What is Interpersonal Relational Trauma?

interpersonal relational trauma

Interpersonal Relational Trauma, commonly referred to as IRT, is identified as a type of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). IRT occurs when exploitative emotional harm is done to one individual by another individual in a marital or primary interpersonal relationship through any form of betrayal, infidelity, abuse, or addiction. In most cases, Interpersonal Relational Trauma involves some sort of abuse, assault, neglect, infidelity, or sexual deviancy. Sexual compulsivity is considered to be a form of relational trauma, seeing as the expected loyalty of one partner (the betraying partner) has devolved, and the need to fulfill the compulsion has become greater than the need to maintain a loving and honest partnership. The primary relationship shifts, and it now revolves around the feelings provided by continuously engaging in the sexually compulsive behavior – feelings of power, omnipotence, control, and dominance (most frequently).

What is IRT?

The other partner in the relationship falls secondary to the insatiable need to engage in the compulsion. Much time and energy is devoted to the pursuit of the compulsion, and the other partner begins to feel neglected and resentful. Needs – emotional and physical – fail to be met. Because this specific type of trauma is typically intentional and the injury done is in the hands of another person (a person whom was once trusted and loved), it will often harshly disrupt sense of self, while drastically decreasing self-confidence and lowering a sense of self-worth or value. It will adversely affect the ability to feel safe and protected within interpersonal relationships, and will compromise one’s ability to readily trust other human beings. It is also often quite difficult for those who have undergone IRT to build healthy and stable relationships with other individuals until the trauma has been effectively resolved.

Interpersonal Relational Trauma Treatment

There are several ways in which IRT can be treated. One especially effective way is Integrated Interpersonal Relational Trauma therapy. This specific method of therapeutic treatment is grounded in attachment theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, the psychophysiology of trauma, and expressive arts. It is comprised of four major components:

  1. Initial assessment and resource building
  2. Trauma resolution
  3. Affective and cognitive processing
  4. Psycho-education and claiming personal strengths

Integrated Relational Trauma therapy allows individuals the opportunity to self-regulate while improving trauma reactions and developing the skills necessary to maintaining healthy and functional relationships. The structured framework characteristic of this method of treatment guides patients towards prolonged recovery with the careful incorporation of expressive arts therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. With intensive and long-term treatment, individuals will successfully recover from detrimental IRT, and learn to seek and sustain interpersonal relationships that are mutually beneficial, rooted in honesty and authenticity, and emotionally fulfilling. If you feel that you may have suffered from a significant Interpersonal Relational Trauma, there is help available. We at Next Chapter Treatment boast extensive experience working with men who have played the role of the betraying partner and of the betrayed. For more information on our comprehensive program of addiction and trauma recovery, please feel free to call us today.