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How Online Trauma Therapy Can Help You Heal

Trauma therapy is a type of mental health treatment that can help you deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of trauma. Trauma therapy is based on the understanding that negative experiences affect a person’s emotional and behavioral responses.

With trauma treatment, you can learn skills and strategies to understand negative experiences, learn to cope, and process negative emotions and memories connected to a traumatic event. This type of therapy is growing in popularity and has proven to be effective in decreasing troubling symptoms. A review of 17 studies conducted in 2020 found that online therapy can be more effective than face-to-face treatment.

Online trauma therapy can help you heal from painful experiences. Continue reading to learn how trauma therapy can change your life by supporting your recovery and fostering personal growth.

What Is Trauma?

soldier undergoing trauma therapy

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like a car accident, sexual assault, physical injury, emotional neglect, physical abuse, witnessing death, or living through a natural disaster. Long-term effects of a traumatic experience can include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and even physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or chronic pain.

Symptoms of Trauma

The symptoms of trauma experienced by survivors can vary from person to person; even individuals who experience the same traumatic event can have differing symptoms. Common trauma symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, or distress when something reminds of traumatic events. You might feel emotionally numb, notice less interest in activities, or feel detached from reality.

Some trauma survivors feel irritable, have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, or engage in reckless behaviors. There might be a strong desire to avoid feelings, thoughts, or situations that remind you of the traumatic experience.

Emotional Trauma Symptoms

Trauma-related symptoms are separated into two main categories: emotional and physical.

Emotional symptoms can include the following:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, disorientation, or difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings, emotional outbursts
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected from others or emotionally numb
  • Intrusive thoughts of the traumatic event occurring unexpectedly
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Visual images of the event play repeatedly
  • Loss of memory
  • Depression
  • Emotional shock or disbelief

Trauma survivors might redirect inexplicable strong feelings toward loved ones such as friends, family members, others, or even toward themselves.

Physical Trauma Symptoms

Along with strong emotional symptoms, you might feel physical symptoms related to traumatic experiences.

Physical symptoms can include the following:

  • Extreme fatigue and exhaustion, lethargy
  • Paleness
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased heart rate or racing pulse
  • Diaphoresis (sweating)
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty coping in certain situations that bring the traumatic event to mind
  • Easily startled
  • Edginess
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic muscle spasms
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Vague complaints of aches and pains throughout the body or chronic pain
  • Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger

Physical trauma symptoms can present similar to a physical injury or illness.

Different Types of Trauma

There are different types of trauma with varying root causes. For instance, Developmental Trauma is used to define harmful events that occur during childhood. Children with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at increased risk for chronic health problems, mental health disorders, and substance abuse problems in adolescence and adulthood.

Another type of trauma, Acute Stress Disorder, is diagnosed when symptoms have been present between three and thirty days. Those with Acute Stress Disorder might experience disturbing memories or negative moods and thoughts. They might feel detached, have issues concentrating, or avoid certain situations. People with Acute Stress Disorder often feel guilty for not stopping the traumatic event, or they might be frustrated by not being able to move on from a traumatic experience within a certain timeframe.

PTSD is best described as an anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to a traumatic event, such as a physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress. PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms such as anxiety and stress become chronic and significantly affect daily functions.

Complex PTSD can develop as a result of numerous instances of Developmental Trauma. Survivors may harbor deep negative beliefs about themselves and even the world. Those with Complex PTSD are used to being in survival mode. They often fluctuate between feeling numb and experiencing intense emotional states and may be overwhelmed by their feelings. Individuals with PTSD frequently feel isolated and like no one understands them.

How is Trauma Diagnosed?

To diagnose a trauma disorder, your online therapist will likely recommend a physical exam, complete a psychological evaluation, and follow the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The physical exam will rule out any other potential causes of symptoms. Your online therapist will guide you through a comprehensive psychological evaluation, including reviewing any signs or symptoms you are experiencing as well as possible contributing events.

Traditional vs. Online Trauma Therapy

trauma therapy

Traditional in-person therapy and online counseling are very similar. During an in-person therapy session, the therapist and client meet together in an office. Therapists who offer online sessions can support clients anywhere there is an internet connection.

[Read: Teletherapy vs. In-Person Therapy: Which Is Better?]

What is Trauma Therapy and How Does It Work?

Trauma therapy can involve many different approaches. There is no general form of trauma therapy that works for every person, and your therapist will help you find the right approach or combination of methods that work for you.

Most trauma therapy involves one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional. Trauma treatment includes deep verbal discussions with your therapist. Some types of trauma therapy take place in support groups with other trauma survivors. Trauma therapy can consist of various techniques, such as using art or other creative methods to express emotions and traumatic experiences that are difficult to verbalize.

Trauma therapy has many benefits, including improved ability to focus on the present instead of the past, exchanging negative thoughts for more positive beliefs, decreasing PTSD symptoms, developing new neural networks in your brain, and improving daily functioning.

Efficacy of Online Trauma Therapy

A comprehensive literature review found that online trauma therapy led to a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression for participants. The same study noted that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was equally effective as face-to-face therapy in treating panic disorder and substantially effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.

Another analysis of 14 additional studies found that online cognitive behavioral therapy led to a 50% improvement in symptoms of panic disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and compulsive gambling disorder. These studies also demonstrated that online trauma therapy decreased the impact of stress and chronic fatigue in patients.

Comparing Traditional Therapy and Online Trauma Therapy

Online therapy works similarly to in-person services. However, with online counseling, the therapist and client are in separate locations, connected via technology. Online therapy allows each participant to meet on a virtual platform, and online access can provide great flexibility for clients while allowing therapists to serve a broader range of clients.

For both in-person sessions and online therapy, the client and therapist must have space to engage in mental health services in private and without interruptions. Both types of therapy require trust and rapport between the therapist and client.

[Read: Is Virtual Counseling Effective? (2022 Guide)]

Online Trauma Therapy

A meta-analysis of 19 research studies concluded that online therapy was equal in effectiveness to face-to-face therapy for the treatment of anxiety. Research has shown repeatedly online therapy is comparable, and in some situations better, than in-person therapy. While telehealth existed before the pandemic, COVID-19 created a greater demand for more online therapists. The telehealth trend continues, and online therapy and other mental health services are becoming the norm.

Different Online Trauma Therapy Techniques

A few common modalities of trauma therapies are:

What are the Benefits of Online Trauma Therapy?

online trauma therapy

There are many benefits to online therapy ranging from individual preference to the ability to access a wide range of highly qualified mental health professionals outside of your local area.

Online therapy can be particularly helpful if you struggle to feel safe in public spaces. Below, you’ll read more reasons why online mental health care is a great option.

Find Help Immediately

Trauma survivors often consider reaching out for help a long time before taking action. Once you decide to start treatment, online therapy offers the ability to start treatment immediately. You can start your journey to healing with just a few clicks.

Access Therapy from Anywhere

Online therapy allows flexibility in location. You can connect with a highly qualified mental health professional from anywhere in the world. Online therapy is helpful for those with busy schedules or tight time constraints.

Get More Control Over the Treatment Process

Online therapy allows you to have more control over the treatment process. Instead of following the flow and confines of a particular office, you participate in services on your terms, starting with location. You can select your therapist from a much wider range of options, schedule appointments with enhanced flexibility, and attend your sessions in a familiar, comfortable, and safe environment.

Is Online Trauma Therapy Effective in Healing?

The National Center for Health Research found that online therapy is an effective treatment for trauma, anxiety, and depression. In 2018, researchers combined the results from 20 studies, which included more than 1,400 patients. They concluded that online CBT was effective for treating anxiety and depression.

Additionally, a literature review conducted in 2018 analyzed over 40 studies and found that online therapy reduced PTSD symptoms. The paper reviewed several therapy modalities, including CBT and Cognitive Processing Therapy.

A study published jointly by the VA and APA strongly recommended CPT and trauma-focused CBT, noting these treatments have a large evidence base showing their effectiveness. These treatments directly address memories of the traumatic event or related thoughts and feelings, decreasing trauma symptoms.

How Does Online Trauma Therapy Work?

Online trauma therapy connects you with a therapist virtually. Your therapist will work with you to identify the most appropriate treatment modality. You will be able to participate in regular online visits while receiving services such as talk therapy, online psychiatry, and medication management.

The Process of Online Trauma Therapy

Online trauma therapy follows a general pattern while eventually branching into a unique treatment plan developed specifically for you.

Initial Consultation

Your first visit will be an initial consultation: you will meet with your therapist to discuss your reason for seeking treatment. Patients are encouraged to discuss troubling signs and symptoms and briefly describe events that may have triggered symptoms. During the initial consultation, you’ll be able to determine if you feel comfortable with your therapist when discussing highly sensitive topics. If your first therapist isn’t a great fit, you can easily choose a different therapist.

Treatment Planning

Treatment planning can begin once your therapist has completed a history and psychological evaluation. Your therapist will discuss their recommendations and inquire about your preferred approach to treatment. You can share what symptoms you’d like to prioritize and what outcomes you would like to see from treatment.

Trauma Therapy Sessions

Trauma therapy sessions will have a standard flow that allows for adjustment depending on your needs. The first part of each session will be dedicated to discussing any recent changes or events. Your therapist may ask what you would like to address during each session.

Each therapy session will end with a closure exercise or containment strategy to ensure you are ending the time in a state of emotional equilibrium. You may have “homework” to complete before the next session.

What to Expect from Online Trauma Therapy

While trauma therapy is uniquely tailored to each individual, everyone can expect to receive benefits from participating in online trauma therapy. After therapy, trauma survivors see a reduction in troubling emotional and physical trauma symptoms. Clients are given psychological support and individualized techniques to help them feel safe during the healing process.

You Will Be Empowered

Online trauma therapy will empower you to understand your trauma and the corresponding reactions you are experiencing. You will gain the ability to replace negative thought patterns and beliefs with positive ones. You will have control of your treatment journey, working with your therapist as an equal partner in your healing.

You Will Be Supported

The right therapist will make you feel fully supported on your path to healing. Your therapist will closely monitor your responses to treatment, adjusting as necessary to fit your distinctive needs. Treatment can be hard work, and your therapist will be there to assist and guide you. You are not alone.

You Will Be Heard

One of the most important factors of trauma therapy is that it gives survivors the opportunity to feel heard and understood. You can direct your treatment to address the issues or symptoms that feel most pressing to you. As you share deeply personal experiences, your therapist will listen to you without judgment. Online trauma therapy offers a psychologically safe environment for you to heal.

Heal Old Wounds with Online Trauma Therapy

Many trauma survivors wait years before seeking treatment. Left untreated, most trauma symptoms will not improve and often worsen.

You can begin online trauma therapy and embark on your path to healing long-term emotional wounds today!

All Points North exists to bring access to online trauma therapy to every client who needs it. With in-person services in Colorado and online therapy in the APN Connection App, we serve clients across the country and around the globe.

Don’t wait any longer. Learn more about APN’s online trauma therapy options and start your journey today!