How long does it take to heal in trauma therapy? That’s a question that I get asked frequently. The question usually comes from three types of people. The first group that asks usually is therapy naive; meaning they have never been in therapy and don’t quite know what it is. The second group that asks has had lots of therapy, but have never worked with a trauma specialist. They are often discouraged and wondering if it’s even possible to heal trauma. The third group is usually seeking for a quick fix that entails little to no investment on their part.
Here is the truth: the question asked in the title is a challenge to answer. Every trauma survivor is different and their experiences may have similarities but just as many unique factors. Therefore, it’s not wise to make blanket statements about individual recovery. Trauma can impose long periods of suffering. As much as a quick fix sounds ideal, real healing doesn’t usually work that way.
In a more general and optimistic way, the news is good. Trauma therapy has evolved and improved dramatically over the last 25 years. In the right hands, healing tends to happen much quicker now than it did just a few decades ago. Let’s explore some of the factors that can affect the healing process.
Firstly, What Does It Mean to Heal?
Again, this can vary widely from person to person — but universal trends exist. When in the throes of something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a person may feel alone, helpless, and hopeless. Therefore, simply feeling safe can be one’s initial definition of “healing.” As for what feels safe, it could include:
- Being able to live in the present moment
- Not getting overwhelmed by memories
- Trusting others enough to open up to them
- Effectively reducing and eliminating triggers
In other words, the goals you and your therapist set will play a major role in this process. They can influence how it takes for recovery to manifest. For example, if your goals center on basic daily functionality, things may feel like they’re moving quickly.
You also have every right to aim for deep systemic healing and elimination of symptoms. For a variety of reasons, many people don’t even know that this is possible. Such a goal could take a little more time to attain. These are the type of profound topics that will be tackled in your weekly sessions.
Do You Feel “Stuck”?
Trauma can leave you in a chronic state of hyper-vigilance. You’re stuck in survival mode. In cases like this, you experience healing once you start to feel unstuck. There are many approaches that can facilitate this feeling.
What Kind of Trauma Did You Endure?
Trauma is in the eye of the beholder. The same exact situation could traumatize one person while having far less impact on another. So many factors are involved. Then, of course, it also matters:
- At what age did the trauma occur?
- Was it ongoing for a long period of time?
- Did you endure a single horrific event?
- Was the event something that happened to you or something you witnessed?
Once you get started on the healing process, a lot of the above factors will rise to the surface. This can be uncomfortable at first but it empowers you to start seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.
Trauma Healing- How Long It Takes Depends
Your present day life sets the stage for the speed and quality of the trauma healing that you do. Some important questions to contemplate include:
- Are your present day relationships physically and emotionally safe and stable?
- How much true support do you currently have?
- Are you using drugs that could slow or prevent emotional healing?
- How motivated are you?
- What are you willing to do the get better?
- Are you in therapy with a generalist or a trauma specialist?
- Do you have medical/health problems that complicate things? (Most of the clients I’ve worked with struggle with issues like G.I. issues, sleep disruption, chronic pain, migraines, etc.)
- What kind of time and space are you willing to dedicate to your trauma healing?
Phases of Trauma Recovery
The safety you seek could start to return in glimpses once treatment commences. This will induce some stabilization in your life. Depending on the specifics of the trauma and your treatment goals, the timetable will vary.
The more stable and safe you feel, the better you become at naming your emotions. Remembrance is not the same as re-live. This is a giant step toward finding the meaning you need to complete the process while mourning what you’ve lost.
Who are you now that you’re on the road to recovery? The trauma is a chapter of your life but not the entire story. Not even close. You no longer have to identify as a victim. It’s not about erasing the past but rather, integrating it into the present of yourself.
Learn More About Trauma Recovery
As an experienced, trauma therapist, I’m careful to not discuss timelines until I know more about you. What I’m confident in say is this: I’ve seen people who survived extreme events and conditions make remarkable recoveries. To learn more about healing from what you’ve experienced, I invite you to reach out. Let’s connect for a confidential consultation for trauma therapy.