Lifespan Integration for Trauma and PTSD: A Christian Counselor’s Advice
In “Lifespan Integration Therapy: A Christian Counselor Connects the Dots,” I described how Lifespan Integration differs from other therapy modalities. In this article, I describe how this healing therapy is effective for trauma and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the collective physical, emotional, and mental effect of a damaging event or events. If we see a bruise on someone’s arm, we know that arm had more than usual force applied to it, and the tissue under the skin was damaged. Pressing on the bruise will produce pain until the bruise is healed. The body naturally carries away the damaged blood cells and replaces them with healthy ones. We can liken mental and emotional trauma to a bruise. The difference is that the passage of time does not necessarily heal this type of hurt. It stays there, and when this emotional bruise is touched, or triggered, emotional pain is felt.
A traumatic memory could be childhood sexual abuse or a car accident. Traumatic memories can also be caused by incidents or life situations from childhood or adult life. While not considered traumatic for most people, these incidents can cause such distress and dysfunction in a person’s daily life that they are debilitating. An example would be the sudden death of a family member.
What is PTSD and How is it Treated in Lifespan Integration?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may develop after someone has been exposed to a shocking or potentially violent event or has experienced a sudden personal catastrophe. Symptoms of PTSD include hyper arousal (continuous high levels of anxiety), frequent flashbacks, numbing, or the avoidance of anything that could cause one to recall the painful events. Symptoms that continue for more than a month after the event are diagnosed as PTSD. PTSD causes the person to be “frozen in time” because in many ways their body is still experiencing the intensely difficult event. The neural network of these body memories cannot stop firing when triggered.
Lifespan Integration, when used by a fully trained therapist, is effective in treating both the memories of the actual event and the bodily sensations triggered by the painful memories. The events can be in the recent or distant past, and the therapist works with the client to create a record of the difficult event and what happened afterwards. The therapist then takes the client through the timelines, always ending in the present. Deep trauma usually requires several sessions with numerous repetitions of the timelines. The therapist’s training informs them of the kind and number of repetitions needed, and enables them to fully control the entire process of remembering.
Many people are fearful of driving again after a severe auto accident. Most return to driving, hopefully carefully, as their apprehension subsides. But for some, the fear and panic do not subside and just getting into the driver’s seat triggers panic and fear. With Lifespan Integration, the therapist indirectly targets this fear by taking the client through a timeline of the accident and ending in the present. Just as driving a car can trigger fear and panic, convincing the body that it is in danger, the aim of this therapy is to “convince” the body that the traumatic auto accident is over. Arriving in the present after a timeline enables the person to know that they have survived the danger and are safe at a level that is deeper than purely cognitive understanding.
Revisiting Childhood Traumas
Childhood incidents, such as sexual abuse, can be cleared using Lifespan Integration. This does not mean the incident is forgotten, but that the emotionality of the event is greatly reduced or eliminated. Most children who have experienced sexual abuse assume in some way that they were responsible for it happening and experience extreme shame and isolation. Through Lifespan Integration, they can come to know they were not responsible for the event or events, the resulting shame can be cleared, and the problematic attitudes to sexuality that this caused can be changed.
The Trauma of Infidelity
There are many kinds of trauma that can be cleared with Lifespan Integration. Many women experience quite severe emotional trauma when their partner’s addiction to porn or sexually acting out are disclosed. Revelations of a partner’s infidelity can trigger non-stop anxiety and a sense that one’s world is falling apart. This particular kind of trauma can linger and damage the relationship. Many relationships cannot survive infidelity and the resulting traumas, but those that do survive it can become even stronger.
Processing Grief with Lifespan Integration
Grief is a common trauma and responds well to Lifespan Integration. A person may have experienced the death of a parent years earlier, but may not have been able – or allowed themselves – to grieve sufficiently. This affects them as they form new relationships and it may make them avoid those parts of life that seem too painful to enter. As a therapist, I point out to clients that those painful memories have become isolated and detached from the rest of their life’s memories. Because the painful events were not talked over and dealt with in a healthy way when they occurred, the memories are now isolated, and the person has no context in which they can deal with the difficult memories. As we “pull” memories of the painful events into the mainstream events of the person’s timeline, those painful memories become normalized and lose their “sting.” Eventually the person going through Lifespan Integration is able to say about a very difficult event: “Yes, that happened, it was so very hard, and it hurt a lot. But it is over, and I got through it. I live in the present now.”
Christian Counseling Can Enable You to Overcome Trauma
Difficult life events, traumatic experiences, and PTSD can be crippling if they are not dealt with in a healthy way. As a Christian counselor trained in Lifespan Integration, I lead the person through the timelines of their life, enabling them to gradually become integrated. This integration, or the ability to deal with all of one’s life in a meaningful and coherent way, is the goal of this kind of counseling. Integration allows the person to live fully in the present.
Lifespan Integration Material is copyrighted by © 2010 Lifespan Integration, LLC. www.lifespanintegration.com
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- “Broken Glass,”1101501065-15028.jpg,courtesy of bhester
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- Stone Path, PICT1201.JPG, courtesy of Jusben