Neuroscience research has conclusively established that trauma results in a ‘living legacy’ of enduring nonverbal effects rather than a coherent narrative. Long after an event is over, the survival responses meant to warn us of impending danger remain easily re-activated, evoking emotional and body memories. Treatment methods focused on the traumatic events can prolong treatment by stimulating these symptoms, leaving therapists who work in short-term therapy settings feeling frustrated with their ability to help traumatized individuals, especially when their clients are suicidal and self-destructive.
The evolution of new neurobiologically-informed treatments offers new, hopeful answers to the aftermath of trauma, and, more importantly, these approaches can be adapted to a short-term model of therapy. Rather than ‘treating’ the events that resulted in this legacy, neuroscience teaches us how to treat their effects. The neurobiological logic of this way of working with trauma reassures survivors that they are not inadequate or crazy and reassures the therapist that the effects of traumatic experiences can be safely addressed even using a brief therapy paradigm.
- Define the cognitive, affective and somatic effects of trauma
- Describe trauma-related autonomic dysregulation
- Utilize mindfulness-based treatment techniques with traumatized clients
- Discuss the phases of a short-term treatment for trauma
- Describe three (3) somatic and cognitive interventions that directly address the neurobiological effects
Ford, J. & Courtois, C. (2020). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders in adults, Second Edition: scientific foundations and therapeutic models. New York: Guilford Press.
Price, C. & Hooven, C. (2018). Interoceptive awareness skills for emotion regulation: theory and approach of mindful awarenesss in body-oriented therapy (MABT). Frontiers in psychology, 9:798, 1-12.
Van der Kolk, B.A. (2015). The body keeps the score: mind, body and brain in the treatment of trauma. New York: Viking Press.
Janina Fisher, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Instructor at the Trauma Center, an outpatient clinic and research center founded by Bessel van der Kolk. Known for her expertise as an author, speaker, and consultant, she is also Assistant Educational Director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, an EMDR International Association Continuing Education Provider, and a former Instructor, Harvard Medical School. She is co-author with Pat Ogden of “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment” and author of “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation” and “Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and their Therapists.”