Tag Archives: Stages Of Recovery From Childhood Trauma

Steps To Trauma Recovery

steps to trauma recovery

The psychoanalyst, Rothschild, in her excellent book ‘Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery‘, suggests that recovery from trauma entails just a handful of majo elements and I list these below. Underneath some of the elements that appear on the list I have added my own short elaborations and elucidations in terms of how each element may relate specifically to recovery from childhood trauma.

1) Recognizing that one has experienced trauma and survived it.

In the case of childhood trauma it is essential that the victim’s feelings in relation to it are validated by at least one significant other ; the psychotherapist and childhood trauma expert Alice Miller termed such a person an ‘enlightened witness’. An enlightened witness is so vital because It is not unusual for other members of the traumatized individual’s family to invalidate the his/her feelings (e.g. belittling them or dismissing them) for reasons connected to their own guilt and complicity.

2) Coming to terms with flashbacks and understanding their relationship to traumatic memories (to read my article Horowitz’s Information Processing Theory, Flashbacks And Nightmares‘, click here).

3) Self-Compassion

Many individuals suffer from IRRATIONAL feelings of self-blame and guilt in relation to their traumatic childhood experiences ; for example, a child whose parents divorce may erroneously blame him/herself for the parents’ marital breakdown. It is essential to free oneself from such inaccurate and self-destructive beliefs.

To read my article on ‘Compassion Focused Therapy For The Effects Of Childhood Trauma‘, click here.

steps to trauma recovery

4) The need to overcome feelings of shame

Closely related to self-blame and guilt, irrational feelings of shame are also extremely common amongst survivors of childhood trauma and the victim may require significant therapeutic intervention to facilitate the amelioration of such feelings.To read my article entitled ‘Shame And Its Agonizing Effects‘, click here.

5) Recovery from trauma best achieved by breaking the recovery process down into small, manageable steps.

6) Mobilizing the body out of its ‘frozen’ state

Trauma affects the body’s biological functioning and can have the effect of ‘freezing’ it into a state of physiological HYPERAROUSAL and FEAR. Exercising for about 30 minutes a day can help ‘unfreeeze’ the body, not least because it helps to return adrenaline levels to normal (those ‘frozen’ in a hyperaroused and fearful state have an excess of adrenaline coursing through their systems, contributing significantly to feelings of physical tension and associated emotional distress.

7) Deriving meaning and purpose from one’s traumatic experiences in a way that leads to self-improvement.

This essentially refers the concept of posttraumatic growth. A whole category of this site is devoted to posttraumatic growth articles (see MAIN MENU at the top of the page).



Therapies that can be effective for individuals who have suffered childhood trauma include ‘talking therapies’ such as counselling and psychotherapy. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be very effective.


What Is The Difference Between A Therapist And Psychologist?

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


Can Effects of Childhood Trauma be Fully Resolved?

The resolution of childhood trauma is best viewed as an on-going process throughout one’s life. Different issues related to the trauma are likely to be resolved at different stages in life, and, even once resolved, may be re-triggered at times of acute stress ; this is especially likely if the individual experiences in later life events which are similar in nature to the original trauma and trigger memories of it. For example, a person who was abandoned by his mother as a child may find the traumatic response is re-activated if his wife walks out on him.

Therefore, if a person completes a course in psychotherapy, and, at the end of it, feels his emotional difficulties have been resolved, but later experiences a relapse due to a particular stressful event later in life, he should not see his original therapy as a waste of time or himself as having somehow failed. Relapses at times of high anxiety are perfectly normal.

Because of this, by the end of a course of therapy intended to resolve the experience of childhood trauma, it is essential that the therapist has taught the client relevant coping strategies for such an eventuality.

The client should also be made aware that effects of severe trauma can never be absolutely guaranteed to be over and that there will always be some chance of recurrence. If a relapse is severe enough, it may, of course, be necessary for the individual to return to therapy.


One of the best signs of recovery from trauma is the ability to return to pursuing normal, everyday activities and the return of the capacity to experience some pleasure in life, especially in connection with relationships with others.

Another indication of recovery is when the individual becomes less obsessed with the past and starts to be capable of focusing more upon the present and the future.


Seven criteria for the resolution of trauma have been proposed by the psychologist Mary Harvey ; these are :

1) the physiological symptoms of the post traumatic stress have become manageable

2) the person is able to cope with the unpleasant memories connected to the experience of the trauma

3) the traumatic memories have ceased to be so intrusive

4) the memory of the traumatic event has resolved itself into a coherent narrative

5) the person has regained a sense of self-esteem

6) the person has been able to re-establish significant relationships with others

7) the person has reconstructed a coherent system of meaning and belief that makes sense of the traumatic experience and its subsequent damaging effects



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