In one of our earlier blogs this month, Clinical Psychologist Dr Kellie Cassidy discussed how common traumatic events are and how they may continue to affect us long after the traumatic event is over. For example, people may try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic experience (such as avoiding places) and they may notice that distressing thoughts, images or memories intrude into their consciousness when they really don’t want them there (these are called flashbacks).
We know that there are effective treatments available to treat trauma but that the idea of therapy can be just as scary for someone. People may say to themselves “I don’t want to remind myself about what happened”, “Talking about what happened will be too overwhelming, I couldn’t possibly manage”. So I want to briefly share an analogy that can help explain the rationale for psychological therapy for trauma.
Consider a messy linen cupboard. It is full of all sorts of different items, towels, sheets etc, shoved into the cupboard in no particular order. Nothing has its place, it’s hard to know what exactly is in there, you can’t easily find what you need and it seems risky to open the door because it is all likely to come spilling out. And in fact it sometimes does just come spilling out- even when you are not wanting to open the door! And because of this, we might try to avoid the cupboard altogether or do whatever we can to keep the door shut.
The experience of trauma can be a bit like this messy cupboard, with painful thoughts, memories and images all packed away, in no particular order, not making any sense, feeling overwhelming and sometimes spilling out all over the place when we are not ready for it.
Therapy can be a bit like trying to organise the cupboard. We might carefully open the door, take a peek at what might be inside, and then slowly, bit by bit, pack it away neatly so it all stays in place. In therapy we might slowly look at some parts of the traumatic experience, use therapeutic tools to process the memory so it is able to be stored away more effectively without it getting in the way of our day-to-day lives and without requiring so much effort to keep it at bay.
If you would like to discuss the possibility of therapy for a traumatic experience then please contact us at Prosper Health Collective.