Trauma Model Therapy: A Treatment Approach for Trauma Dissociation and Complex Comorbidity

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Developmental deficits in brain development and functioning result with disturbed attachment ibid. Shapiro explains the difference between avoidance, which is often encountered in therapy, and dissociation.

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Avoidance can be intentional and conscious, whereas with dissociation the individual unconsciously acts separately from our thinking, planning brain. Shapiro ibid. The other component to complex trauma that causes great distress is the fact that, experiencing childhood abuse in a pre-verbal state, memory is implicit and unconscious. This has implications for treatment insofar as the need to incorporate the body in psychotherapy.

With advances in neuroscience the notion of the brain being fixed has been debunked and recognition of the plasticity of the brain gives one hope for healing from the damaging effects of childhood trauma Doidge, Judy speaks of having suicidal thoughts and desires, which include thinking about methods of self-harm. Before anything else, it is critical for the therapist to do a risk assessment to identify risk factors to Judy or others.

Suicidal thoughts are a cry for help from the client so it is part of building an atmosphere of safety in the therapeutic alliance to directly address these thoughts or plans Churchill, The therapist would reassure Judy of their ongoing commitment to work with her in conjunction with medical support.

If, after a thorough risk assessment has been carried out, Judy appears safe then the psychotherapist can continue with the assessment process. The purpose of assessment is to inform treatment. Ford and Courtois a, p. Judy speaks of rarely experiencing happiness and feeling empty and invisible. She devours vitamins and herbal supplements in order to sleep better and get through the day without crying. These feelings and her suicidal thoughts indicate depression but it would be helpful to explore whether Judy has always had these thoughts or whether they are more episodic.

It is important to check whether the depressive symptoms were experienced directly after these relationship breakdowns or have been present for some time. Judy devours vitamins and herbal supplements in an effort to gain relief from depressive symptoms. Depression is a common experience for sufferers of complex trauma Van der Kolk, Judy is distressed by her relationship with her 17 year old son, who she says is withdrawn and not easily engaged.

This could be an indicator of her son suffering from depression himself but it requires further investigation as it may also be a distorted evaluation by Judy. Treatment Cloitre et al. No matter what modality is used the therapeutic relationship must be the anchor for healing attachment injuries and may take a long time to establish. Some victims of complex trauma never move beyond this first phase of stabilization of symptoms due to a lack of emotional and practical resources.

Critical to treatment is recognition of the importance of affect-regulation, which is the ability to self-soothe and emotional management, and is key to all treatment objectives. It often helps clients to understand why they are experiencing these symptoms, rather than seeing them as personal failings Phoenix, This is where the therapist actively involves the client in recalling traumatic memories, utilising the self-regulatory skills acquired in phase one Ford et al.

Individuals may experience profound grief, for example, at the loss of childhood innocence and trust or shame and rage at the caregiver who betrayed them. The trauma is no longer interesting" Sykes Wylie, , p. The therapist leads the client in discovering their shifting internal sensations and helps them to realise that they can have control over their physiological states.

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Rothschild would argue that this phase should be incorporated into the preceding two phases of treatment. People need to learn to regulate their physical states in order to get their minds to work. Once they shift their physiological patterns, their thinking can change" Van der Kolk, cited in Sykes Wylie, , p.

Group therapy may also be an option in conjunction with individual therapy, particularly if financial constraints are an issue and to help avoid dependence ibid.

Treatment is rarely straightforward with new crises presenting as achievements are made. Conclusion There is no denying that individuals presenting with Complex Trauma are faced with no easy answer to their pain and struggles yet new advances in neuroscience and a growing understanding of the damaging effects of childhood trauma is a source of hope for healing of individuals like Judy.

May Judy be listened to and heard. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5th ed.

Anda, R. The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood: A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology.

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European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 3 , — Kezelman, C. A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge. Briere, J.

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Principles of trauma therapy: A guide to symptoms, evaluation and treatment. London: Sage Publications. In Courtois, C. Treating complex traumatic stress disorders Adults : Scientific foundations and therapeutic models pp. New York: Guilford Press. Castillo, R. Culture and mental illness. Churchill, S. The troubled mind: A handbook of therapeutic approaches to psychological distress.


London: Palgrave Macmillan. Cloitre, M. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24 6 , Courtois, C. Best practices in psychotherapy for adults. Treatment of complex trauma: A sequenced relationship-based approach. Cozolino, L. The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain 2nd ed. New York: W. Doidge, N. The brain that changes itself. London: Penguin Books. Sensorimotor psychotherapy. Treating complex traumatic stress disorders Adults : Scientific foundations and therapeutic models.

Ford, J. Treatment of complex posttraumatic self-dysregulation. Delphi Training and Consulting has achieved international recognition for its pioneering work in Australia from the early s, developing professional development forums, sourcing international and national experts in the field of trauma and extreme stress. We believe people are best served in being assisted to find their own answers, within themselves, at a pace that suits him or her to allow the process to unfold, while taking action to create the desired outcomes.


Imagination, instinct, intuition, emotion, feeling, logic and rational thought are equally valued in nurturing and developing a healthy sense of Self, creative expression and interpersonal relating. The need is heightened to heal inevitable pain in life as well as experiences of trauma or extreme stress. We take a whole-person, humanistic and principle-centred approach. Our role is to assist people to explore, understand and act in ways to enrich their life experience. A cornerstone is consideration of all aspects of life. To this end, we combine discussion, education and solution-focused strategies mind with sensorimotor or somatic awareness body and healthy emotional expression soul with respecting what gives meaning and purpose spirit to each person.

In essence, our view is that each person has the ability to learn how best to guide him or herself through personal issues, conflicts and concerns toward a life that reflects the desired vision and potential. Enhancing well-being and fulfilment is fundamental. Inherent in this, is the premise that while many things that happen in life are out of our control and for which we do not have responsibility such as trauma, abuse and neglect we can develop resilience, internal resources and agency in how we respond to, and deal with life experiences.

This includes addressing the impact of circumstances that we could not, and can not, control or change. It also involves exploring the decisions we make, and consequent actions we take, where we are able to influence the outcome. How we go about this is more important than the fact we achieved it. Part of the process for people who have endured severe and extreme stress, trauma or abuse is to understand and work with the natural, protective defence mechanisms that have enabled survival.

These defences develop as ways of adapting to the demands of the situation in which he or she had no real choice. While valuable and protective at the time of overwhelming stress, these behaviours, feelings, beliefs and perceptions can become problematic in themselves.

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By respecting the purpose and benefit of defences, the individual can begin to work with, rather than against, him or herself. Consultancy Partners Testimonials. UK , Grad. Human Rights For over thirty years Naomi has demonstrated her commitment to assist and enhance the quality of life of people who have experienced severe trauma, abuse and disadvantaged life situations.