Trauma & Treatment

Greetings dear readers,

We are taking a course in Trauma: Theory & Treatment. It has been an eye-opening experience thus far. One of our first assignments was to read part of a book called Empire of Trauma, which tracks the development of how psychology has come to understand and view trauma now. It looks at the interaction between new ideas in the field of psychology and social/moral attitudes from the late 19th century into the 1970’s. I didn’t know that at one point, at least in Western countries,  experiencing trauma was seen a character defect! Wow, what a long way we’ve come! A character defect??As we look at what “trauma” has meant and what it means, we are also looking at what treatment looks like now. What techniques and approaches are available? How do we decide, as therapists, which to use? Which to include in our toolkit?

My understanding before undertaking this program was that trauma is about events and memory, and especially memory beyond the individual. For a long time I did believe that trauma was something you had to live with rather than something you can completely move on from. I believe now there isn’t one answer that matches all of humanity. For some, the legacy of trauma requires endurance and for others, moving on in a particular way is their natural response. A salient clinical implication I am left with is the importance of the therapeutic relationship. It seems trauma treatment in Europe was based on fear tactics and shaming for a long time, a very active sense of having to do something. The concept of durational time, and the shift in the notion of trauma wrought by the Holocaust, point to the power of witnessing. Witnessing is one part of the therapeutic process, and there is the larger posture that belongs to, which is simply about being present with someone. There is a lot of emphasis on techniques and the latest technique in this day and age, but what is it to simply be with someone? To witness them sometimes, to accompany them sometimes, to facilitate sometimes, to support with specific needs sometimes.

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