How To Talk About Trauma In Therapy
It can be difficult for a person to open up to anyone, so when it comes to therapy this can become even more of a challenge. Many people experience trauma, and because of this it is important to address it and overcome that pain.
Therapy may be the only option left and although the process of opening up is steady, there is a time when you will need to speak openly about that trauma. But how can this be achieved?
What Is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to a scarring event. This experience creates a long-lasting impact on an individual, leaving them distressed and disturbed.
With this said, it is important to understand that trauma cannot be defined the same for every person, for trauma affects each individual differently.
There are a number of ways a person can be affected by a traumatic experience such as through witnessing an accident, being attacked, being in an abusive relationship, losing somebody close.
These are only a few examples, but the list is endless and all are unique to the individual.
When exploring trauma, it is important to recognize that the reason for that trauma should not be underacknowledged.
There may be someone who is traumatized by witnessing a death, and someone else who is traumatized from being bullied. Both of these reasons differ yet are both just as vital as the other.
Why Is It Difficult Talking About Trauma?
Opening up about a traumatic experience is no easy task. Not only is it opening up wounds shoved deep down, but it is forcing that person to become vulnerable and completely exposed.
With trauma, many people unknowingly push that pain deep down, but this is very unhealthy.
By not speaking up, that trauma will always eat away at that person so it is essential to speak about it.
Of course, opening up at your own pace is key, however soon enough it needs to be revealed. Only by speaking can that person grow.
Signs Of Trauma
Not everyone will know they are experiencing trauma, especially if that trauma has been hidden away for so long (this can last for years). However, there are some clear signs to look out for which will make this clear.
Some signs of trauma include…
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
Talking About Trauma
When talking about trauma, this is more than opening up to a therapist.
When talking about the traumatic experience, you will be met by a wave of emotions you didn’t know you had, and this may make a person angered, pained, nervous, or refreshed and relieved.
There is no determining how opening up will make a person feel, but eventually it will happen. So, what is the right way to go about speaking to a therapist?
Mustering up the courage to speak openly to a therapist can be hard, so a helpful way to do this is to prepare first.
Take a piece of paper, a pen, and write down all of your thoughts and feelings. Write about the traumatic experience itself, the way it made you feel, what you wish you could change.
Write about your hopes for the future, what you want to achieve from your therapy sessions. How does this trauma affect you in your daily life? Are you happy? By answering these questions, you will be training yourself to open up.
Even though you are not speaking to a therapist, this is the first major step in the right direction. Your therapist will understand if this makes you more comfortable.
If you want, you can even give this handwritten note to your therapist instead of speaking. This way your therapist will get a grasp of your condition and you will feel more comfortable.
Express Your Emotions
If you are struggling to speak openly about the traumatic experience, you can take baby steps and just open about how you are feeling instead.
Talk to your therapist about the way you felt during the event, how it makes you feel now, and how you want to be feeling in the future.
You can also tell your therapist how you are feeling about attending these therapy sessions. Are you feeling embarrassed? Ashamed? Anxious?
By doing this, you are allowing the therapist to understand your character and also go at your own pace.
Remember, This Is A Slow Process
This brings us to our final point. It is vital to understand that opening up about trauma is not something that can be rushed and to go at your own pace.
There is no one forcing you to speak about your traumatic experience, especially not your therapist, so do not be intimidated by their presence.
Simply attending therapy is a great start and you should feel no shame in waiting for as long as you need to before speaking of the traumatic event.
It may be that you do end up opening up about the trauma, but it suddenly becomes too much for you. If this is the case, remember that you can stop whenever you want to.
Your therapist will understand and either end the session or talk about something else. What is most important is your health and wellbeing and your therapist will always put this first.
Do not feel pressured to reveal things you don’t want to – this is not what therapy is. Therapy is supposed to be a slow process. Therapists are there to listen, not to rush. You are in control.
Trauma affects individuals in a number of ways and this trauma can be caused by anything. When trauma is present, the best solution is to go to therapy but this is nothing to fear.
In therapy, you are in control and there is no need to rush into speaking about the topic. Make sure to prepare yourself, gain a bond with your therapist. Only then will you be able to open up and cure your trauma.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023