Written by: John Kreitzberg, MA
Past traumatic experiences can have profound and long-lasting impacts on the lives of survivors. After experiencing trauma, people often feel extremely alone and unable to find others who not only relate to their experience but who also understand all the different ways those traumas continue to impact them today. Group therapy is often used with survivors of trauma to combat feelings of isolation by providing a safe and supportive environment with other survivors. Some trauma group therapies dig deep into members’ trauma histories to process and restructure the memory of traumatic experiences. In this post, however, we will look at a different form of group trauma therapy: present-focused therapy.
It may seem counterintuitive to have a trauma group in which members don’t discuss their trauma stories, but that’s exactly what present-focused group trauma therapy does. By focusing on the current day-to-day impacts of trauma that survivors experience, this type of group helps members find ways to move from the past to the present, discover ways to cope with trauma reactions, and explore new ways of relating to themselves and those around them — all within a safe and collaborative group setting.
While every survivor’s experience is different, there are a number of common ways that trauma may impact someone’s daily life. When we think of trauma responses, we might immediately think about some of the “classic” symptoms such as being easily startled or experiencing intrusive memories of the trauma. While these are both very real responses to trauma, survivors also often experience profound changes to how they think about themselves, relate to others, and understand the world around them. Some common issues that survivors experience include:
One of the most powerful aspects of group therapy is that the group becomes a microcosm of the group member’s world, and the issues members face in the world start to play out within the group itself. Staying in the here-and-now, present-focused group trauma therapy provides members a safe place to examine these issues, receive feedback and problem-solving strategies from other members, and explore new and healthy ways of relating to each other.
Ultimately, members of a present-focused trauma group can expect:
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