Prolonged Trauma and Complex PTSD
Many mental health practitioners are trained in the treatment of single traumatic events. However, in the case of complex trauma and dissociative symptoms, clients come to therapy with an extensive history of trauma that often begins in childhood and continues into adulthood with layers of personal, relational, societal, or cultural losses. Clients arrive at the door with profoundly painful histories and well-constructed defense structures to protect themselves from the pain.
Complex PTSD and dissociative symptoms can arise as a result of repeated developmental trauma or neglect and the ongoing social stress such as bullying, discrimination, political violence, or the distress of being a refugee separated from family and country.
“A compassionate approach to treatment understands that dissociation is a learned behavior that once helped the client survive and cope with a threatening environment. Dissociation is a both a built-in physiological survival mechanism and a psychological defense structure. It helps the individual to disconnect from the reality of threatening experiences. However, over time, dissociation can become a well-maintained, dysfunctional division between the part of the self that is trying to live a “normal life” and the part of self that is holding trauma related material.”-Dr. Arielle Schwartz