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Some Lesser Known Therapies for Treating Effects of Severe Trauma

There are some less well-known treatments for trauma that I thought it would be useful to take a brief look at in this post (I have covered the more mainstream treatments in other posts in the THERAPIES AND SELF-HELP category of this site. The specific therapies I am going to outline are:

1) THE COUNTING METHOD (intense, short-lived recollection)

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) THE COUNTING METHOD (intense, short-lived recollection) :

This therapy derives from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Its two main benefits are – a) it is a fast form of therapy; b) it affords the individual undergoing the therapy a significant degree of PRIVACY.

The therapist begins the therapy by asking the client which specific trauma s/he wishes to recall. When this has been agreed upon, the client is asked to intensely recall the traumatic incident whilst the therapist counts aloud to one hundred (one count lasts about one second so the client recalls the incident for approximately 100 seconds). During this 100 seconds, the incident is recalled intensely for about the first 90 seconds; the last 10 seconds are used to ‘mentally come back’ to reality.

After the one hundred seconds are up the therapist asks the client what s/he recalled and what was learned by revisiting the trauma.


– the voice of the therapist has the comforting effect of keeping the client safely mentally rooted in the present whilst s/he is recalling the trauma

– because the memory of the trauma is strictly contained within an ‘experiential period’ of 100 seconds, its power is weakened

– intensely mentally revisiting the trauma helps the client become desensitized to it and to gain mastery over it

One study showed that 80% of those who underwent this therapy gained benefit from it.


This therapy focuses primarily on the treatment of panic attacks (which are extremely common amongst those who have undergone extreme trauma). It involves educating the client about what panic attacks are and then helps them develop breathing techniques to control the panic. One technique the therapy uses is to recreate the symptoms of a panic attack artificially in the client. For example:

a) the therapist gets the client to breathe through a straw for a while (this mimics the adverse effect of how we breathe during a panic attack); b) the client spins on a swivel chair (which mimics the dizziness which is often felt during panic attacks), and c) the client is asked to repeatedly tense and untense the stomach (this mimics the queasy feeling we often experience in our stomachs when we are having a panic attack).

Artificially recreating the feelings which accompany a panic attack help to DEMYSTIFY them in our minds and help us to see them as merely a temporary inconvenience that is not dangerous and can be easily dealt with (after the artificial symptoms have been brought on, the therapist guides the client through the breathing exercises which stop the symptoms. The client can apply the same breathing exercises the next time s/he experiences a real panic attack).

Once the client has been shown how to overcome the symptoms of panic, s/he need no longer fear them and they start to lose their power over him/her.


This therapy encourages the client to confront their trauma. It is a short therapy and usually allocates one session per traumatic incident. The therapist acts more as a FACILITATOR and the client does most of the work. The therapy consists of the following stages :

a) The client is asked to specify the particular trauma s/he wishes to confront.

b) The client is then asked to mentally view the trauma as if it was a film being watched on DVD (so the client feels MENTALLY DETACHED from it).

c) The client is asked to say what happened and what s/he felt about it

d) The client mentally views the imaginary film, again and again, explains to the therapist how s/he feels about it.

In the case of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (meaning the client will usually need to address multiple traumas), 10-15 sessions may be necessary.

Therapists typically report that the client’s emotional response will increase during the first few imaginary viewings of the trauma but this will then start to fade so that, eventually, there is no negative emotional response. The therapy continues until the client reaches the point at which s/he feel calm about their imaginary viewings of the traumatic incidents.

Research into the effectiveness of this type of therapy is at an early stage.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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