More May Not Always Be Better

For the past two decades, science has been uncovering some important features of traumatized clients. There is mounting evidence that traumatized individuals vary widely in their ability to adapt to trauma, in part due to underlying physical factors. For instance, some see the presence of chronic emotional trauma as having the potential to cause permanent physical damage in at least the hippocampus (Sapolsky, in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (1994) argues that chronic stress is a significant cause of aging in several species). This might mean that some individuals who have gone through multiple traumas or what in the DSM V will likely be called Disorders of Extreme Stress NOS, because of a changed hippocampus, might have diminished abilities to perceive or recover from subsequent stressors.

Other studies have show that certain traumatized populations (traumatized women and combat veterans) show similar characteristics of neurological dysregulation. Susan Johnson noted (Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors, 2002) that one implication is that such individuals may be unable to use their emotions as an appropriate danger signal to prompt adaptive action. The chronic activation in their brain systems seems to result in overreactions to non-emergencies and freezing responses in the presence of real danger.

All the above ought to be enough to make us cautious in the use of any kind of therapy that exposes the client to more of the emotional impact of trauma and turn our attention to therapies that emphasize the client’s ability to build an emotionally neutral or regulated response to what has happened and an adaptive recognition and response to new dangers. Helping the client stay emotionally connected in the here and now, rather than being re-traumatized by the there and then, in other words, seems key.

One therapy that goes about it in precisely this way is Rapid Resolution Therapy, as developed by Jon Connelly. The therapist uses a strong interpersonal connection built from the first moments of the session and collaboratively builds a model for calm, centered, enlightened functioning with the client. This is reinforced artfully in a variety of ways, such that when client and clinician finally deal with the trauma story, the most important thing going on in the room is the ongoing present connection between them. Clients find, to their amazement, that their stories can be told, neither in a dissociated way nor an over-reactive way, but calmly and straightforwardly, as so much historical data about an episode in their lives, in the same tone as one might read out of an outdated phone book. This produces an emotional freedom occurring  from what seems like a shift in the brain’s processing mechanism. Outcome studies are currently underway with regard to Rapid Resolution Therapy and more light will no doubt be shed on this interesting method.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, CAP, therapist in Fort Myers, Florida. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 9 comments
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  • Hayden

    April 6th, 2011 at 4:30 AM

    I am hopeful that this new therapeutic approach will be beneficial for the numerous patients who are experiencing this kind of trauma in their lives and that it will allow them the freedom to feel good about life and living again.

  • randy

    April 6th, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    it’s really unfortunate that some people have to go through incidents like these…but it is nice to see that there are always newer methods being developed to combat these problems…a new method may not solve the problem for everybody but it sure is a step in the right direction.

  • RT

    April 6th, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    if our body gets a disease it produces antibodies for the same and our body becomes stronger against the same disease the next time. but to know that a person with trauma is actually more prone to trauma is surprising. it is a sad predicament but I guess that is how things work…

  • Mark Chidley

    Mark Chidley

    April 6th, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Thanks for all the great comments. More and more people are discovering that even after trying more conventional talk-therapy approaches, they were still dealing with unpleasant sensations, thoughts, feelings, etc. It is nice to know some of the newer approaches are really fast, efficient, and don’t entail going through more emotional pain. Rapid Resolution Therapy is one of those.

  • Jenna

    April 7th, 2011 at 4:48 AM

    as always more stress+more trauma= more problems. Good to know that rapid resolution is working for many sufferers.

  • parafluie

    July 6th, 2012 at 3:33 AM

    Sounds like major magic BS to me. Hype but no substance. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

  • Just Me

    February 11th, 2014 at 5:58 AM

    I am trying to find out if there are any statistic about Rapid trauma resolution. How is it working on people with PTSD from the Vietnam area.

  • Romel

    June 17th, 2016 at 5:35 PM

    I am a student finishing my MSW and had the opportunity to sit through a training on how to resolve sexual trauma using this approach. I decided that I would check it out myself, as I had been through years, even decades, of various therapy approaches to my past trauma. I agree this may be effective in treating various forms of trauma, my experience was the opposite. I left the session feeling overwhelmed, triggered, and as though there were no solution. I have heard testimonies about how this approach is effective, yet I felt, and still feel, hopeless and a deepening depression setting in.

  • DC

    September 2nd, 2016 at 5:43 PM

    Hey Romel, sorry to hear this didn’t get you where you want to be. I’m somewhat familiar with this approach. I’ve had sessions with Dr Connelly and the effect wasn’t instantaneous either but after a while it was impossible to go back to the way I was perceiving things. I recorded my session with Dr Connelly and I listen to it. I’ve also found some RTT therapists don’t have the skills Dr C has mastered. I’ve found RRT to be very helpful steering me to the most competent praticioneer in my area. I don’t know who you saw but you might want to look into another go with the best person around. I personally think this approach is phenomenal. It addresses core subconscious beliefs and in my opinion that is where the change has to start. Best wishes to you!

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