The Three Stages of Trauma Recovery
Moving on past trauma, for many people, can feel like it will take a lifetime. For this reason, many people drop out of therapy and give up. Trauma recovery takes time, and it’s a process we can’t rush. We have to take baby steps and allow ourselves to grieve the trauma.
I’ll walk you through the three stages of trauma and PTSD recovery and leave you with a few final thoughts that may help you find your path to recovery.
Stage 1: Developing Your Sense of Personal Safety and Cultivating Your Self-Care Routine
The main tasks for the first stage of trauma recovery are developing your sense of personal safety, cultivating your self-care routine, and learning to manage your emotions and behaviour healthily and productively. Once you’ve been able to stabilize your life and mental state, you will be able to work through your painful, traumatic memories.
The first stage of trauma recovery requires you to accomplish these tasks:
- Develop a realistic and attainable treatment goal.
- Set up an action plan geared towards achieving your goals in a reasonable time frame.
- Establish a sense of stability and safety within your interpersonal relationships, your body, and other disrupted areas of your life.
- Learn to manage your emotions in the middle of the instability the PTSD and trauma symptoms are causing you.
- Begin to recognize and tap into sources of inner strength.
- Develop coping mechanisms and life skills, geared toward effectively managing painful experiences, regulating emotional, stabilizing your mental and physical state.
Stage 2: Mourning in a Safe Setting
Once you have developed a functional and robust set of coping skills and begin to feel safe again in your surroundings, it will be possible to start addressing your painful and suppressed memories with a mental health professional, trusted family member, or close friend.
The second stage of trauma recovering requests you to accomplish these tasks:
- Discuss and evaluate painful and traumatic memories to restructure the role they play in your life.
- Work through trauma-related grief that comes from the impact the unwanted or abusive experiences had on your life.
- Mourn the loss of good experiences that have not yet occurred, or did not have the chance to happen, because of persistent, trauma-related symptoms.
Stage 3: Moving Forward
The third and final stage of trauma recovery focuses primarily on reconnecting with people, personally meaningful activities, and all other aspects of a fulfilled and healthy life.
During this stage, you will need to develop a new sense of self. Traumatic experiences will no longer play a defining role in your life. With this newfound freedom, you will be able to take steps toward building empowerment, finding residency, and begin recovering from the devastating effects of your traumatic experiences.
I leave you with a few final thoughts that may help you find your path to recovery:
- Recognize that healing is going to take some time, that it will not be an immediate fix or happen overnight.
- Talk to your doctor about different options to help you get better.
- Begin some modest and realistic activities to help reduce your levels of stress and tension, such as daily exercise.
- Structure some realistic goals that you can reasonably achieve.
- Learn how to set priorities.
- Breaking up the large and complex task into smaller and more manageable ones will help you do what you can do more comfortably and with less frustration.
- Spend time with others that you enjoy, and talk with people you trust about anything you’ve noticed that seems to trigger your symptoms.
- Expect gradual improvement of your symptoms over time, with treatment from a professional.
- Figure out comforting situations, places and people and apply some of these proven coping techniques.