Sunday, January 27, 2013

Natural trauma debriefing

Dena on facebook says

“Sounds like interesting work Tony, do you have a particular way of working with individuals returning from combat?’ (end quote)

I have always been somewhat bemused by the debate about how to treat trauma. I find it quite easy to work with and I think I have been reasonably successful in doing so. My view is that trauma debriefing is a natural human process anyway which makes the counselling process easier and more likely to succeed. 

Humans when they have been traumatized in some way will most often spontaneously engage in the reparative process of trauma debriefing. Hence the goal of the therapist is basically to make sure the natural process proceeds as it should. They are kind of just helping the natural process along and are a bit of a bystander in this way, unlike other counselling situations.

Water throw

Once the shock has subsided and any serious physical damage is made reasonably stable then the person as I said will spontaneously engage in remediating their damaged psyche. The steps basically are.

1. The person enters into the relational. That is they do not isolate self and seek out others to engage in about talking about the traumatic episode. Here the therapist is looking out for things like a Be strong, Don’t trust or Don’t be a child script messages. People with these may falter at this first stage by tending to isolate self and not seek others out to talk about the incident.

2. They talk about what happened and this can be as basic as describing what physically happened in the event. What were their reactions to what happened and so on.

3. Cathartic release. Whilst doing number 2 most people will begin experiencing feelings and then one wants some kind of cathartic release of emotions. Some can falter at this stage because they have a Don’t feel message of some kind.

4. The get a sympathetic response of some kind by the other person they are talking to.

And that is about that. To me it all seems rather simple and uncomplicated. The person will do the same process a number of times over weeks or months and after that the debriefing is usually complete.


As I said before I think this is a natural human process. Watch people after a car accident. Most will automatically seek others out, want to talk about the event, show some emotions and want to get reassuring hugs which covers the four points I mentioned above.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for answering my question Tony. I do like your simplicity of allowing the natural healing process to take place. As already mentioned on the facebook post, I think that entering into a therapeutic relationship with somebody suitable (that the client feels comfortable with) is often all that is needed, rather than a particular technique or approach. I find often clients will show me where they are holding the trauma in their body too, which allows an opportunity a cathartic release of trauma through breathing and movement exercises (especially when talking about their trauma has not helped in the past, and/or if the trauma was during pre-verbal stages of development). Do you do any body work at all Tony?