Are you seeking the best way to recover from trauma but are overwhelmed by all the options? Should you try EMDR first, start a gratitude journal, dive into exposure therapy, or practice yoga?
Trauma recovery follows three stages according to the legendary Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Judith Herman: 1. Establish Safety, 2. Remember and Mourn, and 3. Reconnect. You’ll recover from PTSD symptoms like flashbacks and panic attacks more fully if you start at the beginning and take it one step at a time.
Here are some actions you can take to successfully navigate each stage in your recovery.
Step 1: Establish Safety
Is your body stuck in fight-or-flight mode and reacting to the world like you’re still in danger? Then start your recovery with Step 1, establishing safety. Try yoga, breathing exercises, supportive counseling, and healthy routines to teach your body and brain that you’re safe now. The aim of Step 1 is to calm your nervous system down and establish the inner feeling of safety and stability.
Step 2: Remember and Mourn
Once you feel calm, safe and energized to tackle your trauma, you’re ready to move to Step 2. In this next stage, you’ll teach your brain that the traumatic event happened in the past, and is no longer happening now. Techniques like Detrauma correct the ‘memory coding error’ that causes re-experiencing like flashbacks and nightmares. You can achieve this by confronting the memories that are causing you distress and reprocessing them safely.
You may also mourn what you’ve lost, for example, trust, relationships, beliefs, a home, health, or a career. This second stage of recovery is challenging, and a counselor, peer support group or therapist can help you tackle it safely. The healthy practices you established in Step 1 will also help you feel grounded and safe while you tackle the past.
Step 3: Reconnect
With the memory of trauma safely filed away in the past where it belongs, it’s time to rebuild your life in the present, and pursue your aspirations for the future. In step 3, you’ll reinvent a new self and discover new meaning and depth in your life.
Like many survivors, you may develop and deepen relationships with loved ones, friends and your community and learn to trust again. You may thrive and flourish by keeping a gratitude journal, expressing yourself through art, dance or spirituality, or driving change in your community through social activism.
The best way to recover from trauma is to follow your own unique path through these 3 stages.
When you’re ready for Step 2, try Detrauma
Detrauma guides you through writing therapy, step by step. You’ll confront your distressing memories with pen-and-paper writing exercises. You’ll teach your brain that the traumatic event happened in the past, and that you’re safe now.
Writing therapy was developed by psychologists at the National Center for PTSD, and has been validated in clinical trials to substantially reduce or remove PTSD symptoms like flashbacks and panic attacks.