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Evidence-Based Treatment for Emotional Trauma

Traumatic events are devastating, and yet fairly common. Experts estimate that about 50 percent of the population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. When you consider that 90 percent of patients in public behavioral health care settings have experienced at least one trauma, trauma leaves a strong emotional mark.

At Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center, our patients are recovering every day from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma-related conditions such as anxiety and depression, which can result following a traumatic event.

Pathlight's treatment is rooted in the Transdiagnostic Care Approach: a model that considers how patients often exhibit signs and symptoms of multiple diagnoses. This provides insight into all individual traits and behaviors that affect the whole person and allows us to individualize treatment and programming across all levels of care.

Through a variety of evidence-based psychotherapies and modalities, we effectively treat each patient as a whole and unique person, with extensive experience in treating complex co-occurring disorders. Our interventions are congruent across Pathlight's programming, creating a common and unifying language from which to approach treatment. Our treatment programs are based on evidence-based therapeutic approaches including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Exposure and Responsive Prevention (ERP), and Radically Open DBT (RO-DBT).

Choosing a Treatment Center for Emotional Trauma

After experiencing a trauma, people can become increasingly distressed by certain emotional or environmental triggers. At Pathlight, one of our overarching priorities is to create a trauma-sensitive treatment environment and approach: considering this heightened sensitivity and reactivity. Our physical space, group guidelines, policies and procedures, interactions, and treatment approaches are designed to promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing.

Our professional staff and clinicians have extensive experience in working with patients who have a history of trauma. We are sensitive to the unique needs and experiences of people who have been through a trauma — or multiple traumas.

Should you choose to seek treatment with us, our clinicians will provide you with the most effective, evidence-based treatment modalities and medications available to help people recover from trauma and related issues. During treatment, you will learn about trauma and coping with distress following a trauma, including the following:

  • How trauma impacts the brain
  • How trauma shapes your experience of the world: your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and emotions
  • How to identify triggers and safely and effectively manage your reactions
  • How to maintain a healthy and more balanced life
  • How to feel empowered

As you move through treatment, you will be able to more easily identify and connect with your core values. These values are critical in helping you create a more fulfilled and meaningful life. In treatment, you will learn new ways of living, and gain greater flexibility, adaptability, and openness.

Effective Therapies for Emotional Trauma Recovery

At Pathlight, our treatment programs include therapeutic interventions found to be most helpful for people recovering after a trauma. Our providers utilize the following evidence-based treatments:

Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center offers a designated, intensive module that assesses and then treats patients who have experienced trauma. This specialty track works to break down the impacts of PTSD: helping patients understand their stuck points, challenge trauma-related beliefs, and return to the lives they deserve.

Our structured and supportive curriculum uses Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) as a first-line, evidence-based psychotherapy to treat the symptoms of PTSD – and we work to fully understand the multifaceted impacts of trauma. Led by a multidisciplinary team, we not only identify comorbidities and co-occurring diagnoses, but also examine how trauma affects other areas including mood, anxiety, and sleep.

In addition, our on-site psychiatrists provide regular medication management for all the patients in our Residential and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP).

During your time at Pathlight, a primary goal is learning how to regulate your emotions safely and effectively. To support our patients in this process, our therapists will work with you to address wellness of your mind, body and spirit with experiential therapies (movement, art, and yoga therapy).

We customize treatment to each individual and do our best to ensure each patient receives the specialized therapy that they need. Your individual therapist will work closely with you each week to make sure you are making progress in treatment.

Exposure Therapy

Trauma survivors are often upset by memories, flashbacks, and nightmares that stem from their trauma — and they try to avoid anything reminiscent of the traumatic event. When working with individuals affected by traumatic stress, “exposure work” is often a core feature of therapy. People can recover from a trauma by exposing themselves to remembering, re-envisioning, re-imagining, and re-telling the story of the traumatic event in a safe space.

While exposure work can sound stressful and challenging, we support this work in a careful and nurturing way. Patients work with their trusted individual therapist to plan the exposure work in a way that feels manageable, and we revise and re-examine the treatment plans.

Before exposure work begins, we offer patients mindfulness and coping skills training to help handle difficult thoughts, physical reactions, and emotions that may arise.

Moreover, based on our individualized treatment approach, patients work with an individual therapist to decide what type of exposure work is appropriate. For example, some patients may find that they prefer to write about their trauma versus verbally discussing the trauma.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a foundational, first-line, evidence-based psychotherapy used to treat the symptoms of PTSD, and is one of the main forms of individual therapy used in Pathlight’s Residential and Partial Hospitalization Trauma Track.

CPT helps patients learn how to challenge or modify unhelpful beliefs related to their specific trauma, first by allowing them to become aware of their thoughts and emotions associated with the event that may be maintaining PTSD symptoms. Once a patient is able to identify unhelpful thinking, they then develop the skills needed to help adjust to day-to-day life. [1]


Levels of Care at Pathlight

How do you know if Pathlight is right for you? You are eligible to seek trauma treatment at Pathlight if you need more intensive support than is offered in an individual, outpatient setting. We offer several levels of care to meet your needs.

You can move up and down through the levels of care based on your needs during your treatment through our continuum of care. This vertically integrated treatment design is a hallmark of our patient care and allows you to work with the same treatment team as you transition to different levels of care.

During intake, our master’s-level trained Clinical Assessment team will work with you to determine the ideal level of care to best meet your needs.

Following treatment, we continue to offer ongoing support. Alumni events help keep you focused on trauma recovery and connected to the larger community of people pursuing similar goals. Our guided path to wellness, from admission through treatment and discharge, provides you with all the tools and support you need to navigate this journey.

Types of Emotional Trauma Treatment

Residential Care

The highest level of care; you live on site and attend therapy groups while being supported through tasks to improve functioning.

Partial Hospitalization Program

Attend Pathlight groups 7 days per week.

Intensive Outpatient Program

Treatment takes place 3 to 5 days per week.

Child and Adolescent Program

Residential, PHP, and IOP for patients ages 10-17.

Family Involvement in Emotional Trauma Treatment

Family support and involvement is key to helping people recover after a trauma. We encourage family members to support their loved one’s recovery by participating in some of our family-oriented therapies and programs, including:

  • Virtual Family & Friends Education Series
  • Family Therapy
  • Multi-family education groups
A family playing cards

When Will You Recover from Emotional Trauma?

We want you to feel empowered to make the best choice for you. As you compare treatment centers, we encourage you to look at patient outcomes if they are made available.

For our patients, we find that most of the symptom reduction and relief occur within the first 11 days. As patients continue their psychotherapeutic work and learn new skills, the remaining levels of distress continue to drop.

Most of our patients notice a significant increase in the following areas:

  • Feeling more accomplished
  • Identifying an increased quality in your relationships
  • Finding more meaning in your life
  • Feeling more positive emotions

Our patients experience statistically significant decreases in the following areas following treatment:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dysfunctional Attitudes
  • OCD
  • Trauma

Our patients also report high levels of satisfaction regarding their care at Pathlight:

  • 84% of PHP and 89% of IOP patients report being satisfied with their treatment
  • 86% of PHP and 90% of IOP patients would refer family or a friend

We want to assure you that no matter how hard things may seem, you are never alone in your struggle. No matter how complex your illness is, or how many professionals you have seen, you can gain a better understanding of your condition and learn new skills to help manage your thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions.

Please call us at (877) 711-1878 for a free, confidential consultation with a Master’s-level clinician or to learn more about treatment options for trauma.

Source: Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration: Trauma

Emotional Trauma FAQ

  • What is emotional trauma?

    Emotional trauma can occur during a traumatic event, but its effects can continue for a long time after one has experienced trauma. These emotions can include sadness, anger, fear, shame and stress, all of which can feel overwhelming.

  • How are trauma disorders treated?

    Trauma disorders are typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy, counseling and sometimes medication. Specific modalities for managing trauma include Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which is used to help people recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.

  • Do I have a trauma disorder?

    Trauma disorders should be discussed and diagnosed by a clinician, but there are specific signs and symptoms that are frequently present. Take our trauma quiz if you think you may be struggling with a trauma-related condition.