Healing from trauma can be overwhelming with survivors often feeling hopeless about their ability to enact change. Survivors often ask: where do I even begin?
When we encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in life, it can be helpful to break them down into smaller chunks.
In the field of trauma there seems to be a general consensus that trauma treatment should progress in three phases (i.e. Herman, Fisher):
Phase 1: Safety and stabilisation
Initially, the survivor can be guided through a process of stabilisation, building safety, and engagement. This can include:
- Grounding and emotion regulation skills.
- Education about trauma, the neurobiology of trauma.
- Building safety in the therapeutic relationship.
- Developing body and emotional awareness.
Phase 2: Processing and meaning making
When the survivor feels empowered and strong enough, the survivor is then likely to be ready to process the traumatic memories, make meaning out of the experience, and integrate this into a new worldview. This phase may include:
- Cognitive processing of memory.
- Exploring themes of shame, responsibility, guilt, loss, and self-blame.
- Evolving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and relationships.
Phase 3: Integration and (re)connection
When the processing has occurred, the survivor may then be ready to shift their focus to integration, connection, and integrity. This phase may include:
- Feeling and openly engaging with their emotional world.
- Connecting with themselves and others on a deeper level.
- Articulating and embodying sense of self and living their values with integrity.
Remembering that healing from trauma generally happens in phases can help survivors to know where to start, and orient themselves along the journey.
If you are just beginning on your journey to heal trauma, you may start with gradually learning (as much as you can tolerate) about the impacts of trauma. You might visit the Phoenix Australia website and read over some of the information for survivors.
If you have some good knowledge about trauma and it’s effects on the mind, body, and relationships and have learned strategies to ground yourself in the present moment and soothe strong emotions, you are probably already connected with a therapist and may be strong enough to begin processing.
And if you have already processed the trauma so that the symptoms of trauma are well managed and no longer impeding your daily activities like they used to, it may be time to start considering who and how you now are in this world.
Turning toward and facing trauma takes huge amounts of courage so even just working through this post deserves acknowledgement and affirmation.
From my observations to date, I believe that each individual will find different methods and supports that suit their needs better than others and that it can take years to heal. Know that you are not alone, and that healing can and does happen.
Please reach out to a therapist if you are suffering, it may be the best thing you can do for yourself and those your care for.