If you're suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) your recovery depends on a number of factors. I'm so glad you've landed here, because I really hope to be able to help you understand your options.
Research shows that a good social support network helps to set you up for a better recovery*. However, that's not the whole story. All too often the family and friends of a traumatised individual suffer too. They may feel that they have, in a sense, 'lost' the person they once knew.
It can certainly help when friends, family and colleagues understand the condition and offer you the support that you feel you need. What do you do, though, if you don't have - or can't access (for whatever reason) - that kind of support?
I'm here with you to guide you in the right direction. The information on these pages will hopefully help you to choose the right treatment for you - even if you have PTSD symptoms that haven't met the criteria for full-blown PTSD. Very often someone might think that they're suffering from PTSD due to what they're experiencing. However, in a sense the exact label only matters if your getting access to treatment depends on that label. It's more likely that you're experiencing post-traumatic stress of some sort, without it matching the exact requirements for the diagnosis. That can be just as debilitating though.
Professionals can play an important part in reducing your stress and sense of isolation right from the start - through support, advice and trauma counselling.
It'll be hugely reassuring if your doctor or other health professional has a good understanding of post-traumatic stress (unfortunately that's not guaranteed). It's even more useful if he or she can communicate that in a sympathetic manner.
You would also want him/her to be active in getting you appropriate help as soon as possible, rather than prescribing any medication. The outcome of that first contact needs to be an early referral to the right kind of counsellor or therapist. The psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist should have a good understanding of trauma/PTSD and will need to be experienced in trauma counselling. Expertise in this area varies considerably, so don't make any assumptions. Your therapist needs to have specific skills to treat your condition and its symptoms.
I personally use a trauma focused technique with imaginary exposure in line with the NICE guidelines - see further down this page for more information on this.
(If you a professional - learn more about the REWIND TECHNIQUE.)
During the first two to three months following the trauma, any (trauma) counselling should only focus on the traumatic event(s). No general counselling should be offered. This is also the case when you feel overwhelmed by memories of a trauma even years after it happened.
During those initial weeks and months, your counsellor or therapist should ideally explain to you...
... how your PTSD symptoms have come about
... what happens in the brain
... how trauma counselling encourages and supports the natural healing process.
Have you tried counselling before but didn't find it helpful? I totally understand if this has left you feeling frustrated, let down, angry and depressed. You must keep searching for the right treatment for you though.
In the meantime I recommend you have a look at self-hypnosis downloads - they can help you feel little more in control of your own healing.
Join me now in Part 2 and we'll start going through the options available to you when you're looking for counselling for PTSD.
*Krzysztof Ph.D., K. Social Support and Traumatic Stress. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Vol 16 No. 2, Spring 2005, via ptsd.va.gov
Image courtesy of: Alain Gavillet