Deciding whether you need help…
Unexpected tragedies, especially those caused by caregivers or intimate partners can be especially traumatic. These are individuals that you are supposed to trust and rely on to keep you safe. Certainly that may affect someone’s sense of safety, trust, and meaning in the world, as well as generating feelings of fear and anxiety. In some cases these tragedies will cause long-lasting mental or physical health problems from these situations.
However, people who have been exposed to additional tragic events may find themselves thinking about events that they hadn’t thought about in a long time, revisiting issues or problems they thought they had resolved, or experiencing symptoms that they experienced in the past. And, individuals coping with ongoing stressful life experiences or have ongoing mental or physical health problems may find themselves feeling more stressed, fatigued, irritable, and distracted.
For some people, the symptoms and disturbing reactions persist or become worse over time. This can lead people to find other ways to cope, ways that are not so helpful, such as withdrawing from friends and family, using drugs or alcohol, or avoiding activities that are empowering.
Therefore, it is important to consider seeking help if important areas of life, such as relationships, work, or school, are being negatively affected by traumatic stress or if one becomes more and more depressed or anxious and/or their use of alcohol or other drugs increases significantly
Some individuals first discuss their concerns with a family physician, clergy member, or school counselor and may then be referred to a mental health professional. Your local mental health association, state psychiatric, psychological, behavioral health, or social work association, or your health insurer may be helpful in providing a referral to a counselor or therapist with experience in treating others affected by traumatic stress. In Oklahoma 211 is a resource for finding centers throughout the state of Oklahoma. ODMHSAS access coordinator is another resource that can help you find a center close to your home. Contact ODMHSAS 405-522-3908 and ask for the Access Coordinator.
There are many types of treatment for people experiencing traumatic stress, so finding the right mental health provider can often seem challenging. In Oklahoma every county has a community mental health center that may be able to provide services needed. To find a center in your area go to www.odmhsas.org and then to “mental health” and then to Community Mental Health Centers. The centers will be listed by cities.
Research supports the effectiveness of medication, anxiety management, processing therapy, cognitive therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (focusing on thoughts and beliefs), and exposure therapy (helping the person confront painful memories and situations that are realistically safe although still frightening, though talking about or imagining them) for reducing traumatic stress, post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder and related symptoms.
There is interpersonal, relational, or psychodynamic psychotherapies, which focus on the meaning of the event and how the experience has affected relationships, may also help people understand the source of their current problems and how these relate to their traumatic experiences. Using a combination of psychotherapy and medication if often helpful for depression and anxiety following traumatic experiences.
No single treatment is effective for everyone, and it may take some time, as well as trial and error, to find the right treatment. There also may be some difficult periods during treatment, therefore, it is important to find a trained clinician , preferably one with experience treating people with traumatic stress, who can work together with the survivor to find the treatment approach that best makes sense for the individual.
Where to go for help:
People considering treatment should select a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about traumatic stress.
Questions to Ask Mental Health Providers:
- Does/Did the individual/agency that provides therapy conduct a comprehensive trauma assessment?
- What did your assessment show?
- What were some of the major strengths and/or areas of concern?
- Is the clinician/agency familiar with/trained in evidenced-based treatment models designed and tested for treatment of trauma-related symptoms?
- How do you approach therapy with traumatized adults, or families, regardless of whether they indicate or request trauma-informed treatment?
- Describe a typical course of therapy? For example: can you describe the core components of your treatment approach?
Portions of the above information are from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), along with Chadwick Trauma Informed Systems Project (CTISP).
Trauma-Focused Evidence Based Treatment Options in Oklahoma
Regardless of age or the types of trauma experienced, healing is possible.
Some of the intervention models available in Oklahoma include:
- Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM):
This model is intended for trauma survivors, particularly those with exposure to physical or sexual violence. It is gender specific: TREM for women and M-TREM for men. For more information: Navigate to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices at http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/find.aspand enter Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model in the search domain. You can also visit the Community Connections – Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model website at http://www.communityconnectionsdc.org
Seeking Safety is designed to be a therapy for trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. This model works for individuals (adults and adolescents) or with groups, with men, women or with mixed gender groups. For more information: Navigate to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices at http://www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/find.aspand enter Seeking Safety in the search domain. You can also visit the Seeking Safety website at http://seekingsafety.org.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy:
Based on principles of cognitive therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy or CPT was developed by Drs. Patricia Resick, Candice Monson, and Kathleen Chard. CPT involves a structured, sequenced approach to address the unique needs of each patient suffering from PTSD and/or depression. Specifically, CPT is a short-term treatment that may work in as few as 12 treatment sessions. Of course, treatment may be provided for longer periods depending on each individual's needs.
For children resources please go to SHARE Children, Youth and Families section
- Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT):
This intervention model is for children, ages 2 – 8, and their parents or caregivers, focusing on decreasing externalized child behavior problems (such as defiance and aggression), increasing positive parent behaviors, and improving the quality of the parent-child relationship. For more information, you can visit the Parent Child Interaction Therapy website: http://www.pcit.org/
- Strengthening Families Program (SFP):
The Strengthening Families Program is focused on families with children, ages 6 to 11, and is a family skills training program found to significantly reduce problem behaviors, delinquency, and alcohol and drug abuse in children and to improve social competencies and school performance. Originally developed and tested on a research grant with children of substance abusing parents, this program continues to be reviewed by researchers and rated as an exemplary, evidenced success for over 30 years and available in 26 countries. For more information, you can visit the Strengthening Families Program website: http://www.strengtheningfamiliesprogram.org/