What is trauma?
Many children and adults will experience some form of trauma in their lifetimes, whether from physical, sexual or emotional abuse; losing a loved one; violence in war; a car accident; divorce; or a natural disaster, such as a tornado.
Trauma, in reference to mental health, refers to an overwhelming, life-threatening experience.
A traumatic event is perceived and experienced as a threat to one's safety or to the stability of one’s world.
In some cases, people might develop post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that can cause a person to suffer from flashbacks, bad dreams and angry outbursts, among other symptoms.
Why seek counseling for trauma?
When people break bones, they take time to heal and recover.
But people often don’t apply the same standards in regards to their mental health.
Traumatic events can cause feelings of helplessness, anxiety and aggression, and trauma can leave a lasting impression on a person’s mind and body.
Emotional trauma is known to be a physical injury because important parts of the body are affected.
You might need to consider seeking professional help if you feel sad or depressed for more than two weeks, or if you are not able to take care of your family or do your job.
Outside of therapy, there are many things you can do to cope with traumatic events, including talking to family, friends and clergy for support.
What is treatment like?
Mental health professionals have their own approaches for applying their training and experience with patients.
It’s important to find a counselor that you feel comfortable with.
One common misconception is that all counselors will make a person talk about the trauma repeatedly.
But some counselors won’t ask you to go back and revisit being traumatized.
Rather, they want to see how that trauma is affecting you now.
Generally, you aren’t forced to do anything in counseling that you’re not comfortable with.
When looking for a counselor, it’s important to seek out someone who uses evidence-based practices.
You also can ask about how much experience the person has in helping people with trauma and whether he or she has had any training regarding trauma.
How do I find treatment?
A variety of mental health professionals across Oklahoma provide treatment, including psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers.
Insurance companies vary in the number of sessions they pay for. There are some nonprofit organizations that provide counseling on a sliding-scale based on income. They also might offer counseling at no cost to people who are unable to pay.
If you have a job, you can ask your human resources department if the company has an employee assistance program that confidentially helps employees find a counselor.
The number of sessions you will need will depend on a variety of factors, including your symptoms and how severely they’re affecting you.
Sources: Agata Karch, NorthCare licensed clinical social worker and supervisor of adult and family outpatient services; state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; National Institute of Mental Health; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the National Institutes of Health.