Trauma Relief Unlimited (TRU) is a process designed to reduce or remove the negative effects of exposure to traumatic events. In TRU therapy, a survivor of abuse, neglect, or other trauma is guided through a series of hand movements by a TRU therapist. Although these movements may seem random at first glance, they are designed to stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain of the survivor. It is believed that in this region traumatic imprinting can be altered or possibly eliminated.
Trauma Relief Unlimited is a fairly recent addition to the range of existing models of psychotherapies. It was developed by Robert Cicione in the mid 1990s and further refined in subsequent years. From personal experience, Cicione believed art could be valuable for rejuvenating the mind and body and for relieving stress and anxiety. From his work with trauma survivors, he also became concerned that traditional talk therapies may be limited in their ability to quickly relieve the symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Recognition of these two factors—the revitalizing power of art and the perceived shortcomings of traditional psychotherapy—served as the motivating force behind the development of TRU.
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TRU therapy was specifically developed to relieve symptoms of posttraumatic stress and anxiety. It has been used to treat survivors of a wide range of traumatic events, including:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Car accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Natural disasters
- Terrorist attacks
According to published research, TRU may be effective for relieving trauma symptoms regardless of the number and range of traumatic episodes experienced by an individual. It also claims to be beneficial whether the trauma occurred in the distant past or much more recently. While most of the people treated have personally experienced at least one traumatic incident, witnesses of traumatic events have also been treated with this approach.
TRU has proven to be successful at reducing or eliminating classic symptoms of posttraumatic stress, including nightmares, flashbacks, angry outbursts, and panic attacks. Evidence supporting the effectiveness of TRU's comes from two sources: Cicone's own observations of individuals he has treated and a couple studies, one of which was published in the journal Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions. Based on Cicione's personal observations, people who have endured abuse for years may experience relief from the symptoms of their trauma after only a handful of treatments.
To provide empirical evidence of the efficacy of TRU, Cicione conducted a pilot study in 2000. A pre-test/post-test design was employed with 10 children between the ages of 8 and 14 who had experienced multiple traumatic episodes. Each individual received three, 45-minute TRU treatments. Trauma symptoms were measured using a self-report instrument, as well as a therapist interview form. The results revealed significant reduction in posttraumatic stress and related symptoms, such as anger and depression, following the three treatment sessions. The frequency with which symptoms were experienced declined drastically from an average of 8.58 per week prior to treatment to 0.4 per week after the treatment sessions.
A second study was later conducted by Cicione to further demonstrate the therapeutic value of TRU. In this study, a control group experimental design was utilized with a larger sample of adults. Participants had experienced at least three episodes of trauma and were all experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress prior to their involvement in the study. As in the pilot project, a self-report instrument and a therapist interview form were used to measure trauma symptoms. A comparison of pre-test and post-test scores revealed a significant decline in trauma symptoms, and a four-month follow-up indicated that these result had remained stable.
TRU rarely involves talk therapy while working with a therapist, which means the survivor is not forced to verbally or visually relive traumatic events and experience accompanying negative effects. Instead, the person in therapy is given colored markers, a drawing pad, and is guided through specific hand motions with the markers by the therapist. According to the TRU studies, survivors usually appear calm and relaxed during therapy and rarely experience adverse reactions to treatment aside from mild fatigue or confusion which usually fades within a few hours after the therapy has concluded.
Cicione designed TRU to produce rapid results. Available evidence suggests that the results may also remain stable over time and that improvements in overall psychological health are experienced by survivors long after the conclusion of therapy. TRU is also deemed safe for use with children, adolescents, and the elderly.
Perhaps the biggest potential impact of this form of therapy is that it may be useful for breaking the generational cycle of abuse. Since treatment involves eliminating the symptoms and feelings associated with the trauma, the likelihood that the pattern of abuse will be repeated may be diminished.
Since the primary purpose of TRU is to address traumatic material, it might not be sufficient when treating individuals who are facing other critical issues. In such cases, it me be advantageous to utilize TRU in conjunction with another form of therapy. Additionally, TRU is not effective for treating individuals with a coexisting drug or alcohol problem and has been shown to have limited utility with borderline personality.
- Cicione, R. M. (2000). Trauma Relief Unlimited pilot project. Retrieved from http://traumareliefunlimited.com/TRU-pilot-project.html
- Cicione, R. M. (2008). The Trauma Relief Unlimited, (T.R.U.) method. Retrieved from http://traumareliefunlimited.com/
- Cicione, R. M., Fontaine, L. A., & Williams, C. N. (2002). Trauma Relief Unlimited: An outcome study of a new treatment method. Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions, 2(2), 25-33.