Professional Help for Recovery from Childhood Trauma

waterfall dreamstime_xxl_147189513

Here's more practical information about childhood trauma. How professional help might contribute to recovery. 

Over past decades, psychiatry and psychology have developed various ways to help people heal from the effects of earlier trauma. Research continues. Fortunately, the field of trauma recovery includes many sincere, dedicated professionals who have insight into the suffering of others. Many of them have recovered from trauma too!

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, sometimes called ‘talk therapy’, has helped many women recover from childhood trauma. Psychotherapy involves a therapeutic relationship with a skilled professional. Through this relationship, psychological symptoms are transformed into meaningful change. 

Ideally, during psychotherapy, a woman continues to follow her path of general self-care. After all, self-care means "taking action to preserve or improve one's own health". In this way, psychotherapy is part of self-care. By seeking professional help, a woman develops her own natural capacity to heal. Transformation is not given to her by someone else.

Psychotherapy is more than good advice

Psychotherapy is more than good advice from a well-meaning stranger.  A skilled psychotherapist will guide the therapeutic relationship, in service to the client, following within  the therapeutic framework the psychotherapist has trained in. 

The psychotherapist has a background in a particular method or 'school' of psychotherapy, but some therapists will also combine various approaches or modalities if that serves the client. If asked, a psychotherapist should be able to explain their approach and the psychological method they follow.

40 different types of psychotherapy?

By some estimates, there’s now more than 40 different recognized methods of psychotherapy! The most prominent and established types include:  ‘psychodynamic' therapies, or cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT),  or mindfulness-based therapies, or 'client-centered' psychotherapy, or ‘somatic sensory’ therapies, or EMDR, neurofeedback, etc.

This is important because people vary in the type of psychotherapy they prefer. There’s no single type of psychotherapy that’s best for everyone. Research might show us what’s most popular or typically effective for many people, but no research can guarantee what will be best for a particular individual. 

Psychotherapy is practiced in various formats — one-to-one, couples, group. In modern times, we now have further choices of in-person meetings, telephone or 'on-line'!

But what's constant in all these methods & formats is relationship. Psychotherapy is not possible without the living presence of another individual who offers relationship.

The Relationship

Research shows that a client’s feeling of connection with her therapist is more important than the ‘brand’ of psychotherapy they practice. 

A woman is more likely to get meaningful results if she both likes and trusts her psychotherapist. 

The therapist provides reliable, empathetic connection without being personally attached to the outcome. In this way, the client is free to learn from her experience during the psychotherapy, without a focus on pleasing or fulfilling the expectations of the therapist.

Over her lifetime, a woman might work with several psychotherapists.

‘Body-based’, ‘somatic-sensory’ psychotherapies

Recent decades have revealed that 'body-based' psychotherapy / 'somatic-sensory approaches' are often effective for people recovering from childhood trauma. Research remains very active and the field is in flux. For example, EMDR and neurofeedback are considered promising. Some prominent researchers/teachers are Bessel van der Kolk, Peter Levine, Pat Ogden, Ruth Lanius.

Bessel van der Kolk is a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry. He has been called “the world’s leading expert on the treatment of trauma” — offering insight into the lasting effects of trauma on the brain. His interviews are widely available online. His well-respected book is: 

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma

During a recent interview, Dr. van der Kolk discussed new insights in trauma treatment. Here's some excerpts:

"One of the great advances in trauma treatment that was absent twenty years ago is this whole advance in the practice of mindfulness, yoga, body work, and self-perception….

You become more mindful – you can see things happen and not automatically react to them... 

The more trauma you have, the more reactive you become....

You have to learn to be still, to notice your self, and to tolerate your sensations..."

from How to Work with the Traumatized Brain,

Bessel van der Kolk interviewed by Ruth Buczynski 2023

Self-expression in art & dance

Some effective psychotherapies are based on the client’s self-expression using various art materials/media. This is generally termed ‘art therapy’.  

Another form of psychotherapy asks clients to explore their imagination, using small figurines and trays of sand. 

Various types of ‘dance therapy’ have been respected for decades and could be helpful for a woman who connects with the right therapist. 

Creative self-expression often happens for us naturally during self-care. A woman who enjoys to dance, make art, or other forms of creative self-expression could do well if she meets a psychotherapist skilled at trauma recovery through transformative self-expression.

Note: Somatic and expressive psychotherapies always include the presence of a therapist. Relationship is the foundation of psychotherapy even when the modality is dance or painting!

Joy is Always Possible!    (YouTube video)

Here’s a record of childhood trauma as recalled by an artist. 

I invite you to enjoy this 17-minute video visit to the home of artist, Atmo Zakes.