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Prepping for Trauma Processing As a Therapist

Updated: Mar 9

Disclaimer: The following information should not be taken as advice. It is for informational and educational purposes only from my experiences. Please seek pieces of training or supervision from qualified personnel. Also, I am not associated with any of the external links.

I know that processing trauma can be daunting for both therapist and client. Moreover, it can be harmful or ineffective if done before skills learning to help cope with difficult emotions (or numbness) that come with talking about the trauma(s). For this reason, I thought I would share a list of interventions/skills to consider.

I recognize that most of the following interventions will be focused on relaxation, though some do touch on self-care or cognitive interventions. Here's why:

Personally, my biggest concern is not to challenge intrusive/unhelpful thoughts , but rather the behaviors and habits of disassociation and other aspects of the fight/flight/freeze reaction. In trauma processing, I want to help my clients re-train their brains to not follow the same circuits and treat the trauma as a memory. Unhelpful or intrusive thoughts will be easier to challenge in a relaxed body. Consider reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk for more information.

Mindfulness of Bodily Sensations and Thoughts /Re-Building Connection to Body

First, I try to help client's do body scans. I typically start by pulling up a picture of an outline of a person. Then, I label different parts of the body with words like muscle tension, thoughts, heart rate, temperature, breathing, appetite, heaviness (ex. sinking stomach or heart), overall energy, etc. I go through a few examples of how these can change with various emotions. Then, repeatedly in various sessions, I help clients do body scans to identify these sensations and tie them to an emotion, especially if they struggle with numbness and disassociation.

Second, I might also have my clients practice things like mindfulness of the five senses when eating, drinking, sitting, etc. I simply want to help them strengthen that mindfulness skill.

Therapist Aid Interventions

Self-Care Assessment (Link Here)

Urge Surfing: Distress Tolerance Skill (Link Here)

DBT Distress Tolerance Skills (Link Here)

DBT Emotion Regulation Skills (Link Here)

Coping Skills: Anxiety (Link Here)

YouTube Videos

Square Breathing Video

The Body Scanner! Mindfulness for Children


DBT Self Soothe Skill

DBT Mindfulness of Current Emotion

Self-Care Action Plan

Thank you for reading and I hope something was helpful!

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