What Is Trauma?
Trauma can come in many different forms. There are big T traumas that include sexual assaults, military combat, natural disasters, or other experiences where your life was in physical danger. However, there are also little t traumas that include constant experiences of abandonment, rejection, or other more personal experiences of trauma. Both can cause a fight-flight-freeze trauma response.
How do we treat trauma/PTSD?
COPE clinicians utilize two primary treatments to treat trauma and PTSD symptoms: Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure. Both are evidence-based treatments that are utilized across the country in academic medical centers as the front line interventions for treating trauma. They are supported by the American Psychological Association as highly effective trauma treatments and have been designated as having strong research support. They aim to help individuals reduce their trauma symptoms, build resiliency, and begin engaging in their life in new, more effective ways. See below for more information on both and to see which one is right for you, contact us below.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
CPT is a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that focuses on helping individuals examine the ways in which trauma has impacted their sense of self and world around them. In particular, CPT focuses on five main areas: self-esteem, sense of safety, ability to be intimate (physically and emotionally), ability to trust, and need to be in power or control. It is through examining how the trauma(s) affected these areas that individuals begin to rescript their mental narratives to create more helpful and balanced beliefs related to the trauma.
COPE clinicians use CPT techniques to work towards developing compassion, understanding, and empathy for the ways that our clients’ lives and world views were affected in order to ultimately develop effective coping skills to move their lives forward in a new direction. Research has shown that significant reductions in trauma symptoms can be made using CPT after 12 weekly 50-minute sessions.
Prolonged Exposure (PE)
PE focuses on helping individuals gradually approach (and not avoid) their trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations. It is through a unique systematic approach that individuals begin to tolerate their discomfort and learn to recognize that many trauma-related cues that they viewed as dangerous are not dangerous and do not need to be avoided. Although it makes sense why anyone would avoid trauma-related cues, particularly in the short-term, it can be detrimental in the long-term.
COPE clinicians work towards creating a safe space and work collaboratively to help individuals re-engage in their life in new ways. Research has shown that significant reductions in trauma symptoms can be made using PE after 10-12 weekly 90-minute sessions.
Our Trauma Treatment Philosophy
Our approach to trauma treatment is based on years of research showing that what is most helpful in learning how to cope and deal with traumatic stressors is being able to create new learning experiences. We often tell patients who experience a range of trauma reactions that the very reaction that helped you survive the trauma (e.g. fighting, shutting down your emotions, staying isolated, etc.) can also be the very thing that keeps you from our healing now. What worked in one context may not work in another and what worked when your life was at risk may not be working in more objectively safe situations – though that may not always feel to be the case. Thus, our goal at COPE is to 1) have compassion for the reaction that was developed in the context of the stressor, 2) examine the effectiveness of that reaction currently, and 3) develop a more balanced and accurate approach to your current life circumstances.
How Can COPE Help?
Many providers at COPE have been extensively trained in treating PTSD or trauma reactions. Psychologists at COPE primarily utilize Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure for treating the trauma. Although these treatments are often less known in the community compared to other treatments (i.e. EMDR), these treatments have a strong evidence-base and are the front line treatments in various academic medical centers (e.g. VA Hospitals, UCLA, etc.) throughout the country. If interested in learning more about how these treatments may be right for you, please contact us for more information.
What About Eye Movement Desensitization Record (EMDR)?
Although EMDR is a popular treatment for trauma, we at COPE primarily utilize CPT and PE described above, as they have stronger research support and and more evidence-based interventions. Per the American Psychological Association, the research on the effectiveness of EMDR is controversial and the actual mechanisms of change may not actually be the eye movement piece of treatment, but the exposure to the trauma. Thus, we at COPE implement other trauma treatments, such as CPT and PE that directly target what has shown to be effective in trauma treatment. For more information on EMDR from the American Psychological Association, click here.