Relational & Developmental Trauma
Trauma is a form of emotional damage that results from a severely distressing event or series of events. An experience becomes traumatic when an individual is overwhelmed by stress and unable to cope or successfully integrate their resulting emotions with the experience. In its broadest sense, trauma can be defined as one’s inability to effectively process, accept, and move on from life experiences perceived as overwhelming.
However, it is perhaps best understood as an emotional wound that has never healed.
Seen in this light, it is perhaps easier to make sense of how trauma often manifests itself in an individual’s behavior. Individuals that have had traumatic experiences are left with this kind of unhealed wound that causes them excruciating psychological pain whenever certain emotions or memories are triggered. As a result, individuals instinctively seek out coping mechanisms to help them overcome or alleviate the pain caused by their wound.
However, relational and developmental trauma most commonly occurs in children who are still developing emotionally and are thus as poorly-equipped to find coping mechanisms as they are to cope with the traumatic event to begin with. Therefore, the coping mechanisms may appear as rage, or as affection-seeking or approval-seeking.
Rather than addressing the trauma itself, these coping mechanisms will only seek to avoid the emotional pain of the trauma and will likely be ineffective at doing so. Eventually, the individual will seek out other means of avoiding the pain of their trauma, often turning to drugs or alcohol as a means of anesthetizing themselves from it.
Of course, drug and alcohol abuse will not solve or cure an individual’s trauma, and will only compound their problems instead. Traumatized individuals may find drugs and alcohol brings them temporary relief from their pain at first, but inevitably they require larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect as their use of these substances deepens into addiction.
Treating Developmental & Relational Trauma
Trauma is caused by many different types of life events, personal or societal, however the results are often predictable, and can be debilitating and long lasting if not properly treated. Trauma-informed care allows clinicians to view other instances of emotional distress through the lens of trauma. Individuals that have experienced traumatic experiences or lives, are often filled with uncertainty, fear, and a sense of confusion on how to proceed in their lives.
Many individuals have been subjected to childhood trauma from abusive family members, school bullies, prejudice, or oppression. The consequences of these experiences are intense and continue to perpetuate themselves in a cycle of depression, substance abuse, and failed relationships. Even members of the same family experience these events differently, while one member finds ways to cope, another simply cannot.
These individuals are constantly reminded of the memories of the events and are simply unable to muster the strength and understanding of how to effectively deal with them. New experiences cause the individual to re-experience the event over and over, making resolution and recovery from these experiences extremely challenging.
The Next Chapter Approach
Next Chapter takes a highly-personalized approach to treatment for all of our clients, beginning with a thorough psychosocial assessment completed by patient’s therapist and a psychiatric evaluation completed by our medical director. Later in the process we often will include a psychological assessment to aid in the diagnosis of the condition or conditions each client is facing. These initial evaluations are followed up by weekly visits with our medical director and patient’s therapist and supported by our clinical team approach in which each client’s unique needs and treatment are addressed by the entire treatment team. The team meets daily to discuss in detail each of our client’s needs.
Together, our clinical team will prescribe a course of action that may evidence-based treatments practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, EMDR and other Trauma focused modalities. Individualized treatment plans also include therapeutic groups, individual sessions, family work, and 12-Step education groups.