How to Heal Your Trauma Brain

KD Holmes, LPC and Trauma Informed Therapy

Trauma can have a lasting impact on an individual’s mental health, affecting their ability to cope with stress, build relationships, or even function from day to day. Treatment of trauma rests on the foundation that trauma brain or trauma-based reactions can be changed first through skill-based techniques to “stabilize” clients, and only after these skills are learned can individuals reprocess their trauma.  Stabilization is the foundation of treatment and takes time to implement into our lives.

1. Strategies to Stabilize

  • Grounding
  • Yoga / Stretching
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation / Guided Meditation
    • Protoself Meditation, Safe Place, Container
  • Exercise
  • Pets
  • Fidgets
  • Warmies
  • Hammock Swing
  • Stimming
  • Hot Tea
  • Exposure and Response Prevention
  • DBT Skills
    • Interpersonal Skills
    • Boundary Setting - Internal and External

Yoga is often thought of as the go-to method for relaxation and calming the mind, but one does not need to be “into” yoga for it to make an impact. Mindfulness meditation, fidgets, warms, hammock swings, and guided meditation are all great alternatives in helping people reach a relaxed state mentally and physically. Exercise, stretching exercises, stimming, and spending time with animals (such as cats or dogs) are also useful tools for calming down the nervous system when faced with trying stimuli. While these methods require daily practice in order to work effectively (it could take several months before results start showing), they can be extremely beneficial once mastered.  They are the foundation of trauma treatment and if done properly some individuals never want to do trauma work.  

We cannot quantify another's suffering to decide when their healing is enough, but we can encourage emotional freedom through this deeper trauma work.

2. Trauma Processes

Fortunately, there are various treatments available that can help individuals process and manage their traumatic experiences in a safe and effective way.

Deep Brain Reorienting (DBR)

Once someone has had success with these methods of stabilizing themselves, therapists may choose to utilize deeper processing techniques such as Deep Brain Reorienting (DBR). DBR releases the shock of the trauma in our brain stem then to its associated emotions through a process known as Focusing which was first noticed by Eugene Gendlin during the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Frank Corrigan created this technique as a means of processing traumatic memories somatically.

Image Transformation Therapy (ImTT)

Additionally, therapies such as Image Transformation Therapy provide another option for those suffering from trauma. ImTT utilizes guided meditation techniques aimed at releasing disturbing images and feelings/sensations from the body in an effective manner.

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

Finally, Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing is one of the most popular forms of trauma treatment due to its effectiveness at rewiring neural pathways associated with traumatic events using bilateral stimulation procedures.

3. Considerations

It’s important to note that certain therapies may not be suitable for everyone – particularly those who suffer from high levels of dissociation who may not respond well to EMDR therapy – however Deep Brain Reorienting can often work beneath these levels of dissociation making it more accessible for some individuals. In addition, EMDR requires individuals to face memories they have been avoiding which can be daunting for some people whereas ImTT provides a gentler approach but assumes that patients are able to imagine pictures or colors related to their feelings; something which some people struggle with doing effectively.

The beauty of trauma therapy is that it helps individuals work through repressed emotions or memories in manageable ways so that they no longer feel overwhelmed by them; like clearing out the nervous system until all traces of distress have been eradicated. It may seem impossible at times but many people have found success with these kinds of treatments; ultimately it needs to be up to each individual person whether or not they want choose this path towards healing.

Why would anyone choose to do trauma work? The selling point is that if you have a trauma history and have mental health symptoms, your symptoms may be linked to your trauma history.   Processing your trauma history can lessen or even eradicate the issues all together.  Mind blowing, I know.  I call it therapy magic because for life long sufferers it seems like magic.  But unfortunately this voodoo is based in science, there is no magic here.  

So if you have mental health symptoms and a trauma history check out a therapist who is trauma informed and get ready to have your mind blown.  All roads lead back to where your brain was changed by something tragic.  And through stabilization and then reprocessing you will have a new perspective of your past, your current life, and your future.  


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