Psychological trauma is understood as any life experience that is felt to be too overwhelming and difficult to process and integrate on one’s own. Often those who are exposed to emotionally or physically abusive settings, environmentally stressful settings, societal oppression, or military combat can develop serious post-traumatic psychological symptoms.
Though trauma was studied closely at the founding of modern psychology (early 1900s) within many clinical settings the full implications of the role of trauma in mental health can be overlooked. Depression, anxiety, and even psychosis are treated routinely with medication or behavioral strategies to cope with symptoms, however the underlying traumatic factors that may be driving these disorders may receive little attention.
In the past twenty years the field of psychological trauma studies has made major advances through the work of pioneers like Dr. Judith Herman (Trauma and recovery, 2011) Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (The body keeps the score, 2016), and Dr. Joy DeGruy (Post traumatic slave syndrome, 2005). Their work along with findings within the field of psychoanalysis related to early childhood developmental trauma has helped make it possible to develop a trauma-informed approach to psychotherapy that validates the role of traumatic stress whether developmental, physical, emotional, social, and/or environmental.
Trauma informed therapeutic modalities (such as EMDR) are rapidly advancing and can help to alleviate post-traumatic distress at the source. Psychological trauma recovery consists of the gradual process of building safety, stability, understanding, resiliency, and renewed forward momentum.