The Trauma Model Of Mental Disorders :
According to the trauma model of mental disorders (also sometimes referred to as the trauma model of psychopathology), many professionals involved with the treatment of psychiatric disorders (such as psychiatrists) have been excessively preoccupied with the medical model of mental disorders (the medical model stresses the importance of physical factors that may underlie mental disorders such as a person’s genes and/or neurochemistry; in line with this hypothesis, those who adhere to the medical model of mental disorders focus primarily on psychoactive medication – such as anti-depressants and major tranquilizers – or physical therapies – such as electroconvulsive therapy – as primary treatment choices) at the expense of taking into account the individual’s history of traumatic experience, especially severe and protracted trauma in early childhood.
According to the trauma model, too, significant problems relating to bonding and to building a healthy, loving, nurturing, dependable relationship between the child and primary caregiver (most frequently the mother) are particularly predictive of such a child developing serious mental health difficulties in later life. However, childhood trauma leading to psychiatric problems in later life can also take the form of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse (the potentially catastrophic effects of significant and protracted emotional abuse have only recently started to be fully understood).
Significant Psychologists / Psychiatrists Who Have Adopted A Trauma Model Perspective Of Mental Disorders (Past And Present) :
Past psychologists/psychiatrists who have adhered to the trauma model of mental disorders include Arieti, Freud, Lidz, Bowlby, R.D. Laing, and Colin Ross (see below for further, brief details) :
- Arieti (1914-1981) advocated the treatment of those suffering from schizophrenia using psychotherapy
- Freud’s (1856-1939) enormously influential work can be seen as representing the start of the academic discipline of child psychology and compelled society to acknowledge the profound relationship between a person’s childhood experiences and his/her mental health in later life.
- Lidz (1910-2001) emphasized the severe psychological damage parents who ‘constantly undermine the child’s conception of himself’ do to their off-spring; he considered such treatment of the child by the parents as so serious because such psychological abuse can constitute a sustained and catastrophic attack on his (the child’s) ‘inner self, which, in turn, so Lintz proposed, could lead to the disintegration of the child’s personality and the subsequent development of schizophrenia.
- Bowlby (1907-1990) theorized that when the primary carer fails to healthily, emotionally bond (or, in Bowlby’s terminology ‘attach‘) with the baby / young child the latter is put at high risk of developing mental health problems in later life.
- R.D. Laing (1927-1989) proposed that schizophrenia is the result of the individual who develops it having grown up in a severely dysfunctional family.
- Colin Ross (contemporary psychiatrist) the most recent, significant proponent of the trauma model, emphasizes the harm done by abusive parenting by drawing attention to the fact the perpetrators of the abuse are the very people to whom the ‘child had to attach for survival.’ And he also states: ‘the basic conflict, the deepest pain, and the deepest source of symptoms is the fact that mom and dad’s behavior hurts, did not fit together, and did not make sense.’
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David Hosier BSc ; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)
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