More May Not Always Be BetterApril 5, 2011 • By Mark Chidley, LMHC, CAP
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.
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HaydenApril 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.
randyApril 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.
RTApril 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 ChidleyApril 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.
JennaApril 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.
parafluieJuly 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 MeFebruary 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.
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