Treating Traume

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Bicknell-Hentges, L., & Lynch, J. J. (2009, March). Everything counselors and supervisors need to know about treating trauma. Paper based on a presentation at the American Counseling Association Annual Conference and Exposition, Charlotte, NC.

Everything Counselors and Supervisors Need to Know About Treating Trauma

Paper based on a presentation at the 2009 American Counseling Association Annual Conference and Exposition, March 19-23, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lindsay Bicknell-Hentges and John J. Lynch

Bicknell-Hentges, Lindsay is a Professor of Counseling and Psychology at Chicago State University. She has over 27 years of experience counseling and supervising counselors with traumatized clients and has conducted research for the last 15 years on both the impact and treatment of trauma in her role as a counselor educator at an urban institution. Along with her co-presenter, the author has published several articles and book chapters on addressing trauma within school and clinical settings as well as presenting numerous invited addresses and workshops on trauma on the local and state level.

Lynch, John J. is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology at Chicago State University. With almost 30 years of experience as a counselor and supervisor working with traumatized clients in a wide variety of settings, he has served as a director and clinical director of group homes, a statewide shelter system, and a residential treatment program for abused and neglected youth. Drawing from his role as supervisor over at least 100 individuals working in similar settings, Dr. Lynch currently serves as the Coordinator of the School Counseling Program at an urban institution with primarily African American students who live and work in the urban setting.

Understanding Trauma: Adaptive and Pathological Responses

Counselors and supervisors working with traumatized individuals need to understand both the emotional/behavioral manifestations of trauma as well as the physical impact of psychological trauma within the body. However, integrating the complex literature into actual practice is difficult. Many authors explain various aspects of the following material in greater detail, but this paper is intended to provide information that is accessible to all counselors working with traumatized clients.

An individual's reaction to emotional trauma is complex and difficult to predict. A person's age, past exposure to trauma, social support, culture, family psychiatric history and general emotional functioning are some of the variables related to individual response to trauma (McFarlane & Yehuda, 1996). In addition, the emotional and physical proximity to actual danger, degree of perceived personal control, the length of exposure to trauma, the reaction of others to the trauma, and the source of the trauma (e.g., natural disaster, abuse from parent, abuse from stranger, random personal violence, combat, terrorist act) also impact an individual's reaction to trauma (McFarlane & de Girolamo, 1996).

Some people demonstrate resiliency, responding to trauma in a flexible and creative manner. In contrast, trauma becomes a negative, central defining moment in the lives of others, marking the start of entrenched emotional distress, maladaptive behavior, and/or relational dysfunction. Following exposure to a traumatic event, most individuals experience temporary preoccupation and some involuntary intrusive memories. Horowitz (1978) has proposed that in many, the repetitious replaying of the painful memories actually functions to modify the emotional response to the trauma resulting in a gradual increase in tolerance for traumatic content. Whereas with time most people actually heal by integration and acceptance of the traumatic experience through this repetition, others develop the persistent patterns of hyperarousal and avoidance of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In these individuals,...
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