Awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has grown exponentially over the past couple of decades. This is good for many reasons — including the fact that it also helps guide folks struggling with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Both conditions require seeing a therapist, and it can be tricky to discern progress during your treatment process. Let’s talk about how you can tell if your complex trauma therapy is working.

Fortunately, there are some useful markers to help you appreciate how far you have come. With that in mind, let’s focus on C-PTSD for now. We will explain some of the basics of the debilitating disorder and how to tell if your treatment is working. 

What is C-PTSD?

The simplest way to differentiate C-PTSD from PTSD is this: C-PTSD results from ongoing, long-lasting trauma. PTSD could be caused by a single event, like a crime or natural disaster. C-PTSD is more often the result of the kind of relentless trauma that occurs during, say:

  • Being trafficked or prostituted 
  • Life in a war zone
  • Getting kidnapping 
  • Ongoing domestic violence
  • Ongoing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Being neglected and/or abandoned during childhood

Signs and Symptoms of C-PTSD

  • Lack of emotional regulation
  • Amnesia or dissociation
  • Questioning core beliefs or values
  • Negative self-image
  • Preoccupation with the abuser
  • Unable to sustain healthy relationships 

A person suffering from C-PTSD may also display behaviors like self-harm, social withdrawal, substance abuse, hyper-vigilance, and extreme sensitivity to anything that sounds like criticism. These are symptoms that a complex trauma therapy can help you with. 


Evidence-based psychotherapy is the gold standard for C-PTSD. There are several factors in how quickly you will experience results, e.g.

  • The specifics of your traumatic experiences 
  • Your goals 
  • How “stuck” do you feel in the trauma 

How Can You Tell If Complex Trauma Therapy Is Working?

You Feel Less Reactive 

The triggers remain. They always will. But you understand them better. They don’t feel beyond your control. In times of distress, you choose more often to reflect than react. This allows you to feel your emotions without needing to run away or “fix” anything. 


Complex trauma can make you live as if you’re just going through the motions. So many of your choices are designed to distract. Drowning out the noise is the goal. Thanks to complex trauma therapy, you now feel more rooted in the present moment.

You trust your instincts and seek to comprehend what lies beneath the fear and anger you sometimes feel. 

silhouette of a man sitting on top of a rock overlooking waterLess Tension

Being in a 24/7 state of high alert is exhausting. Your body remains tense and ready for the threats you expect to face. It is a welcome sign of progress when you begin to notice fewer headaches, less stomach pain, and less overall fatigue.

In fact, you find yourself more open to healing touch and hugs.

You Get in Touch With Your Inner Child

As your mind and body continue to heal, you can better comprehend what you lost during the ongoing trauma. What did you not get to experience as a child? This is not a pleasant realization at first, but you’ll eventually learn how to re-parent yourself. You can be the one to supply what your inner child craves. 

You’re More Willing to Ask for Help

Rebuilding trust is a major challenge for anyone recovering from C-PTSD. If you notice yourself inviting people to get closer to you, it’s an important marker. If you ask for help and allow yourself to be more vulnerable, this is a powerful sign.

Connecting with the outside world is a clear indication that complex trauma therapy is having a positive impact. 

Speaking of asking for support, I invite you to contact me today to discuss how I can help. Let’s get you onto the path of healing through complex trauma therapy.