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How Can Psychodynamic Therapy Heal Complex Trauma?

Patient seeing a doctor for therapy   Psychodynamic therapy is rooted in traditional psychoanalysis. it draws from object relations, ego psychology, and self-psychology. It was originally devised as a more brief alternative to psychoanalysis. Similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy intends to create changes in behavior. Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on conscious thoughts and behaviors, psychodynamic therapy emphasizes the unconscious mind. The intention is to examine upsetting feelings, urges, and thoughts that are too painful for us to consciously acknowledge. In this way, it seeks to reduce symptoms and improve people’s lives.

Unconscious Feelings

Even though the painful thoughts, feelings, and urges associated with trauma are not in our present consciousness, they still impact and influence our behaviors. Unconscious feelings are those feelings that may make us avoid starting new relationships because of previous negative experiences. This is one example of how our thoughts and feelings connect with our behaviors.

Where Does Trauma Come From?

Trauma can be characterized by many different qualities. Sometimes trauma is a result of a single incident, or it may be a chronic presence. Trauma is quite subjective and can come from many different sources, from natural disasters, experiences of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and they can occur at any point in our lives. There are also less direct methods of experiencing trauma, such as from neglect, or acts of commission of abuse.

What Is the Value of Psychodynamic Therapy?

One can see the value of psychodynamic theory in treating trauma compared to other therapeutic practices because psychodynamic theory focuses on our subconscious thoughts, rather than on our conscious awareness. It is ideal for helping us deal with trauma, which is often mentally repressed to some degree. Psychodynamic therapy is a method for gently bringing to consciousness those feelings and thoughts which are hidden away in our minds. The origins of the psychodynamic theory are attributed to Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic theory, from its emphasis on unconscious thoughts and their connection to our conscious actions. The modern approach includes various elements pulled from what is considered “traditional” therapeutic practices, such as the person-centered approach. A common thread, however, is the idea that allowing our thoughts to remain in the subconscious will cause them to become more toxic as time goes on. The tools of psychodynamic theory, in treating trauma, are designed around helping us bring awareness to our triggers and defense mechanisms, and learning new ways to address them as they appear.

How Psychodynamic Therapy Can Resolve Trauma

Originally, the main focus of psychoanalytic therapy was to identify our subconscious fears and defense mechanisms that we have developed as a result, to evade what would be perceived as unbearable pain. The goal was to find sufficient and appropriate substitutes for those defenses, which would be healthier and more effective. A major facet of the psychodynamic theory is that it incorporates parts of the traditional psychoanalytic model, as well as newer tools, such as examining relational and bodily experiences. An unintended tool that has developed is the need for therapists to develop an acute awareness of their emotional reactions within a treatment setting. This phenomenon is called “countertransference,” and it is something that can occur in other methods of therapy.

Treating Complex Trauma

When treating complex trauma, it has been noted that there are powerful countertransference dynamics. This means that therapists that work with treating complex trauma have had to learn the skills necessary to navigate delicate topics which may cause us to re-experience the trauma. For example, we may react to the therapist as if they are the perpetrator of the trauma; therapists are trained to deal with this if it occurs. This experience, which is akin to role-play, can facilitate change in our belief system and behaviors related to the trauma if the experience is navigated by a professional that is capable of handling sensitive situations. In this way, the unwanted behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that have come about as a result of the trauma may begin to become reorganized in the mind, starting us on a path to healing from the trauma.

How Trauma Relates to Recovery From Substance Use

Trauma is always a very unique and personal experience. There are often negative stigmas and shame attached to experienced traumas, which makes it difficult for us to openly discuss them. Because it is such a personal experience, it is often difficult for us to feel fully understood. These issues can cause us to seek out substances as a way to cope. Once the traumas are brought to the surface, they can be dealt with and the healing can begin. This is a vital step in achieving successful long-term recovery. Recovery from substance use rarely ever includes a sole focus on the cessation of substance use. For most of us, substance use is only one piece of a larger set of issues that must be faced and conquered. This is why you need to find a treatment program that can address any co-occurring disorders.

For those of us that have had traumatic experiences, getting into a recovery mindset is just one small piece of a larger puzzle. The challenges that come with healing from trauma while also learning to live a healthy life can be difficult to navigate without the proper guidance and support. Modern therapeutic practices have come forward to help us heal from trauma more significantly than in previous years. Psychodynamic therapy is one of the most profound methods for helping us heal from past traumas. As with any therapeutic practice, however, the most effective healing will come from working with a therapist that understands the unique challenges that you may face. At Casa Recovery, we have a team of highly skilled professionals that understand how to connect with you through compassion, understanding, and unconditional positive regard. If you are looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today at (888) 928-2272.

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