Please permit me to opine. But first, as always, a reminder to you, the reader, that I am not a professional therapist. I am not in a ‘caregiving’ profession. My opinions are just that – MINE. They are opinions based on, among other things, the research/studying of scholarly articles/books on the topic; talking with women (primarily) and men across the country who are suffering from trauma related issues and my own successful 9 day, outpatient treatment for CPTSD.
This is the title of an article that caught my attention this morning (click to read entire article):
Study Says Making Raped Teens Relive Trauma Works
In my opinion ‘exposure therapy’ is a treatment modality used by therapists when they can find no other treatment that reduces symptoms of trauma/PTSD successfully. I’m pretty sure that “forcing” or “making” someone with PTSD dissociate, which would most assuredly happen if the trauma story were forcibly repeated out loud over and over again until symptoms significantly diminished, is NOT the way to successfully process PTSD long-term.
I don’t think that I could have been anymore disconnected from myself. I didn’t need one more person in a position of power, in this case a therapist, to ‘force’ me or ‘make’ me do anything – especially if it meant rubbing my face in my trauma.
Anything less than integration was only going to be a temporary fix. I know that I needed to learn to process the trauma.
So I did.
There is much more to learn and process, but I learned how to integrate the parts of myself that had been shattered into pieces throughout my life. This process has allowed me to live my life virtually free of the myriad of mess that faking my way through trauma had gotten me.
Please read the article then please share your thoughts. Have you or someone you known gone through ‘exposure therapy’? Was it/was it not successful in relieving symptoms of PTSD?
The article doesn’t state “what exactly”is involved in the therapy. Is it the mind remembering and walking through and dismantling the images and their impact, or is it showing them pictures of an incident(s) similar to what they experienced?
In many Biblical counseling methods, seeing the mind renewed by going back through past trauma, and inviting God into the experience and “seeing” his loving interaction with you (in present time) has been profoundly effective. You MUST be led by God & have anointing…not just make up some random hokey pokey incantation and drop fairy dust from the sky.
Are you saying that you have NEVER had a recurrence of your trauma/PTSD since your 9-day Intervention?
Thanks for reading the article and for taking the time to respond. Great questions! The exposure therapy method they are most often using is having the girls “relive” and re-tell every graphic detail of their rapes/assaults/abuse, over and over again, until the memories “lose their power”. However, in my experience, this modality of therapy is as effective as trying to paint lipstick on a pig. Let me explain. The goal of exposure therapy seems to be to make someone, in this case the girls, cover up something ugly and smelly by almost forcing the young women to dissociate, to ‘get over it’ by replaying it so much that eventually they become numb to it.
Like most victims of repeated trauma, psychologically and emotionally there is a space where we “go” simply to cope with the trauma. It’s a survival thing. Fight or flight. But no matter how you paint it, exposing someone, forcing them really, to re-experience their trauma repeatedly isn’t healing. It will eventually fracture a traumatized person further. Exposure therapy seems to be one more thing that people who are well meaning will use to sort of force a victim to be well… to ‘help’ them ‘get over it’.
But don’t get me wrong – exposure therapy can yield some results that look like success.
When I was a teenager (yes, way back then!) I was incarcerated for a time and let me just say that at the facility there was FAR less accountability to the state back then and almost zero understanding of trauma and the symptoms of UNTREATED trauma. The prison guards didn’t know (and most didn’t seem to care) that the girls weren’t just being defiant and disrespectful – but that they were more than likely being triggered in some way.
As a young teen, my experience emphasized one really negative thing: that I could become whoever they wanted me to be. When a person in a position of power is ‘forcing’ or ‘making’ (their words) a young girl describe every horrific thing that their perpetrator did to them, in graphic detail, over and over again – I can tell you that it’s just one more time that I felt intimdated by people who had the power and I said whatever the heck they wanted me to say. I, too, could recall my trauma and repeat it without one ounce of emotion, over and over again like a parrot. It did nothing to change my self-destructive behavior but it was a refresher course on how to hide my feelings. And I think I gave an Oscar worthy performance.
Treating PTSD successfully means reunifying and reintegrating the parts of the victim that have been so fractured and shattered by the traumatic event(s) they have experienced. The ITR (Instinctual Trauma Response) modality seeks to treat the trauma while most other therapies are looking to treat the symptoms of the trauma.
I have heard of the theophostic therapeutic model that you asked about and I’m all for it. Obviously, that modality of therapy may not work for people who are not believers, but I think inviting Jesus into those broken places in our lives can only be a good and healing thing. I know some people who have found this therapeutic model to be extremely helpful in relieving some PTSD symptoms as well.
As for your final question about my experience with PTSD:
I can say that I have not had one flashback or nightmare in the 3 years since treatment, however I have been triggered in a myriad of ways since my treatment. Triggers are things I will have forever. We all have those things in our lives that set us off and send us into a tailspin if we let them. The treatment that I received simply taught me how to speak the TRUTH to myself. That is a hard thing to do for a person that is living in the PTSD bubble simply because they’ve been so many different things to so many different people and truth is unfamiliar and in some cases, unwanted.
I am still triggered in expected and unexpected ways – and it may have me spinning for a minute or even a day – but I am getting more adept at recognizing the moments when I need to do what I was taught. If I do that, in a matter of minutes I can process that trigger and I’m OK!
Sorry for the marathon answer. I’m sure I’ve broken several rules of the great bloggers!
Hope it answers your questions, Liza.