Trauma treatment and recovery isn’t about affirming anyone’s identity as a “helpless victim.”
It’s not about changing the past.
Trauma recovery isn’t about anyone being saved or rescued.
It’s not about staying stuck in the past or effortlessly “letting it go” through the magical power of “forgiveness.”
Trauma informed treatment is not a “fad” or a “buzzword.” (It’s my experience that people who claim it is don’t seem to understand what it is.)
Experience has taught us that people who have survived awful things in their lives have specific needs in therapy and recovery that are not obvious or universal.
Victims of abuse and neglect in particular struggle with many traditional approaches to psychotherapy.
Unfortunately, the profession of psychotherapy has not always been great at acknowledging that different patients with different problems often require flexible approaches.
Often trauma patients who didn’t respond well to traditional therapy were labeled “treatment resistant.” Or “noncompliant.” Or “borderline.”
Elaborate psychodynamic theories were even proposed to explain why trauma survivors were so gosh darn “resistant” to therapists’ best intentions and therapy’s most well-established methods.
The truth was actually staring us in the face all along: trauma, especially complex interpersonal trauma, tends to impact the nervous system in ways that make traditional therapy— particularly with its pronounced power dynamics— relatively less effective with survivors.
Complex trauma survivors tend not to do well in therapy relationships with obvious, dramatic power differentials— because this recreates dynamics that exist in abusive or neglectful families.
They tend not to do well in therapy situations with arbitrary or inconsistent boundaries— because this recreates dynamics that exist in abusive or exploitative relationships.
Many complex trauma survivors need more than the traditional once-a-week, 45-minute outpatient session schedule— and they often need specific resources in place for crisis management and safety options.
Over time, as we learned more about what survivors of trauma needed to be successful in their recovery, we developed therapy modalities that accommodated many of these needs— a paradigm which is currently referred to as “trauma informed care.”
All “trauma informed care” means is adapting psychotherapy to what we know about how trauma survivors tend to work and what they tend to need. That’s it.
It’s not about the therapist “rescuing” a survivor— and it’s definitely not about a therapist positioning themselves as a “savior” to the survivor in juxtaposition to others in their sphere.
Trauma informed care is about creating safety in the therapy relationship by being realistic and flexible about what the survivor has been through and how it has affected them.
Every therapist— along with every helping professional of any kind— can and should be trauma informed.
The more we all learn bout what trauma is and how it works, the more realistically we can recover and support others in their recovery.
Trauma informed care is not about “coddling” survivors. Infantilizing or patronizing survivors recreates abuse dynamics, and it’s the opposite of trauma-informed care.
Believe me: trauma survivors will kick your ass. As a group, they have no need or want to be “coddled.”
Trauma informed care is not a “fad” or a “marketing tool” or a “brand.” It’s a pillar of the competent practice of psychotherapy.
If you’re a psychotherapist, and you say “I don’t treat trauma,” I have some news for you: yeah ya do.