TREATMENT OF PTSD
The treatment of PTSD is usually divided into three stages: stabilization, trauma-focused therapy, and reconnecting with family, community, and friends.
The role of a family therapist is to take seriously the place of the individual in their network of relationships and particularly the intimate connections of family. Family members can be of great support to the healing process if they are helped to understand the symptoms and experience of their traumatized loved one.
When trust has been broken, children who have been sexually or physically abused can be helped by a child and family therapist to begin to respond to the genuine affection and warmth of a trustworthy family member.
On the other hand, adults who have lived a long time with untreated childhood abuse may take years to learn how to build trusting intimate connections. Learning how to negotiate safety in interpersonal relationships, learning to regulate their own emotional arousal and to identify and label their feelings, learning how to relax, learning how to think about a catastrophic experience without being obsessed or psychically numb — all these require the opportunity to process, to grieve, to reclaim a sense of control over one’s life, and to set realistic goals for one’s future.
Often people who have experienced trauma without treatment develop phobias, addictions, depression, psychosomatic illnesses, and increased interpersonal conflicts. For some, these conditions go away once the PTSD symptoms are treated appropriately with cognitive-behavioural therapy and anxiety management.
Therapists need to combine various therapeutic techniques with the client’s unique needs in the wake of their specific traumatic experience. Thus, there is a general approach to healing, but always a specific approach based on the uniqueness of the person. As with all good therapy, the quality of the therapeutic relationship is foundational to the development of a healing process.
Some Strategies for Coping with Trauma and Stressful Circumstances
The following self-care strategies can help deal with the impact of traumatic stress:
What You Can Do For Yourself
What You Can Do For Family Members Or Friends
What You Can Do To Help Children
For Further Reading
The Canadian Journal of CME, September 2001
Figley, C.R., ed. Burnout in families: The systemic costs of caring. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1988.
Herman, J.L. Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books, 1992.
Matsakis, A. Trust after trauma: A guide to relationships for survivors and those who love them. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 1998.
Sapolsky, R.M. Why zebras don’t get ulcers: An updated guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping. 2nd ed. New York: Freeman, 1998.
Schiraldi, G.R. The post-traumatic stress disorder sourcebook: A guide to healing, recovery, and growth. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 2000.
Van der Kolk, B., McFarlane, A.C., Weisath, L., eds. Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guildford Press, 1996.