The experiences of abuse survivors and combat veterans have much in common: fear, danger, violence, uncertainty, and trauma. These two groups of people experience high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression even after they’re safely out of harm’s way. So learning how to deal with the memories on a daily basis can be quite a burden. Social support and acceptance can play a large role, but can only go so far. Psychotherapy is one of the primary and most effective means of working through residual trauma, particularly when the therapist or counselor specializes in working with survivors of trauma.
These mental health specialists help their clients talk through and address their memories during counseling sessions. But they also equip them with the tools to calm and center themselves at home between sessions, and continuing on in life once the therapy draws to a close. These often include physical and spiritual practices, such as yoga and meditation that have a long history. At a recent fundraiser for veterans’ mental health, combat veterans and celebrities came together to promote transcendental meditation as a means of overcoming PTSD. Clint Eastwood, Russell Brand, and David Lynch stood with Vietnam, WWII, and Iraq war veterans to share their stories and support for the method.
Then there’s what sociology researcher Shane Sharp calls “the most common religious practice you can find”: prayer. Similar to meditation, prayer calms the mind and helps people to focus and articulate a problem they’re struggling with. Sharp’s recent work focuses on how women involved in violent relationships use prayer to cope, and later to heal. Not only is prayer a safe venting outlet for their anger and a buffer to loneliness, said Sharp, but it works like any other interpersonal interaction: the person imagines how they appear from the other’s perspective. “During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them,” he said, providing a positive self-image that they weren’t receiving from the abuser.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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