows for the feelings to be expressed through the body, anger, fear, grief and other painful emotions, as well as allowing for the expression of joy which is often inhibited along with other feelings. Pounding pillows to release anger, crying to release pain or grief, and screaming the terror trapped in the body can help to release stored feelings. Ideally, emotional release work is integrated into a broader therapeutic plan that also works with thoughts and behaviors within the person and in relationships to others.
(From Part 4, “Therapies and Healing Tools,” Your Strength to Heal by Kim Kubal)