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Effective Therapies and Medications for Various Types of Trauma

May 10, 2024 | Trauma

Trauma comes in many forms, at many different ages, and is experienced in many different ways. While anyone can potentially experience trauma, finding healthy ways to cope with it and recover can be a challenging journey.

In these situations, while we cannot undo our trauma history, we can take steps to heal. Psychotherapy and medications each have their place in this process of healing. These treatments help not just to manage symptoms but also to rebuild a sense of control and normalcy.

Psychotherapy offers a way for people to approach their trauma history in a safe and empathic space, providing tools and strategies for emotional regulation and recovery. Medication can support this process by addressing the neurochemical imbalances that often accompany traumatic experiences, helping to stabilize mood and reduce anxiety or depression.

Understanding Different Types of Trauma

Trauma is an emotional response to events that an individual finds overwhelmingly distressing or disturbing, which can leave long-lasting effects on that individual’s mental and physical well-being. In the broadest sense, traumatic events are perceived threats to safety or stability that exceed an individual’s ability to cope.

For each individual, trauma can take many forms, with the types of trauma being broadly defined as:

  • Acute Trauma: Trauma resulting from a single incident, such as an assault or the loss of a loved one.
  • Chronic Trauma: Trauma occurring repeatedly and over a long period, often stemming from enduring harm such as domestic abuse.
  • Complex Trauma: Trauma stemming from both exposure to traumatic events and the long-term effects of processing this exposure. Complex trauma occurs most often in children due to abuse or severe neglect, where a child is both traumatized and forced to provide the safety and stability for themselves that their caregiver is neglecting to provide.
  • Secondary Trauma: Trauma transferred from encountering first-hand experiences of other individuals. This trauma occurs most often for caregivers, first responders, and counselors who work firsthand with traumatized individuals.

Common reactions to trauma include fear, helplessness, and stress, as individuals are unable to cope with overwhelming events. These reactions are not merely emotional responses but also physiological (body) and psychological (mental) processes that occur when someone faces something that disrupts or threatens their sense of safety and normalcy. For example, acute trauma from an unexpected car accident can trigger intense, immediate reactions when attempting to drive. These reactions, if unresolved, can lead to further longer-term distress.

In terms of managing trauma and allowing individuals to process the traumatic events empathically and safely, therapy and medication provide an environment where individuals can understand their trauma, engage in healing, and practice strategies to promote well-being and resilience.

Psychotherapeutic Treatments for Trauma

Psychotherapy is an effective and evidence-based treatment for people exposed to trauma. Psychotherapy aims to help individuals understand and heal from their traumatic experiences and learn strategies to manage symptoms while fostering recovery and resilience.

However, there is not just one kind of psychotherapy, and many modern therapies differ from the media portrayal of talk therapy, in which an individual sits or lies on a couch and recounts their experiences. Psychotherapy is more of a toolkit; each type of therapy represents a different tool for engaging and building mental health in a constructive setting.

In practice, therapists use different methods within this broad framework to target trauma-related challenges. For instance, some therapies focus on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with trauma, while others may prioritize emotional regulation or desensitizing exposure to traumatic triggers. Below are some of the most effective therapies for trauma.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely accepted therapeutic approach for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions. Trauma-focused CBT, in particular, focuses on understanding the neurophysiology of trauma responses as well as the psychological effects. This comprehensive view of trauma leads to better outcomes for the individual.

In the context of trauma care, CBT includes techniques such as cognitive restructuring, which helps individuals challenge and modify harmful beliefs related to trauma, relaxation techniques, and stress inoculation training, where individuals learn to manage their responses to stressful situations and triggers in a constructive way.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure therapy (ERP) is a specific type of CBT that helps individuals with trauma confront their fears directly. This therapy uses systematic desensitization, where the individual is exposed to traumatic memory triggers in a controlled, therapeutic setting. It is usually administered over 8-15 weekly sessions. A person’s level of tolerance for the temporary discomfort produced by this treatment is carefully monitored and all steps are taken to provide this treatment in a safe, empathic, and effective manner.

Repeated exposure is designed to gradually decrease the emotional response caused by trauma triggers. By facing these fears without the anticipated negative consequences, patients learn to extinguish their fear response over time, significantly reducing the power of trauma triggers.

Prolonged exposure therapy, while evidence-based, is not the treatment of choice for everyone healing from trauma. This is something an individual and their psychotherapist explore to determine if this is something the individual would like to try, or whether another approach is more suitable.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a more recent therapy that involves the individual focusing on a specific traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing side-to-side eye movements.

EMDR is essentially an information-processing therapy that uses external stimulation to allow the brain to process traumatic events, which may get “stuck” in a ruminative cycle, not being processed completely. The sensory input is believed to help reduce the emotions associated with traumatic memories, diminishing their impact and allowing the brain to integrate them effectively.

Written Exposure Therapy

Written exposure therapy (WET) is a relatively streamlined and accessible form of therapy for trauma that involves repeated, detailed journaling about one’s traumatic experiences across several sessions. This therapy allows individuals to articulate their experiences in writing, organizing their thoughts and emotions, which may be chaotic or insurmountable when handled internally.

Medication for Trauma-Related Conditions

Medication for trauma-related conditions is vital for many individuals as part of a broader therapeutic strategy. Medication is not meant to totally erase all symptoms. It can lessen them so that other therapies can be more effective in treating the effects of trauma. By helping alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, hyperarousal, sleep disturbances, etc., medications can help stabilize an individual’s mood and improve overall functioning.

Medication is often most effective when used alongside psychotherapy. Medications can provide the necessary psychological relief for individuals to actively participate in therapy sessions. For individuals with trauma-related conditions, the combination of psychotherapy and medication can be powerful, as medication addresses the biochemical aspects of trauma while therapy addresses emotional and psychological elements.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) manage serotonin levels in the brain by decreasing reabsorption (inhibiting reuptake). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences mood, emotion, and sleep. While most often used to treat depression, SSRIs are widely used for PTSD and trauma-related conditions to increase overall well-being, improve sleep, and stabilize mood.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

Similar to SSRIs, Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) help block the reabsorption of both neurotransmitters, which are essential for managing mood and pain perception.

By boosting both serotonin and norepinephrine, SNRIs help manage trauma symptoms by reducing anxiety, fear, and depression while also potentially improving energy levels and concentration, which is particularly helpful for coping with daily activities and engaging in therapy.

Explore Therapeutic Options Today with Start My Wellness

Therapy and medication stand out as effective methods to treat the symptoms of and help individuals manage traumatic experiences. The goal of these methods is to help individuals process these events in a constructive way that’s integrative, allowing individuals to reclaim their sense of self and move forward with resilience.

Start My Wellness understands the complex nature of trauma and the different approaches each individual needs for effective treatment. Our experienced professionals are dedicated to providing personalized care that includes therapy and medication, depending on your tailored needs.

If you’re ready to take the next step toward healing, consider contacting Start My Wellness today. Call us at (248)-514-4955 and meet our therapists to begin your journey to wellness.


  1. Start My Wellness: What is Trauma?
  2. Start My Wellness: Trauma in Children
  3. Start My Wellness: Understanding Trauma: A Comprehensive Guide to Trauma-Informed Care
  4. Start My Wellness: Trauma Informed Care
  5. Start My Wellness: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  6. National Center for PTSD: Prolonged Exposure for PTSD
  7. National Center for PTSD: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for PTSD
Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

Looking for a Therapist? Start My Wellness has highly experienced Licensed Therapists that are currently accepting new patients.


Blog Posts Tags: Trauma
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