Treatment for Survivors of Trauma

Traumatic stress reactions are normal human reactions to extraordinary events.An individual who is trying to regain a sense of mastery and control in his or her life often needs aid in understanding how the event is construed and coped with.The providers at Health Psychology Group, LLC use multiple approaches to help trauma survivors in their emotional processing of an event. These events may elicit fear and subsequent avoidance behavior in individuals.

All of the treatment approaches utilized are based on the most current research and are endorsed by the National Center for PTSD, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Dr. Steinberg participated in training with Dr. Patricia Resick the founder of Cognitive Processing Therapy (National Center for PTSD, Women’s Sciences Division, VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University) for the treatment of traumatic stress.  This treatment is one of the most current evidence based time-limited treatments available. 

This and other treatment approaches utilized in our facility are based on client specific need and may involve one or a combination of treatments with the goal of changing symptoms after a traumatic event.  The evidence based treatments have been applied to survivors of all types of trauma ranging from assaults to combat.

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a 12-session therapy that has been found effective for both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other symptoms following traumatic events.  CPT is based on a social cognitive theory that focuses on how the traumatic event is construed cognitively by a survivor while simultaneously decreasing the emotional impact of the event.  This treatment was originally designed to help survivors of sexual assault; however, we have used it successfully with a range of other traumatic events, including military and law enforcement related traumas.

  • Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) is a treatment approach aimed at the reduction and prevention of stress to include posttraumatic stress.  This therapy focuses on how one’s view of a particular situation elicits an emotional response.  In SIT, the goal is to work with the client on his or her appraisal of a traumatic event and the ability to handle this event.  Individuals under stress sometimes find themselves making extreme or one-sided beliefs about themselves and the world.  Given such a belief system one may misread situations, avoid opportunities, and behave in an uncharacteristic manner. Through new coping skills and relaxation clients gradually learn to utilize new ways of dealing with low and high stress situations.     SIT is appropriate for the treatment of all types of stress to include stress after a traumatic event.

  • Controlled Exposure Therapy is a highly successful treatment approach for trauma survivors aimed at gently reactivating and modifying traumatic memories.  In this treatment a client, with a trusted therapist,  attends to trauma-related information in a manner that will activate his or her own traumatic memories.  In therapy the trauma-related feelings and mental structure are experienced in a safe environment and gently modified.  This time-limited treatment works by forming new non-traumatic memories.  This is accomplished by gently exposing the client to an experience that contains elements that are similar to the original trauma while introducing and pairing new non-threatening memories to the original traumatic thoughts.  Over time this is translated by the client into a personal sense of safety through a mastery of their own thoughts and feelings.

  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Health Psychology Group, LLC is in the process of incorporating a new and unique approach to the treatment of trauma. Current medicine has been moving towards a mind-body approach to all types of illnesses and the treatment of trauma is no exception. Current research demonstrates that traumatic experiences disrupt the body’s physiological and emotional regulation.  By incorporating traditional talk-therapy techniques with techniques that use the body’s own defensive system, regulatory patterns, and ability for adaptation, healing occurs.   Sensorimotor psychotherapy combines traditional mental processing of traumatic events with helping clients to become more aware of their bodies, track bodily sensations, and gradually implement physical techniques that empower the client and promote healing. 

  • Psychopharmacological Treatment of traumatic stress.  Survivors of trauma will often suffer difficulty sleeping, excessive anxiety, and excessive arousal.  After a traumatic event, the body’s alarm center may change in response to the threat.  This normal bodily reaction leaves one in a hyper alert state which can lead to difficulty functioning in many settings. Some survivors of trauma may also have a depressed mood and feel “numb” and/or “disconnected” from their surroundings.  Additionally, some report increased anger and aggression as a result of traumatic exposure.  The purpose of medication in the treatment of posttraumatic stress is to improve one’s well being by reducing these troubling symptoms.  Research has shown that the right medication can be extremely helpful in improving the quality of life in a trauma survivor and allows one to fully participate in psychotherapy.

  • Relaxation Training to include Biofeedback and Guided Imagery are extremely effective methods of reducing the anxiety resulting from the body’s alarm center from becoming over stimulated after a trauma. Biofeedback provides education regarding anxiety and how this is experienced in the body such as increased heart rate and sweating. It helps clients to retrain bodily sensations (such as breathing) in order to provide relief from a number of problems ranging from chronic headaches, anxiety, and other medical diagnoses.  A variety of relaxation methods are taught in this clinic to give the client a sense of mastery over their bodily responses to provide symptom relief.  Often used in conjunction with or as part of therapy, relaxation skills are highly effective and hold up under the scrutiny of research.