Healing from complex trauma takes time, and having a treatment team that is supportive and well-trained in trauma-informed care can be an enormous help. In this article, we shall discuss together more disciplines you can have on your care team and how they can help you heal.

Your Trauma Treatment Team

In a former post, we examined what disciplines you might expect on a mental health treatment team: a psychiatrist and a therapist. We also covered some of the forgotten members who can also help you down the road less taken.

However, there are more disciplines we can add to the team to treat complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

Massage therapist. Massage therapy is another or complementary therapy that you can receive at the hospital or a private clinic. Massage doesn’t only feel fantastic, but it is good for your sense of well-being. An analysis of clinical studies found that massage therapy offered a significant reduction in depression in those following treatment by a massage therapist.

Studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute on massage therapy and mental health found that massage therapy was effective in reducing the symptoms of the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Stress
  • Complex trauma

Massage therapy is used to help treat digestive disorders, headaches, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other physical symptoms that are often associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDMs). Adequate nutrition is increasingly recognized as an influence on mental status. RDMs work in a variety of venues, including mental health treatment. RDMs aren’t specifically trained to work in the mental health field. However, their expertise is vital to someone living with a mental health condition such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder. RDMs work in mental health facilities such as psychiatric hospitals and units within general hospitals, outpatient programs, and mental health clinics.

Good nutrition benefits everyone; however, as stated earlier, registered dietician nutritionists can aid in the treatment of many mental health disorders that are treated in-patient and out. Some of these disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Although complex trauma isn’t listed above, it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition 5 and so can easily be added to the list of disorders treated by an RDM.

Chiropractor. Chiropractors are not only beneficial when your back hurts; they are one of the most overlooked disciplines that can aid in healing from complex trauma Chiropractic care involves a mind-body approach that can alleviate the symptoms and co-occurring diagnoses that accompany complex trauma.

Pain of any type exacerbates the symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and the role of a chiropractor is to restore and maintain joint health. Since spinal health influences nearly every region of your body, chiropractic adjustments can trigger an increase in hormones such as the following:

  • Neurotensin- neutralizes stress-induced pain
  • Cortisol- blocks pain from inflammation
  • Oxytocin- boosts a feeling of social bonding and how the brain communicates within itself.

A chiropractor can also help you sleep better, which is invaluable to healing from any trauma-induced disorder, including complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clearly, many additional disciplines can help you overcome complex trauma and live well.

Your Care Team and Trauma-Informed Care

To better serve your needs in treating CPTSD, it is critical that your treatment team be trauma-informed. Trauma-informed care involves both organizational and clinical practices among your trauma team members.

There are five core principles of a trauma-informed approach:

Patient empowerment. Many, if not most, people who experienced complex trauma in childhood had little power over what was happening to them. This victimhood can carry over into adult life, making survivors feel they still have little control over their lives. A trauma-informed treatment team will use individual strengths to empower survivors as they navigate their way through treatment.

Choice. As survivors, people often feel they have few choices they can make to improve their lives. Trauma-informed care involves offering survivors choices regarding their treatment options so they can choose and feel empowered.

Collaboration. A good trauma-informed trauma team will maximize the collaboration among all the disciplines, yourself, and your family to bring you the best assistance to help you heal.

Safety. Your trauma-informed mental health care team will develop health care settings and activities that are safe and protect your physical and emotional health.

Trustworthiness. Your team will create clear expectations with you about what will occur with each treatment, who will provide the services, and how that care will be provided.

Trauma-informed care is vital to allow you to participate in your health care.

The Three Stages of Healing from Complex Trauma and How Your Treatment Team Can Help

Three stages of trauma recovery are available as solutions to survivors in CPTSD recovery. The three stages offer a roadmap to healing that many find critical in their treatment. There is a proven trail you can follow to feel calmer and more in control. It can even make you feel more comfortable within your own skin.

Stage One: Creating safety and stabilization. People living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder often crave to feel secure as they were robbed of these vital needs in childhood. For this reason, the beginning step in recovery from CPTSD is to create safety (both emotional and physical) and stabilization. One of the characteristics of trauma is how it leaves you with a chronically dysregulated nervous system leaving you vulnerable to triggers that cause flashbacks and other nasty symptoms.

However, when you learn to recognize and feel safe, you can learn to meet your own needs or find someone else who can. With time, having a sense of safety and stability will cause you to feel more in control.

Stage Two: Remembrance and mourning. Remembering and mourning over what happened to you as a child is vital in healing as it offers resolution and reconsolidation of old memories. Without remembrance and mourning, you cannot move forward because you are using the ineffective coping tool of avoidance. Avoidance will keep you or any other survivor from resolving what happened so long ago because it leaves you with the pain, anger, fear, and shame you have bottled up.

The step of remembrance and mourning the past trauma is vital for recovering from CPTSD, as in this step, you are engaging in trauma recovery work. Trauma recovery work is the heart of trauma therapy, where you meet with a therapist and your other trauma team members to work through what happened.

Mourning includes grieving over all the things you lost because of the trauma you endured, including those things you missed out on in childhood as well as things that you have missed as an adult.

Stage Three: Reconnection and integration. In this final stage of healing from complex trauma, you can now take time to consider who you are and where you want to be in the future from here without the cloud of trauma holding you down.

Your trauma team can help you find your path through discussion and exploration of your options. Instead of feeling like a victim, you will now find a new voice of strength and hope rising from your inner self. Often people in this step of their recovery find the need for helping others, but this step is about thinking about your future and not dwelling on the past.

It is vital to remember that the three stages aren’t always experienced in a neat sequential manner. Often, survivors find they move in and out of the different stages, especially returning to safety and stabilization. Your trauma-informed treatment team can guide you through each stage and remain flexible when you need to revisit one or two of them.

Some Closing Words

Your treatment team should be made of many different disciplines that you have chosen to help you on your healing journey. There are many disciplines besides mental health professionals that you may wish to consider joining your treatment team.

It is critical that at least some of the members of your treatment team be trauma-informed and recognize the three stages of healing from complex trauma.

No matter what disciplines you choose to add to your treatment team, keep in mind that you are in control over your treatment. You are no longer a helpless child victim of perpetrators who held all the power. You are now a capable adult who, if you wish to, can overcome the barriers placed on you by complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Beneath the surface of the protective parts of trauma survivors, there exists an undamaged essence, a Self that is confident, curious, and calm, a Self that has been sheltered from destruction by the various protectors that have emerged in their efforts to ensure survival. Once those protectors trust that it is safe to separate, the Self will spontaneously emerge, and the parts can be enlisted in the healing process” ~ Bessel van der Kolk

“If you live your life to please everyone else, you will continue to feel frustrated and powerless. This is because what others want may not be good for you. You are not being mean when you say NO to unreasonable demands or when you express your ideas, feelings, and opinions, even if they differ from those of others.” ~ Beverly Engel

References

Hou WH, Chiang PT, Hsu TY, Chiu SY, Yen YC. Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis. J Clin Psych 2010; 71:894-901.

Menschner, C., & Maul, A. (2016). Key ingredients for successful trauma-informed care implementation. Trenton: Center for Health Care Strategies, Incorporated. Retrieved from: https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/childrens_mental_health/atc-whitepaper-040616.pdf

If you or a loved one live in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, come to us for help. CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services, including:

All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up; we will be glad to help you.  If you cannot afford to pay, go to www.cptsdfoundation.org/scholarship to apply for aid. We only wish to serve you.

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