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When Talk Therapy Fails To Heal PTSD

In last week’s post I described the two parts of your brain, how they function, how they’re different and how and why talk therapy fails to do the deep work of healing that PTSD requires. After reading that you may wonder: Great, what do I do now??

While there is no single guaranteed way to heal PTSD (we’re all different in how we experience trauma and process information and emotion) there are some terrific treatment processes that can bypass your critical, rational mind and engage your deeper brain in enormously healing ways.

How To Form A More Effective Recovery Process

Studies have proven that the body and mind record, process and hold onto trauma in terrifically meaningful (and stubborn!) ways. This fact has large implications for PTSD recovery. First, it means that different body processes that get stuck in survival mode would, naturally, require different types of treatment approaches. Second, it explains why you can do a lot of work in one area and not see results in another. You’re not crazy; your systems all just need individual attention.

When approaching posttraumatic stress disorder recovery it helps to understand both sides of your mind, and also the structure of your brain. You have three layers of brain function:

Reptilian – The seat of your instincts and arousal

Limbic – The core of your emotional experience

Cortex – Your thought processing center

All three of these systems get out of sync after trauma, each doing what they feel is important in order for you as an organism to survive. In healing, all three of these layers need to be addressed, accessed and helped to recalibrate. The problem: your reptilian and limbic systems cannot be addressed by thinking. They are physical bodily processes and require less thinking-driven treatment modalities.

We tend to think of healing as an intellectual process, but when you consider Dr. Ron Siegel’s statement, “Emotion is a body event,” you begin to understand that healing has to do with a lot more than just talking or thinking; it has to be translated into information that many different aspects of your mind and body understand.

What to do about these differences when it comes to healing? Branch out in your recovery to identify alternative methods of treatment. Talk therapy is a terrific base. In allowing you to find words to express what you’re thinking and feeling talk therapy can actually significantly help you amp up the processing of your left prefrontal lobe (which holds your language center) and empower you to take control over your memories. When you feel you’ve got a significant amount of talking done and are ready to look for additional support there are many processes to choose from. Some of my favorites:

  • hypnosis
  • NLP
  • energy processing
  • tension and trauma releasing exercises
  • somatic experiencing
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

This is not an exhaustive list but can get you going in finding new methods to add to your recovery process.

We’re all completely individual in healing. Your process will be as unique as your handprint, so it’s up to you to find approaches that resonate with you, give them a try, build from one technique to the other and keep going until you reach the state of healing you seek. In my own recovery I used 10 techniques in a combination of traditional and alternative processes until I reached freedom. The same result may happen for you when you widen the lens of how you approach the journey.

(For further explanation of many of the treatment approaches listen above visit: http://www.healmyptsd.com/treatment)

This entry was posted in About PTSD, PTSD Recovery Tips, PTSD Treatments, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to When Talk Therapy Fails To Heal PTSD

  1. JenW says:

    Finding a therapy that is evidenced for PTSD is key. Not all therapies are. Do your homework before embarking on talk therapies. Check the therapy is evidenced for your form of psychological distress and check the qualifications of the therapist delivering the therapy!

    • @Jen – Very good advice, thanks for adding your thoughts. I would also say that some very good therapies that have tremendous effect on PTSD recovery are not evidence-based because no one has taken the time, interest or funds to explore them via research. (For example, hypnosis and NLP, both of which I credit for my ultimate recovery.) Which means there are many ways to heal, evidence-based or not, and to me, your real point is so much deeper and more important even than evidence: it’s to do your own research as much as possible to be sure that what you’re using as a healing modality is appropriate for you. Such an important idea!

  2. Pingback: Forgiveness and PTSD: Releasing Trauma or Excusing the Guilty? | Trauma! A PTSD Blog

  3. Samuel says:

    Are you a psychologist? In psych they teach you how to talk people through PTSD, how to prevent flashbacks when this is happening, and how to take it slowly. Who knows how many people you’ve prevented from getting help that way.

    • @Samuel — You make a very valid point about what talk therapy aims to do. Unfortunately, not all therapists are equally gifted in this process, nor do all trauma survivors uniformly respond to it in positive and useful ways. Because it’s important to remember that every survivor is an individual and every recovery is unique it’s also important to recognize that not every approach meets with results. This is especially in the case of traditional treatments that are, for some people, incredibly useless. Of the thousands of survivors I’ve been in contact with over the years, the ones who heal all begin in talk therapy and then seek relief in through other methods when talk therapy fails to deliver the desired results.

  4. Samuel says:

    By the way, talk therapy can stimulate a lot more than the prefrontal and frontal areas. Hippocampus and amygdyla are two other things that can be stimulated, namely, in PTSD treatment

  5. Madeleine says:

    qmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    PTSD Trauma from the time I was three years old I was sexually assualted by my father and his sister. Both of them had to stop because my mother was pregant with her last child and he beat her so bad she had to go to the hospital and was given a choice leave him or they will take all of her children. So when her choice was her children but make sure she never to hurt us by beating us wiht extension cord, stick, belt’s, the sexual abuse started up again for me, brother, his friends, my moter’s second husband the priest of the school I went to Sacred Heart.At thirteen I knew I had to get out of my mother’s house, was she protecting me. I ra n away and when I was found my mother and step father didn’t do any thing that night but when my stepfather left my mother beat the hell out of me I could go to school. I knew I had to get out. It took me two years to save money and make my escape. I was going out with a little old than me and I made sure to ger pregant by him which I ended up getting pregant at 15 years old him he was 19 going on 20 my mother forced me to marry him. What a mistake, after our son was born he moved me and our son to another state and I was put into working at a massage palor. When I said no I put his had around my neck and I ended up passing out when I can too I was to thank him for saving my life and I was told where I woud be working for the next three years, Parlor’s, when they were closed and he prostitued me. postitution. I could go with the year I had to say with him but I guess I want to see if someone is reading

    ]

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