Trauma Treatment

What is Emotional Trauma?

Psychological Trauma or Post Traumatic Stress is best described as a “wound” or “internal pain” that can often be the result of a perceived threat to safety. 

The word perceived is important here as it highlights the fact that an event (e.g. a burglary) can be easily brushed off by some, whilst for others the very same event can have serious long term mental and emotional repercussions. 

At some point after the event, if the trauma survivor (e.g. the victim of burglary) feels in any similar way violated, this could act as a trigger, opening the floodgates to a wave of pain or distress from the past. It is how the person deals with this stress that could become an unhealthy compulsion.

Another example is that of a soldier. In a war zone they may learn to react to the sound of a loud bang or a helicopter flying overhead by immediately getting themselves and their unit to safety. This is a survival mechanism. 

In civilian life however, the sound of a firework or police helicopter nearby are not potential threats to safety. The midbrain does not differentiate, the soldier is immediately and involuntarily thrown into a trauma reaction. 

This apparent overreaction or “emotional flooding” to stimuli is exhibited by an extreme reaction, often due to a build up of small things. An indicator of unresolved trauma is when the emotional reaction is disproportionate to the event.

Why are Traumatic Memories so Powerful?

One main theory is that people have evolved to store traumatic memories deep in the midbrain (along with the emotions at the time) as a survival mechanism. 

If for example a member of the tribe was attacked by a wild animal, the theory states that the survivors will have witnessed the attack and stored the memory of this traumatic incident. Hence the next time there is a threat of attack by a wild animal, the members of the tribe will react quickly in response to that threat. 

It is thought that those who were able to react fastest had a greater chance of surviving and passing on their genes.

Events that people most commonly associate as traumatic are violence, crime, war, terrorism, rape, natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, storms etc). 

In reality trauma can be a number of different things, many of which a person may dismiss as minor.

What Causes Trauma?

Infants are dependent upon primary caregivers (parents, adult family/friends, older siblings) for survival. 

In order to form a healthy sense of self, connection and relationships, children need eye contact, touch, unconditional love/affection, intimacy/spending time, honest sharing of emotion, healthy boundaries and predictability.

Trauma usually occurs a response to some form of abuse or incidents where the child’s legitimate needs for nurture are not met:

  • Abandonment/Neglect. These forms of abuse do not just apply to being physically alone, there are various types of emotional abandonment where a primary caregiver may be unable to emotionally connect on a number of levels due to conditions such as addiction, anxiety, depression, cultural beliefs, autism or personality disorders. Termination of relationships, suicide, grief and loss are also major sources of trauma.
  • Enmeshment. This occurs when a primary caregiver attempts to get their own emotional needs met through their child. Often resulting in smothering, controlling or blurring the parent-child boundary, thus fostering an unhealthy dependence.
  • Boundary Violations. There are numerous other categories of abuse: verbal, psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual.
  • Witnessing abuse/cruelty of any type.
  • Severe Injury or Illness.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Trauma?


  • Depression: Tearful outbursts, sadness, hopelessness, despondent
  • Anxiety: Panic attacks, shallow breathing, paranoia
  • Guilt: Most often “survivors guilt”
  • Shame
  • Mood swings/Volatility
  • Anger/Rage: Short tempered, passive aggressive, judgemental
  • Being emotionally numb


  • Confusion
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks/Intrusive thoughts
  • Loss of focus and/or ability to concentrate


  • Apathy
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Withdrawal, Isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Irrational behaviour
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Hypervigilance: Always alert, in an attempt to anticipate potential threats
  • Obsessive Compulsive, self destructive, impulsive, addictive behaviours

How Do We Treat Trauma?

At Camino Recovery the clinical team utilises a variety of evidence based approaches to trauma work. 

It has been found that experiential therapies (i.e. those that involve some sort of activity rather than just speaking) are particularly effective in the treatment of trauma.

  • Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
  • EMDR which is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD. This is a bilateral stimulation that allows the housed traumas in the midbrain to forward to the neocortex which in effect allows for an easier transition to reframe events, events which are memories which prompt trauma to incapacitate the sufferer.
  • Art Therapy
  • Psychodrama

Camino Recovery offers this sort of “non-invasive” type of therapy because unaddressed trauma is the key contributor to stress which in turn is the key contributor to relapse/recidivism of unhealthy choices in people’s lives.  Simply put, resolve the trauma, resolve the problem.

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