Does Trauma Therapy Really Work?

PTSD Therapy

Trauma therapy work comes in many forms and can be applied differently depending on the experience and needs of the client. Yes, trauma therapy can work and be highly effective.

‘Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.’

Peter A. Levine Biophysicist & Psychologist

What Are The Different Types Of Trauma?

Let’s first look at the main types of trauma:

Acute Trauma or Big T Trauma is trauma which derives from a one off single event. Examples might include a car accident or physical assault.

Complex trauma is the result of exposure to diverse and multiple traumatic events or experiences in the context of an interpersonal relationship involving attachments. An example might include being brought up in a violent home and experiencing violence and neglect.

Chronic Trauma is trauma which has taken place over a number of weeks, months or years. An exmaple might be domestic violence.

Upset Man

What Symptoms Might I Experience?

Everybody is different and might experience a different mix of symptoms depending on the trauma you have been through and who you are as an individual as well as your circumstances.

Your triggers will differ from someone else's because they will be encoded through your senses in a particular environment or set of circumstances.

When you encounter something similar again you are likely to become triggered.

For example if you have experienced trauma from a particular gender you might have trust issues with men or women.

If you have experienced trauma in a particular environment you are more likely to become triggered in a similar environment. An example might be bullying or gas lighting in a corporate environment.

Although everybody has their own experience of trauma and set of trauma symptoms there are commonalities in trauma symptoms. These might include:

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Rage anger and aggression
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Unexplained somatic symptoms in your body
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Trust difficulties
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Intrusive thoughts and somatic symptoms
  • Avoidence symptoms
  • Hyper-arousal
EMDR Session

Trauma Treatments Available

There are different types of therapy which come out every week to help people. Traditional talking therapies are less effective than trauma focused therapies at helping people recover from trauma. A good therapeutic relationship is important for the recovery of trauma.

Trauma focused therapeutic approaches include:

Does Trauma Therapy Work?

The most effective evidence based treatment for trauma symptoms and PTSD is EMDR.

A systematic narrative review carried out on relevant studies prior to 2017 on the efficacy of EMDR, found that it improved PTSD diagnosis, reduced PTSD symptoms, and reduced other trauma-related symptoms.

The review excluded all irrelevant or non-robust studies and included two meta-analyses and four randomised controlled Trials. Eight databases were used to search for relevant studies to determine the efficacy of EMDR and two searches were carried out for peer reviewed evidence.

  • EMDR's efficacy in relation to being used as a treatment for PTSD showed:
  • EMDR improved PTSD diagnosis
  • Reduced PTSD symptoms
  • Reduced other trauma related symptoms
  • EMDR was evidenced as being more effective than other trauma treatments.
  • It was an effective therapy

The review also stated that there were limitations to the current evidence and current evidence was based on small sample sizes with limited follow up data. There is still the need for further research.

Reference: The Use of Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder—A Systematic Narrative Review - National Library of Medicine - National Center For Biotechnology Information.