Psychoeducation is a vital part of treatment for those suffering from complex PTSD and includes many vital elements and I briefly outline the main ones below:
The patient/client should be provided with an understanding of what is meant by the terms ‘trauma’ and ‘complex trauma’ including their symptoms.
The patient/client should also be helped to understand that often the origins of the symptoms of complex PTSD are very frequently unidentified (even by those within the medical profession) until a suitably trained medical professional is involved in a diagnosis (for this reason many people who are eventually diagnosed as having complex PTSD have been incorrectly diagnosed with other conditions in the past that complex PTSD symptoms have been mistaken for (e.g. ADHD, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder).
Once the true origin of complex PTSD has been identified (usually severe, ongoing, interpersonal trauma caused by a parent or primary carer) the client needs to be helped to understand that his/her symptoms were originally healthy adaptations that developed as self-defense mechanisms to increase his/her chances of self-protection, self-preservation, ability to cope psychologically and survival. Or, to put it another way, the complex PTSD symptoms of the person developed as a NORMAL REACTION TO ONGOING, REPETITIVE, ABNORMAL, AND THREATENING CIRCUMSTANCES (COMPLEX TRAUMA). For example, the individual’s ‘survival brain’ may have become overdominant and s/he may have become ensnared in the ‘fight or flight’ mode.
It should be explained to the patient/client the pervasive and profound effects that complex trauma can have on the sense of self (e.g. a feeling that the self has become fragmented) and that this can lead to feelings of intense fear, feelings of existence being pointless and meaningless and a sense of a foreshortened future.
The patient/client needs to be made aware of how his/her current relationship difficulties are likely to be closely related to problematic relationships with his/her parents/primary carers in early life.
The client/patient needs help to understand how his/her assumptions about the world may have been shattered by his/her traumatic experiences and that this may have profoundly affected his/her core beliefs.
The vital importance of social support to facilitate the recovery process should be emphasized to the client/patient.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).