Category Archives: Recovery

Vital Importance Of Parental Response To Child’s Traumatic Experience.

When the child experiences trauma, the response of the parent or primary caregiver is, of course, of vital importance to how the child copes with his/her experience, how resilient s/he is in the face of it and how badly affected s/he is by it.

THE PARENTING CAPACITY CONTINUUM :

According to Thierry, parental response to the child’s traumatic experience lies upon a continuum which he calls the parenting (or environmental) capacity continuum.

  • At one end of the continuum, representing parental responses to the child’s traumatic experience which are most helpful to the child, the parents’ response is described as WARM, CARING and VERBAL.
  • At the opposite end of the continuum, representing parental responses to the child’s traumatic experience which are most harmful to him/her, the parents’ behaviour is described as INFLICTING FURTHER PUNISHMENT ON THE CHILD FOR TALKING ABOUT HIS/HER TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES.
  • Between these two extremes, parents whose response to the child’s traumatic experiences fall into the middle part of the continuum are described as BULLYING AND NOT FACILITATING PROCESSING.

Let’s look at each of these three descriptions of possible parental responses to their traumatized child’s emotional and psychological needs in a little more detail:

  1. Parents who display warmth and care and are verbal in relation to the child’s traumatic experience:

Such parents are likely to have had a long-term, consistent, loving, nurturing and caring relationship with the child and to have developed a strong and healthy emotional bond with him/her.

Furthermore, parents whose responses lie on this end of the continuum tend to encourage the child to talk about (and, therefore, verbally process) his/her concerns, fears, worries and anxieties.

Unsurprisingly, children who receive such a parental response to their traumatic experiences are, all else being equal, the most likely to develop emotional resilience, mentally process their experiences in a healthy way and recover from the effects of their trauma.

      2.  Parents who inflict further punishment upon the child for talking about his/her traumatic experience:

At this end of the continuum, the child receives negative consequences from the parent if s/he talks about his/her traumatic experience or about the adverse effect it has had on him/her. Children in this situation may fear their parents and the punishment they will inflict they  (i.e. the children) dare defy this imposition of silence. An example would be that of a child who has an alcoholic and abusive father but is never permitted to speak of it.

Again, unsurprisingly, a child who finds him/herself at this end of the continuum will be seriously impaired in his/her ability to process his/her traumatic experiences and, therefore, the adverse effects of these experiences, all else being equal, will be considerably more severe, and of a longer duration, than those a child at the opposite end of the spectrum (see 1, above) suffers.

      3.   Parents who are bullying and fail to facilitate the child in naturally processing his/her traumatic experience:

In the middle part of the continuum parents are described by the Thierry’s model as being bullying and as not helping the child to process his/her traumatic experiences. Such parents do not have a strong emotional bond with their child and might be dismissive in their attitude towards the feelings the child has in response to his/her traumatic experience. Alternatively, such parents may even bully their children as a means of inhibiting their desire to express their feelings. Because of these kinds of parental responses, children subjected to them are discouraged from naturally processing (e.g. by talking about it or acting out their feelings through play) what they have been through.

Therefore, children represented by the middle part of the continuum are likely to find their ability to recover from their traumatic experiences significantly impaired, though not to the degree that might occur in the case of children represented by the extreme, negative end (see 2, above) of the continuum.

Conclusion:

The above model reminds us of the crucial importance that those who have experienced childhood trauma are provided with emotional support, especially from those closest to them but also from wider society, in order that they are able to process what has happened to them and to have their traumatic experiences validated.

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

Depression, Thinking Styles And Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis for Depression – Natural Treatment | Self Hypnosis Downloads : Try Introduction And First Module FREE.

We have seen from other articles published on this site that those who have experienced severe and protracted childhood trauma are, as adults, at an elevated risk of suffering from depression. We have also seen how hypnotherapy can benefit trauma survivors (in fact, research has shown that those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are, overall, more responsive to hypnotherapy than is the average person).

Depression And How People Think :

Those who are depressed tend to be, quite understandably, self-focused and self-absorbed, not least because they are in a great deal of mental anguish and turmoil (just as anyone suffering from excruciating tooth ache will inevitably be self-focused and self-absorbed). This is why it is unfair to accuse those who experience this extremely serious condition as ‘choosing’ to be ‘selfish’.

Another very common feature of depression is that it causes the person who is suffering from it to (falsely) believe that there is no hope of recovery.

A third hallmark of depressive thinking is that the afflicted individual tends to be extremely focused on the past, as opposed to on the present or the future.

Fourth. depressive thinking tends to be ‘ruminative’ as opposed to ‘experiential’.

Ruminative thinking is generalized and abstract and involves dwelling on distressing matters ; depressive rumination has been defined as ‘thoughts that focus one’s attention on one’s depressive symptoms and their implications’ (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). It is also decontextualized and self-evaluative. Such rumination has been found to be a major contributory factor to the onset of depression and its maintenance.

‘Experiential’ thinking, on the other hand, is specific to a current task being undertaken.

Traditionally, ‘rumination’ has been regarded as a negative style of thinking, whereas ‘experiential’ thinking has been regarded as positive. Herman et al., 2008 suggested that the tendency to over-generalize when indulging in ruminative thinking (e.g. by thinking things like : ‘I’ve never done anything right in my entire life’, or. ‘everybody has always hated me and always will’) is the strongest predictor of the severity and duration of depression, as well as of the likelihood of relapse ; in other words, the more prone one is to ruminative-style thinking, the worse, and longer lasting, one’s depression is likely to be ; furthermore, the greater one’s chances of relapsing after recovery are likely to be.

It is important, then, that we attempt to adopt a far more ‘experienttial’ style of thinking and keep to a minimum our negative, ruminating-style thinking if we wish to reduce our feelings of depression or to prevent ourselves from relapsing into further depressive episodes.

HOW HYPNOTHERAPY CAN HELP IN RELATION TO THE ABOVE :

Hypnotherapy can :

  • encourage us to think ‘experientially’ e.g by thinking about and planning achievable tasks and goals as well as motivating us to carry out such tasks
  • focus on the present and future rather than on the past
  • help us to feel more positive
  • reduce distressing, intrusive thoughts
  • help us to reduce dysfunctional, generalized thinking
  • reduce self-crticism
  • reduce the judgmental, internal dialogues we have with ourselves
  • increase our ability to recall traumatic memories without attributing to them self-blame
  • increase our ability to change out thinking style from ‘ruminative’ to ‘experiential.’
  • calm the brain’s amygdala which, in turn, puts us in a much better position to resolve traumatic events from the past.

RESOURCE :

If you are interested in how hypnosis can help with all of the above and much more, you may wish to visit the affiliated site, hypnosisdownloads.com, which I have used to aid my own recovery.

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


How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Repair The Cortex

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site how severe and protracted childhood trauma can adversely affect the physical development of the brain, including, most importantly, the prefrontal cortex; this damage to the cortex, amongst other effects, can make it much more difficult for us to control our emotions.

This is because the prefrontal cortex is the ‘thinking / rational’ part of the brain that we use to control our emotions (which are generated in the part of the brain known as the limbic system).

If its functioning is impaired, we are in danger of our emotions dictating our behavior at the expense of our more rational judgment (which, in severe cases, of course, can be a recipe for personal disaster in ways that would constitute a very long list).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps to retrain the functionality of the prefrontal cortex so that we can increase our control over our emotions, as opposed to permitting our emotions to be in control over us.

In more technical terms, CBT, by helping to change the way in which we think and behave, enhances the ability of the prefrontal cortex to inhibit the irrational and dysfunctional emotions that may otherwise cause us to make decisions, or act in ways, of which we later feel regretful or ashamed.

In essence, then, CBT can help our cognitive system to over-ride our emotional system, rather than letting our emotional system over-ride our cognitive system.

SUPPORTING EVIDENCE :

A study conducted by Porto et al. (2009), which carried out a meta-analysis of the relevant research, supported the idea that CBT does indeed beneficially alter the brain on a neurobiological level by changing neural circuits in a manner that helps to control dysfunctional emotions, as has other studies.

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

 
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Should We Stop Using Electroconvulsive Therapy? My Experience.

Childhood trauma can lead us to become severely clinically depressed as adults, and this happened to me. Electroshock therapy or Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is only used as a last resort on people who are at high risk of suicide and/or are unable to function in even the most basic areas of life.

ECT is, in fact, misunderstood by the vast majority of people – many see it as barbaric and frightening. Such views, in large part, derived from the popular media (e.g. from films such as ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’).

However, most controlled research suggests that ECT is helpful as a treatment for severe depression (eg Pagnia et al., 2004). It is normally only used when other interventions, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment, have failed.

There are, though, some risks. Approximately 2-10 patients per 100,000 treatments (ie less than 0.01%) die during the procedure – however, this is no higher than the risk of dying from anaesthesia alone (patients have a general anaesthetic before undergoing ECT).

After the treatment patients might have headaches, aching muscles or nausea. Also, some patients experience some memory loss (but, generally, only mildly) which can last up to six months (Sackeim et al. 2007).

Patients who undergo ECT, however, tend to view it positively. In one study, 98% of patients who received it said they’d undergo it again if their depression recurred (Pettinati et al., 1994).

Image result for electroconvulsive therapy

MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF ELECTRO-CONVULSIVE THERAPY (ECT).

My own depression was so severe and protracted that I underwent ECT sessions (an ECT treatment session normally comprises blocks of 6 individual treatments) on more than one occasion. I was suicidal and almost completely unable to function (not even able to carry out the most basic self-care, such as shaving, brushing my teeth or taking a bath or shower). As I say, these periods went on for several months, or years, at a time.

Frankly, I did not care whether I lived or died (actually, that’s not quite true, I wanted to be dead), nor what happened to me. Thus, when I was hospitalized, my psychiatrist strongly advised me to undergo ECT. I put up no resistance, nor would I have had the energy or will to do so.

Over the years, each time I underwent ECT sessions, the results were pretty much the same, so I’ll just describe the effect of one set of treatments:

The best thing about it was being given the general anaesthetic – such was the extreme nature of my mental anguish that I constantly longed to be unconscious (or dead). Unfortunately, however, the treatment is quick so one is only unconscious for a few minutes!

When I awoke, I’d have very bad, pounding headaches and many of my muscle groups would be painful. Sometimes, I’d need to walk with a stick for a few days after the treatment until the muscles in my legs recovered.

Also, and this was frightening, for about the first five or ten minutes after the treatment I would be so disoriented and confused that I did not know where I was, or even WHO I was. It is impossible for one to imagine how disturbing this is until one has experienced the sensation for oneself. Fortunately, as I said, this did not last long.

On the topic of memory, it felt to me that my memory was impaired for a couple of years after the final treatment session (though not severely). I would make the point, however, that severe clinical depression in itself can impair memory so I cannot attribute it to ECT without some equivocation.

Finally, and most importantly, my own ECT did not have any beneficial effect on me whatsoever; my depression was not even slightly ameliorated.

Obviously, overall, my experience of ECT was fairly negative. However, it is necessary to stress that I am, of course, just one patient out of thousands who have received ECT, so not very much can be concluded from my personal experience. The research I have already quoted suggests that, for the majority, it is beneficial. Indeed, there are many who believe it has saved their life.

USEFUL LINK : 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – Mayo Clinic

 

eBook :

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Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

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

Steps To Healing From Childhood Trauma As An Adult

 

Research shows those who suffer childhood trauma CAN and DO recover.

Making significant changes in life can be a very daunting prospect, but those who do it in order to aid their own recovery from childhood trauma very often find the hard work most rewarding.

Some people find making the necessary changes difficult, whereas others find it enjoyable.

THE DECISION TO CHANGE

Change does not occur instantly. Psychologists have identified the following stages building up to change:

1) not even thinking about it.
2) thinking about it.
3) planning it.
4) starting to do it.
5) maintaining the effort to continue doing it.

THE RECOVERY PROCESS :

Each individual’s progress in recovery is unique, but, generally, the more support the trauma survivor has, the quicker the recovery is likely to occur.

Often recovery from childhood trauma is not a steady progression upwards – there are usually ups and downs (e.g two steps forward…one step back…two steps forward etc) but the OVERALL TREND is upwards (if you imagine recovery being represented on the vertical axis of a graph and time by the horizontal). Therefore, it is important not to become disheartened by set-backs along the recovery path. These are normal.

Sometimes, one can even feel one at first is getting worse (usually if traumas, long dormant, are being processed by the mind in a detailed manner for the first time). However, once the trauma has been properly consciously reprocessed, although this is often painful, it enables the trauma survivor to work through what happened and to form a new, far more positive, understanding of himself or herself.

Once the trauma has been reworked (i.e understanding what happened and how it has affected the survivor’s development) he or she can start to develop a more positive and compassionate view of him/herself (for example, realizing that the abuse was not their fault can relieve strong feelings of guilt and self-criticism).

Once the reworking phase has been passed through, improvement tends to become more consistent and more rapid.

STEPS TO RECOVERY

It is important to remember that, no matter how severe our particular experiences of childhood trauma were, people can, and do, recover from such experiences if they undergo an appropriate form of therapy; cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT for example, is now well established by research findings to be a very effective treatment.

In analysing the recovery process from childhood trauma, it is possible to break it down into seven stages; I present these stages below :

RECOVERY STAGES :

1) The first very important thing to do is to stop seeing ourselves as abnormal because of the effect our childhood trauma has had on us, but, instead, to see our symptoms/resultant behaviours as A NORMAL REACTION TO ABNORMAL EVENTS/EXPERIENCES.

It is very important to realize that it is highly probable that other people would have been affected in a very similar way to how we ourselves have been affected had they suffered the same adverse experiences that we did.

Coming to such a realization is, I think, important if we wish to keep up our self-esteem.

The kinds of symptoms and behaviours that childhood trauma can lead to are examined in detail in my book ‘The Devastating Effects Of Childhood Trauma’ – see below.

2) A very therapeutic effect can often be achieved by opening up about our traumatic experiences and how we feel they have affected us by talking to others we trust about such matters.

3) If at all possible, it is important that, during the recovery process, we are in an environment in which we feel safe and secure, and which is as stress – free as possible.

4) It is also extremely important that we try to resume normal everyday activities and interpersonal relationships as soon as possible, even if this requires some effort at first. Indeed, the research suggests a recovery is very difficult if we do not re-establish human relationships. Also, we need to try to build some structure into our daily lives, as this provides a foundation of stability.

5) We need to accept that we may need much more rest than the average person – this is because the brain needs time to recover. In relation to this, getting the correct nutrients and sufficient sleep (I needed far more than 8 hours during my recovery) is also very important.

6) We also need to realize that while our experience of trauma entailed a great deal of suffering, many people not only recover from childhood trauma but develop as a human being in extremely positive ways as a result of it; this phenomenon is known as posttraumatic growth.

7) Therapy should be seriously considered as there are now many studies which provide extremely solid evidence that therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be highly effective. There are many other therapies and self-help strategies, too; I examine these in my book ‘Therapies For The Effects Of Childhood Trauma’ (see below).

LET GO OF THE PAST 

The following six strategies can help us to let go of the past and move on with our lives more effectively :

1) VALIDATION :

According to Horowitz, if our past childhood trauma and the pain it has caused is, subsequently, invalidated (e.g. denied, ignored, dismissed, minimized, mocked etc.) by those who have harmed us, the psychological harm done to us is amplified. This makes it harder to move forward in our lives.

However, if this is the case, it can be helpful to seek and obtain validation from significant others, such as a therapist who is trained to work with childhood trauma survivors, or from what Alice Miller (1923-2010) referred to as an ‘enlightened witness.’ Miller defined an ‘enlightened witness’ as a compassionate and empathetic person who helps the childhood trauma survivor ‘recognize the injustices [s/he] suffered and give vent to {his/her] feelings.’

2) EXPRESSION OF PAIN :

This pain we have been caused does not necessarily need to be expressed directly to those responsible ; for example, we may describe our experiences and feelings in a journal, or, as Franz Kafka did, write a letter to the person/s responsible (in the case of Kafka, the letter was to his abusive and narcissistic father) without actually sending it (instead, his biographer informs us that he gave it to his mother to give to his father – he was too frightened to approach his father directly – but she never did, possibly because she believed it wouldn’t do any good).

Talking about our traumatic childhood experiences can, however, be very difficult; you can read about why this is in my previously published article entitled: Why It’s So Difficult To Talk About Our Experiences Of Extreme Childhood  Trauma.

Sadly, too, some doctors may be reluctant to discuss our childhood trauma with us for reasons that I outline in my previously published article entitled: Why Don’t Doctors Ask About Childhood Trauma?

3) CONSCIOUS DECISION : 

Because we might have been ruminating, perhaps obsessively, on the trauma and injustice contained in our past, the process of turning things over and over in our minds may have become almost automatic. It is, therefore, necessary to make a firm, conscious decision to embark upon the journey of letting go. In connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published post: Mindfulness Meditation: An Escape Route Away From Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.’

4) ADOPT BENEFICIAL TIME PERSPECTIVE :

According to TIME PERSPECTIVE THERAPY (developed by Zimbardo, Sword and Sword, 2013)  we should use the past to our advantage (such as learning from previous mistakes and focusing on good things that happened rather than dwelling on the bad) ; develop the ability to live in the present and enjoy it, but not in such a heedless and hedonistic way that it endangers our future ; and, also, adopt an optimistic view of the future and plan for it (by setting achievable goals). To read more about TIME PERSPECTIVE THEORY, click here.

5) CULTIVATION OF COMPASSION :

Compassion-Focused Therapy can effectively help people move on from their traumatic childhood experiences. It was initially developed in the early part of this century by Paul Gilbert and can be particularly effective in helping those suffering from feelings of shame resulting from their traumatic experiences.

Specifically, CFT can help with :

  • alleviating feelings of being ‘worthless,” inadequate’, ‘ a bad person‘ etc
  • alleviating negative emotions such as self-disgust and anxiety
  • reducing concern about what others think of one
  • reducing feelings of anger towards those who have mistreated us
  • reducing levels of arousal and hypervigilance

6) REFRAME :

Many people do not realize the damage that their childhood has done to them and may take a sanitized view of it due to what they are taught to believe by those who harmed them or by society more generally (in connection with this, you may be interested in Alice Miller’s classic book entitled: ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal Of The Child.’

By reframing the past, with the help of a psychotherapist, we can start to obtain a genuine insight into what really happened to us which, in turn, empowers us and makes us less of a slave to the unconscious forces that may be ruining our lives.

 Resources 

Unloved As A Child | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Let Go Of The Past | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Let Go Of Shame | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Overcome a Troubled Childhood | Self Hypnosis Downloads

 

A SAMPLE OF PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ARTICLES ABOUT THERAPIES FOR THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA :

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

 

Trauma Recovery And Spirituality

It is not necessary to have a religious faith to be spiritual. But what do we mean by the term SPIRITUALITY?

Being a non – religious but spiritual person means we do not need to ‘buy into’ particular religious texts, systems of belief or traditions which have been passed on from generation to generation over many, many centuries. Indeed, free from such restrictive shackles, we are liberated to go about our spiritual practice in a way which is unique to us, if we so choose.

Our spiritual belief might involve belief in something far more intelligent than us but which we are so far unable to understand (and we certainly do not need to refer to such an entity as ‘god’).

 

People who are spiritual often report that being so :

– helps them to find meaning and purpose in life

– helps them during periods of suffering

– helps them to cope with the death of loved ones

– helps them to come to terms with the prospect of their own death

– helps them learn and develop in response to mistakes and suffering, rather than being defeated by them

– helps them recover from traumatic experiences

– helps with fears concerning the possibility of ‘life after death’

– helps them if they feel the need for forgiveness or the need to forgive others

– helps them develop their creativity

– helps them to become kinder, more patient and more compassionate

– helps them to develop empathy

– helps them to develop better judgement.

 

Many people who are spiritual report becoming more aware of the RECIPRICOL element of life (ie we tend, to some extent at least, to ‘reap what we sow’).

Also, those who are spiritual often find that they are more able to draw on their own suffering to effectively help others. Thus, suffering becomes less meaningless.

 

SPIRITUAL PRACTICES INCLUDE :

– meditation

– yoga

– Thi Chi

– sports that encourage the development of trust and cooperation

– appreciating nature, its beauty, exquisite complexity and ability to inspire feelings of awe

– contemplative reading (literature, poetry, philosophy)

– forming deeper relationships/friendships

– appreciation of the arts

– creative activities (e.g. painting, gardening, cooking)

– volunteering to help others

 

SPIRITUALLY INFORMED THERAPIES INCLUDE :

– MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy)

CFT (compassion focused therapy)

– forgiveness therapy

–  yoga

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was the founder of analytic psychology and regarded spirituality as an essential part of his work. He did not subscribe to any one, traditional religion. Indeed, he believed that fundamentalist and dogmatic religions inhibit spiritual growth, rather than enhance it.

Instead, he stressed the importance of the the person’s individual experience in spiritual growth (including the experiencing numinous events) and of discovering one’s true self (which Jung regarded as the most complete, fulfilled, integrated, balanced and effective individual that we can be – although, it has to be said, he also stated that very few people were ever able to attain this optimum state, rather as Maslow believed very few could ever ascend to the state of self-actualization in the hierarchy of human needs.

 

Pain, Suffering And Trauma Can Help Us Discover Our True Selves, According To Jung :

Jung also believed that our discovery of our ‘true selves’ involved a process of ‘individualization’ that was often a very protracted, extremely painful and traumatic experience.

In order to emphasize just how excruciatingly painful this process could be, he compared it to initiation tests that are undertaken by members of shamanic tribes. These initiation tests can be nearly fatal but are intended to bring about a new spiritual awareness, allowing the individuals who endure them to become spiritual teachers and healers.

In essence, Jung viewed such a process as akin to ‘death and rebirth’ and he points out that such ‘death and rebirth’ processes are central to many religions and traditions, including the death and resurrection of Jesus ; ancient Egyptian myths in which the god dies and is then reborn ; the mythical process of alchemy in which base metals are broken down and reformed into precious metal.

Related to this latter example (the mythical process of alchemy) is the SHATTERED VASE THEORY OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH, and, related to the more general idea that extreme suffering may lead to spiritual development is the ADVERSITY HYPOTHESiS (though neither of these are directly connected To Jung) and I describe both of these below :

 

 

SHATTERED VASE THEORY OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH :

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first incorporated into the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM III – (sometimes informally referred to as the psychiatrists’ bible) in 1980.

Although, without appropriate and effective therapy, PTSD can devastate lives (including, of course, variants of PTSD resulting from severe childhood trauma), as the disorder has become increasingly studied by clinicians it has also become more and more apparent that some individuals affected by the disorder not only overcome their suffering, but, also, report positive changes to their lives that have derived from working through the effects of their traumatic experiences ; indeed, many have reported  that they went on to function better, and extract more meaning and fulfilment from life, than they had been able to prior to developing PTSD.

As a result of this discovery (i.e. that some individuals not only recover from PTSD but go on to thrive), the psychologists Tedeschi and Calhoun coined the term POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH (PTG). Indeed, studies now suggest that up to seventy per cent of those who have suffered from severe trauma may, at least, gain some significant benefit from their experience. Such benefits frequently include the following :

  • a greater appreciation of the importance of supportive relationships
  • an awareness of their courage and mental strength (as demonstrated by having survived extreme adversity)
  • a deeper appreciation of life and a determination to ‘seize the day’

The ‘Shattered Vase’ Metaphor :

The ‘shattered vase‘ metaphor was devised by the psychologist, Professor Stephen Joseph. It is based on the idea that after a severely traumatic experience we can feel as if our lives have been ‘shattered’ and that our very being has become fragmented.

However, just as one could rearrange the broken pieces of the shattered vase into a new work of art, such as a mosaic or sculpture, so too, suggests Joseph, may we be able to ‘rebuild’ ourselves.

Like the shattered vase refashioned into a different art piece, our ‘rebuilt’ self will also be different from the original, but may well possess new qualities that did not exist in our former selves, such as those listed above. Indeed, the new, rebuilt self may well be a significant improvement upon the old one and as such would constitute posttraumatic growth.

We can, therefore, draw some solace from the shattered vase metaphor, even if our suffering has been great.

 

THE ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS :

 


The vast majority of studies examining the effects of trauma on the individual have concentrated on the negative effects such as depression, anxiety, phobias, flashbacks, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and so on. However, more recently, an increasing number of studies have focused on how the experience of trauma may, in some ways, actually benefit us.

Indeed, the ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS puts forward the proposal that adversity and suffering are necessary for optimum human development.

Closely linked to the adversity hypothesis is the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG).

 

The theory of posttraumatic growth suggests that some individuals who undergo traumatic experiences find that they grow and develop as a person in beneficial ways once the trauma is over. These benefits often include :

  1. Discovering/developing strengths and abilities that weren’t apparent prior to the traumatic experience and becoming a more confident person as a result.
  2. Feeling stronger as a person in the knowledge one can survive great difficulty and suffering.
  3. Developing a greater appreciation of life once the trauma is over.
  4. Strengthening of pre-existing valuable and meaningful friendships/bonds/relationships (the colloquial expression ‘finding out who your real friends are’ is of relevance here).
  5. Gaining of a better perspective on life.
  6. Gaining insight into life’s priorities and what one really wants to do with it to make it fulfilling – often leading to decisive and positive life-change.
  7. Gaining a deeper insight into life in general leading to spiritual growth and development.

Indeed, there may well be other benefits, but the above list represents the main ones so far highlighted by the research carried out to date.

It is also worth noting that research carried out by Pennebaker (1990) suggests that if we are able to ‘make sense of’ our traumatic experiences in a way that is meaningful to us we are particularly likely to benefit from posttraumatic growth.

Also, research by Helgeson (2006) suggests that individuals are most likely to start to benefit from posttraumatic growth if their traumatic experiences ceased two years ago or more.

COPING PROCESS OR OUTCOME?

Whether posttraumatic growth represents an active coping process or is a more passive outcome of the experiencing of trauma (or, indeed,  is a combination of the two) is still a matter of debate amongst psychologists; notwithstanding this, not everyone who experiences trauma also experiences posttraumatic growth.

 

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

 

Considering Seeing A Therapist? An Overview Of Talking Therapy.

talking therapy

What Is ‘Talking Therapy’And What Conditions Can It Treat?

The term ‘talking therapy’ refers not to one specific therapy but to a category of therapies. As the phrase strongly implies, ‘talking therapies’ involve a client talking to a therapist with the aim of ameliorating their particular psychological difficulty (e.g. depression, anger, addiction, eating disorders, phobias, childhood trauma, relationship problems and family problems). Studies show that in many cases ‘talking therapies’ can be at least as effective, and, frequently, more effective, than medications for the treatment of a wide range of psychological problems.

Examples Of ‘Talking Therapies’:

As stated above, there are a variety of ‘talking therapies’ from which to choose. These include the following :

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • counselling
  • psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • behavioral activation
  • mindfulness-based therapies
  • family therapy
  • interpersonal therapy
  • dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

(NB The above list is not exhaustive).

Let’s briefly look at each of these eight examples of ‘talking therapy’ in turn :

talking therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy :

This type of therapy is currently widely used to help individuals with psychological difficulties and is evidence-based (i.e. supported by empirical research findings). It is a short-term therapy within which the therapist and client work together to help the client identify dysfunctional behaviors and thinking processes that may be contributing to his/her problems and then to change these behaviors and thinking processes into more helpful ones.

To read my previously published article about how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help those of us who have suffered childhood trauma, click here.

Counselling :

Counselling involves the client talking to a trained therapist about emotions and feelings ; the therapist will listen to the client in a non-judgmental and non-critical  manner.

Usually, the therapist does not provide direct advice to the client but, instead, aims to facilitate the client’s insight into, and understanding of, his/her own thinking patterns and, also, to help him/her discover his/her own solutions to his/her problems.

Counselling has traditionally been a face-to-face activity but is now becoming increasingly available online.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy :

This type of therapy aims to discover, and make the client aware of, how his/her (previously) unconscious mental processes, strongly influenced by early life experiences, have, historically, adversely affected his/her behavior.

To read my previously published post about how psychodynamic psychotherapy can help those who have suffered childhood trauma and, as a result, gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD), click here.

Behavioral activation :

This therapy is used for the treatment of depression and, encouragingly, has been found to have a good rate of success (even, more encouragingly still, in the case of those suffering from depression who have not responded well to other therapeutic interventions – i.e. those who were previously found to be ‘treatment resistant’).

It is often used in conjunction with CBT (see above) or other therapies and, in particular, can help clients who are isolated and avoidant.

To read my previously published article  about how behavioral activation can effectively alleviate depression, click here.

Mindfulness-based therapies :

Mindfulness-based therapies have the goal of helping the client to become aware of his/her feelings, thoughts and experiences in the present moment and to accept these, as a kind of disinterested observer, without judging them . Once the client, with practice, starts to master this skill (which takes time), s/he should experience significantly less distress, or, even, in the ideal case, serene equanimity, when unwanted thoughts and feelings arise in his/her mind.

To read my previously published article about research into mindfulness meditation, click here.

Family therapy :

This therapy aims to resolve dysfunctional family dynamics, particularly by focusing upon how communication can be improved between family members and how conflicts can be overcome.

To read my previously published article on family systems theory and the family scapegoat, click here.

Interpersonal therapy :

This form of therapy aims to help individuals who have interpersonal problems (i.e. find it hard to form and maintain relationships with others). The effectiveness of this kind of therapy is supported by empirical evidence.

To read my previously published article about the process by which are adult relationships can be ruined, click here.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT):

This is an evidence-based therapy for the treatment of individuals who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD). To read my previously published article about how DBT can help people with BPD, click here.

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