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Integrating trauma recovery in the therapeutic process

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

A lot of folks seek trauma recovery after engaging in traditional talk therapy modalities such as CBT or hearing from a friend or doctor that they should give EMDR a try. This is wonderful as there are many body-based modalities that can be incorporated into psychotherapy that help with the integration of trauma symptoms, experiences, and memories. A common misconception is that these modalities replace traditional therapies, but that is inaccurate. Modalities such as Brainspotting, EMDR, Sensorimotor Somatic therapy, and IFS do not take the place of psychotherapy, but if assessed as appropriate, become part of the therapeutic process in sessions.

There are phases to trauma treatment with each individual’s plan being unique to him or her. The therapist assesses many factors in order to determine where they can begin. This assessment is something that happens during normal stages of psychotherapy, like any other session where rapport building and history taking occur.

While each modality has it’s own roadmap for trauma recovery; for example EMDR is an 8-phases treatment plan; the basic phases look like:

Phase 1: Assessment, Rapport Building and History-Taking.

Goals: Safety and Stabilization

Phase 2: Resourcing & Psychoeducation

Goals: Cultivating lost resources such as inner states of calm & safety; boundary- setting; and coping skills for emotion- regulation. Expand window of tolerance.

Phase 3: Reprocessing of Traumatic Material

Goals: Titrate pieces of the trauma to make it digestible for the brain to ‘file away’ as memory. Nervous system: Healthy emotion- regulation.

Phase 4: Integration

Goals: A more coherent narrative, sense of self, post-traumatic growth. Ability to tolerate human emotions. Flexibility of the nervous system to cope with life’s demands.

The client and therapist keep in mind that this is not a linear process, but cyclic, with some things becoming integrated and others returning back to phase one or two.

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