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Understanding the Spectrum of Trauma Responses: A Guide to Healing


healing trauma


Have you been curious why some people respond to trauma the way they do while others respond differently? Trauma is as individual as the person experiencing it. It's a deeply personal journey that varies widely from one individual to another, making it impossible to have a one-size-fits-all response to traumatic events. At Better Minds Counseling & Services, we recognize the uniqueness of each person's experience and the complexity of their healing process. In this post, we'll explore why there isn't a common trauma response, the various ways people react to trauma, and how therapy, including somatic experiencing, internal family systems, narrative therapy, and cognitive processing therapy, can facilitate profound healing.

If you find yourself asking the question “how do I know if right now is the right time to process my trauma?”, here is another post to help answer that question.


Why Isn't There One Common Trauma Response?

Trauma impacts individuals differently based on a multitude of factors, including their past experiences, resilience, support system, and biological makeup. This diversity in experiences and personal histories means that what deeply affects one person may not impact another in the same way. Some may find themselves overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, while others might respond with numbness or detachment. Understanding this variability is crucial in recognizing and validating each person's feelings and reactions as legitimate and significant.

One important thing to acknowledge as we move through this trauma post is that everyone’s experience is unique, and that is okay. You cannot help how you respond and while that feels outside of your control, what you do have power in is the healing process. This is that place you get to choose and advocate for yourself to move through and past the trauma.


What Are the Responses to Trauma?

Responses to trauma can be broadly categorized into four types: Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. These responses are rooted in our biological makeup and are designed to protect us from perceived threats.

  • Fight: A confrontational response, where the individual feels the need to defend themselves in a way that feels right for them.

  • Flight: An urge to escape or flee from the situation, a means to protect one’s self by removing yourself from the situation entirely.

  • Freeze: A state of paralysis or inability to act in the face of trauma. This occurs and it is hard to process in the moment what is occurring, totally understandable. This might be due to a traumatic recall of a previous experience, overload of stimulation, and just challenging to process what the heck is going on.

  • Fawn: A tendency to please or appease others in order to avoid conflict or further trauma. This is also a way to protect one’s self in efforts to not escalate the situation.


It's important to note that these responses are natural and automatic, not choices that individuals consciously make. I think that statement is worth repeating that it is okay as you do not get to pick how to respond in a traumatic situation.


Changing Trauma Responses

Changing one's response to trauma involves a deep, often challenging journey of self-discovery and healing. It starts with recognizing and accepting one's reactions to trauma, followed by learning new, healthier ways to process and respond to distressing situations. This process is possible and is highly personal and can benefit significantly from professional support


How Does Therapy Help?

Therapy offers a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore their trauma and its impact on their lives. Various therapeutic approaches can facilitate healing in different ways.  Let’s explore a few specific ways (each link below is associated with a therapist at Better Minds Counseling & Services and their orientation in therapy):

  • Somatic Experiencing: Focuses on bodily sensations and helps individuals reconnect with their bodies to release trapped trauma.This is helpful if you are feeling detached from yourself which is a common thing to occur with trauma.

  • Internal Family Systems: Aims to heal wounded parts of the psyche by recognizing and addressing internal "parts" or subpersonalities affected by trauma. This helps “pull” out “parts” and address them and make a space for healing to occur.

  • Narrative Therapy: Encourages individuals to reframe their traumatic experiences by rewriting their personal narratives in a more empowered manner. This puts you as the individual in control when it felt like the situation you experienced may not have felt you had much or any control over.

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy: Helps individuals challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to trauma, aiming to alter the way they understand and react to their experiences.


Each of these therapies offers unique tools and perspectives for dealing with trauma, allowing individuals to find the approach that resonates most deeply with their personal experience and healing journey. While these are just some of the therapy approaches that can help, they are some of the methods that our therapists at Better Minds Counseling & Services use.  


At Better Minds Counseling & Services, we understand that the path to healing from trauma is as individual as the people we serve. Recognizing and respecting the diverse responses to trauma is the first step in supporting each person's journey towards recovery. Through compassionate, tailored therapy, we aim to empower our clients to navigate their healing process, change their trauma responses, and reclaim their sense of self. Remember, healing is possible, and you don't have to walk this path alone.


If you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of trauma, we're here to help. Reach out to us to learn more about how our therapeutic services can support your journey towards healing and wholeness.


Better Minds Counseling & Services offers individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy online. We have therapists who are experts in being guides in the healing journey. Check out our therapists today, most have immediate availability and offer a free introductory session.


In Pennsylvania, accessing therapy online means you can find support from the comfort of your own home, at times that suit you and your partner the best. It's a flexible, accessible way to get the help you during your online individual, couples, and family therapy appointments. No matter where you are in Pennsylvania, such as if you are looking for therapy in Philadelphia, therapy in Pittsburgh, therapy in Montgomery County, therapy in Bucks County, therapy in Delaware County, therapy in Lancaster County, therapy in Chester County, and beyond!


Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy.  If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911.  Here are more immediate resources as well.

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