Anyone who has experienced trauma or suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) wants to recover and move forward. Their families, their friends, and their health care providers certainly wish the same for the individuals suffering. However, despite what many might think, recovery may take much time. People who are dealing with the effects of trauma can experience post-traumatic effects for quite a while. And, even after they go through therapy and counseling, they will face some challenges during recovery from that struggle. Still, through professional treatment, individuals can find hope and freedom from the negative and harmful effects of trauma. Those who are working to recover should be patient with themselves. Just as with addiction, trauma recovery is an individual experience that will be different for everyone who goes through it. Generally, though, successful trauma recovery is thought of as living in the present without being haunted by the past.
Trauma is often a result of a mentally and emotionally distressing experience. Many people feel the impact of such experiences for years. If an individual goes through something traumatic in childhood, it’s possible that she will suffer from the effects of that situation well into adulthood. When an individual realizes that she needs help overcoming the effect of trauma on her life, it’s important that she get professional help. But how does one become free from the effects of her past? Can people truly find freedom from the things she has gone through? Many of the individuals who go through traumatic experiences look to find a treatment that will erase the memory of the past. The truth of the matter is, however, that freedom does not lie in forgetting the past. Instead, people find true freedom when they learn how to prevent their pasts from negatively influencing their present lives.
All About Professor Herman
Judith Lewis Herman is a psychiatrist and was a professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School. Professor Herman is known for her extensive research and study in various areas. She served as director of training for Victims of Violence Program at Cambridge Health Alliance for three decades. However, she is perhaps known best for her contributions to the study of trauma and the expansion of trauma treatments. She is a well-known Traumatic Stress expert and has received many awards and acclaims for her work in studying trauma and its effects. Many healthcare professionals hail her second book, Trauma and Recovery, as one of the best classic studies of PTSD. This book details the complex healing process of individuals who suffer from PTSD, broken down into three distinct stages of trauma recovery. The book has also been credited as a contributor to the establishment of the diagnostic category of PTSD.
In addition to her groundbreaking authorship, Professor Herman is also responsible for broadening the understanding of recovery from trauma. She helped to explain trauma recovery by categorizing it into three stages. Each stage, as classified by Professor Herman, involves various elements and objectives. Thankfully, professionals have been able to use Professor Herman’s studies and data in order to establish a helpful treatment route for those who are dealing with trauma. Let’s talk a little bit about the stages of trauma recovery. Then, we’ll discuss trauma’s connection with addiction and how individuals can find hope through professional addiction and trauma recovery services.
The Three Stages of Trauma Recovery According to Herman
Stage One: Safety and Stabilization
There are several main objectives for the patient during stage one of trauma recovery. These include:
- working with the therapist to develop a personalized treatment plan
- improving his or her sense of personal stability, security, and safety
- understanding how to process and express emotions in a healthy way
- distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy behaviors and tendencies
- cultivating an effective routine of psychological and emotional self-care
- practicing forms of self-love and self-appreciation
- uncovering and exploring sources of inner strength
- developing coping mechanisms and life skills that effectively manage “triggers”
Once the patient successfully completes these objectives, she will be able to work through painful memories in the following stages of trauma therapy with less mental and emotional difficulty.
Stage Two: Remembrance and Mourning
Once the patient has developed a stronger sense of overall functionality and safety, she can move on to stage two. Stage two of trauma recovery works to address any painful and/or repressed memories that the patient may have and does so within a judgment-free, therapeutic setting. The main objectives for the patient in the second stage of trauma recovery include:
- working with the therapist to evaluate painful and traumatic memories
- redefining the role that certain events play in his or her life thus far
- exploring and mourning any losses associated with the trauma in question
- permitting the self to grieve as needed in a safe space
- working through the grief with the therapist and identifying what caused it
- identifying any previously repressed unsolicited or abusive incidents
- determining the impact that such incidents might have had on his or her life
- mourning the loss of good experiences or opportunities due to trauma or trauma-related hindrances
There are certain misconceptions about this step in the trauma recovery process that should be addressed. Stage two may not force the patient to relive the trauma. And the patient isn’t expected to deliver his or her story with no emotions, either. Stage two of trauma recovery may be analytical, but it isn’t robotic or unfeeling. This is why pacing and timing are so crucial during this particular stage. If the patient in therapy becomes overwhelmed by talking about the traumatic memories, then the sense of safety and stability she built in stage one is rendered moot. In a sense, rushing or botching stage two of trauma recovery will bring the patient and the therapist back to square one.
Stage Three: Reconnection and Integration
The third and final stage of trauma recovery focuses on the patient’s reinvention of the self and establishment of a bright, hopeful future. By this stage, the trauma no longer has power over or defines the patient’s life. Trauma, after all, is only part of a much larger picture; it may be part of the patient’s life story but it’s certainly not the only part. By the end of stage three, the patient recognizes the impact of the trauma but are now ready to leave it in the past in the pursuit of empowerment and living in the present.
How are Trauma and Substance Abuse Connected?
Sadly, many people who suffer from the impact of trauma also begin to struggle with substance dependence. In many cases, women who are dealing with trauma begin to drink or use another drug in order to find relief from the mental and emotional effects of trauma. As a result of this substance use and dependence, many trauma patients develop drug or alcohol dependence problems. They may struggle to end this problem in their lives. Eventually, the issue worsens, causing problems in the individuals’ daily lives. Alcohol and drugs provide people with an escape from the world around them. When a person drinks excessively, she can become unconscious to the things that are going on in her life. An extreme dose of a strong drug can cause a person to get “high”, providing her with an escape from reality. However, these substances only offer temporary freedom from the negative impact of trauma.
When the effects of drugs or alcohol wear off, the individual will come back to the reality of her life. She has to, once again, experience the impact of trauma in her life. But, in most situations, people may return to substance use in order to escape again. Sadly, this is the cycle that many women go through as they suffer from trauma. This is why it’s so important for women in this position to get help from addiction and trauma recovery services. A trauma healing retreat center can help those who are dealing with the effects of trauma as well as addiction. Not only will it help women to find freedom from substance abuse and the effects of trauma, but it will also help them to remain free from these issues.
Trauma Recovery at Willow Place
While trauma recovery doesn’t promise complete freedom from intrusive thoughts or feelings of the past, it does guarantee that anyone can reclaim a life filled with love, contentment, security, and liberation. At Willow Place for Women, our team wants to help you reclaim your life. The staff at our women’s recovery house is dedicated to making sure you find true peace and freedom from the effects of trauma and addiction. If you or someone you care about suffers from PTSD or another trauma-related ailment and is seeking recovery, please don’t wait any longer. Addiction and trauma recovery services are available at Willow Place. You can contact us on our website or call us today at 1-888-651-4212.
**Originally posted on December 18, 2018. Updated on March 14, 2019.