As a young 4 year old girl, i was sexually abused and at 14 raped. By 15 i tried to commit suicide and ended up in the hospital on psychiatry. I was in therapy and on medications for years. I saw social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. They meant well, some were very nice and wanted to help me heal. Unfortunately, replaying traumatic experiences did not help and it can actually make things worse… Here’s why.
‘Help’ can sometimes harm
Many therapists are trained in a treatment approach that was based on the maxim that in order to help heal trauma you have to relive it, and re-experience all the original feelings again as they happened.
Some Therapists also believe that many traumas are hidden, blocked out by the conscious mind, and need to be ‘uncovered’ and then re-lived through the imagination, so that the client can ‘get in touch with’ all the raw pain and emotions of that original time in order to ‘let it go’. This therapeutic myth has been around for over one hundred years.
I’ve realized that we can help people access the traumatic memory and release it easily using time line therapy (R), where the client never actually goes into the trauma, nor do they relive it, because therapy should never be painful.
And, of course, if ‘reliving trauma’ did work, people with PTSD would recover after their first flashback.
So, here are the three main reasons to never get a client to directly relive their traumatic experiences:
Reason One: You can reactivate the pattern and embed it deeper
As Dr Noreen Tehrani, an occupational health and counselling psychologist specializing in post traumatic stress, explains:
“If a trauma victim is debriefed in a state of high emotion, the process can increase the arousal to the point of overload, trapping the sensory impressions in the amygdala.”
This is why ‘critical incident debriefing’ after traumatic events is falling out of favor. Getting people to talk about trauma while they are traumatized may not only not help, but could actually make things worse.
Getting people to ‘relive’ their trauma is not therapy. But it can be torture.
Reason Two: Someone who desperately needs help may be put off ever seeking it
If you don’t know how to de-traumatize someone comfortably, using hypnosis or time line therapy (R) then at least avoid hurting them and/or putting them off seeking any help in future.
Reason Three: It’s a waste of valuable time
If you’re going the wrong way, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re travelling. You are still wasting time.
People who are suffering flashbacks, experiencing horrendous daytime and night terrors, living the kind of life no one should have to live, leading to depression, perhaps substance abuse, fractured relationships, ruined work lives and all the rest of it, need help right now.
If you are a therapist, please – remove their traumatic suffering as fast as you can, and preferably in the first session.
Rocking the boat?
Some therapists have told me that therapeutic practise should be ‘a matter of choice’ for the therapist. As if methods of alleviating human suffering are a question of ‘taste’, like what movies appeal to us, or what we feel to be good art.
Would you say that hygienic practice in maternity wards should be a ‘matter of choice’? The early promoters of hand washing were sneered at for suggesting it was better practice to have a clean environment rather than a dirty one – as if criticizing filth in operating theaters was somehow ‘unfair’ on the beliefs of doctors who saw no reason to wash their hands between patients.
Article Adapted from Mark Tyrrell – Hypnotherapist – Psychology is my passion. I’ve been a psychotherapist trainer since 1998, specializing in brief, solution focused approaches.
Lynn is a Mental Fitness Expert & Thriver! A woman who has gone from being a victim of childhood sexual abuse to learning how to help others and thrive in life. She completed her Master’s in Hypnosis, Time Line Therapy ® and NLP Techniques which work with our unconscious mind, where all learning, behaviors and habits are stored.
Lynn is a Certified Personal Trainer & Registered Holistic Nutritionist with 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She was formerly 60 pounds’ overweight after having her son and since then, has passionately dedicated her career toward helping others transform themselves both physically and mentally. Lynn not only lost the baby weight, she has competed in women’s physique bodybuilding and is also known as the “Mental Fitness Expert”, using the power of the mind that help to get fast results.
Lynn continues to help others in all areas of health and works with women & men specifically on weight loss, trauma healing, depression, stress and anxiety.