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This blog is where I write about some of the Continuing Professional Development I undertake.  I hope you find it interesting, useful and informative.

Trauma, the Brain and Recovery Workshop

By natahicks, Apr 11 2020 04:04PM

I attended this back in early March and found it really useful for further informing my knowledge of how best to recognise trauma and help cllients heal from it. I have attempted to summarise the recovery framework below, and hope you find it interesting.

Trauma is a ‘wound’. It causes bio-chemical inflammation. Trauma reduces blood flow to the brain. Neurons need oxygen and glucose and they obtain this via blood circulation. Anything that interferes with this process will cause further damage and prevent healing.

Trauma can be epigenetic and some individuals can have a pre-disposition towards being traumatised easily. There are many different causes of trauma (ranging from the extremes such as war, natural disasters/accidents, rape to developmental trauma through childhood abandonment, abuse, neglect – sexual, physical and emotional. Even birth stress to mother and child, and some invasive medical and dental procedures.)

There are two types of trauma symptoms/behaviours –

Hyperarousal – where the person displays outward signs of trauma (flashbacks, panic attacks, mood swings, nightmares, hypervigilant/active, shame and self-loathing, anxiety and phobias)

Individuals can be attracted towards danger as a way of increasing depleted levels of dopamine and serotonin (feel-good hormone/neurotransmitters.) These in turn can cause addictions, avoidance and mental blockages.

*Similar to ADHD symptoms

Hypoarousal – where the trauma is more internalised. Dissociation Symptoms – (detached from oneself – own life, and thoughts and feelings. OCD/compelling behaviours. Mood swings and amnesia. Immobilization/Freezing. Overwhelming feelings of helplessness. Primarily PTSD)

Polyvagal Theory (Stephen Porges) works on the 3 stages of the vagal nerve state (i.e. the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system again.)

Counselling/psychotherapy enables expression, awareness and thought restructuring techniques (CBT, mindfulness), art and play therapy to encourage expressing thoughts/feelings; as well as controlled breathing (count to 5 whilst taking breaths in through the nose, and count to 10 whilst exhaling longer breaths out via the mouth) and body movement (walking, dancing, jogging, swimming, yoga and pilates).

A combination of Social engagement and Activities that link up or ‘cross the mid-line’, enabling individuals to be in a place of calm and safety so they have an ability to recover from their Traumatic Self and be their Post-Traumatic Self or their Pre-Traumatic Self and have future goals and intentions.

(NB. Some individuals were never able to have a Pre-Traumatic Self, i.e, many children born into poverty and/or dysfunctional households, war zones)

In managing phobias of trauma, the goal of therapy is to help the traumatised individuals reintegrate the trauma memory into personal narrative without re-living their trauma in the process

T - terminate sources of re-traumatisation (be grounded, get a Safe Base. Recovery from any addictions is imperative first.)

R - reintegrate survivors into loving and supportive environment (reconnect with supportive social networks – i.e. counsellor, family or friends or support groups. Whatever works best for the individual. Overcome phobias. Recognise emotional needs and feelings.)

A - accelerate the brain’s healing process (Sleep. Smell/Massage – calming essential oils. Breathing. Purpose and meaning (NB, play for children.) Gratitude and appreciation. Connecting with positive people, but not co-dependency or ‘rescuing’. Acts of kindness – but NOT at the detriment of self-care. Good diet – quality fats and proteins. Less sugar and carbs

U - untangle the nervous system from the immobility response. (Somatic exercises linking up mind and body sensations in order to reintegrate and re-orientate the fragmented individual. Raising self-awareness. Linking up of Left Brain (logic) / Right Brain (emotions) Horizontal brain (executive/cognitive functioning) / Vertical brain (primal ‘survival’ instinct.) Visualisation and mental movement of problem to increase strength and empowerment. Physical movement – music, drama, dance.

NB. See Dan Siegel’s The Whole Brain Child and Dan Hughes PACE/DDP Approach for children.

M - manage phobias of trauma. Feeling secure – being seen, being validated, being nurtured. Connecting with other social beings. Sense of community. Forming strong and secure attachments – with a parent, a spouse or with a therapist. (NB. Psycho-education helps develop self-care and resilience.)

A - attuning to life and creating future positive intentions. Positive affirmations and statements. Setting goals for the future. Strive towards the ‘ideal self’. I AM and I REFUSE statements. (EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique) Meditation with intentions. Use past experiences to help others.

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