What is PTSD?
By: Meir Stolear (2016)
After many years of working with many clients who suffered from or diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I came to conclude that this is a condition caused by human being ability to re-traumatize themselves about their past trauma that they have experienced.
Over the years I have learned from my clients, that person can suffer like all another animal, but unlike other animals, human is capable of creating a suffering about the past and present pain suffering they have experienced (e.g. being angry about being anxious). In the REBT/CBT therapeutic model, we are assuming (and we have some scientific validation for it) that human suffering (i.e. emotional, psychological and behavioural disturbances) comes by and large from the way we think about the circumstances of our life and the beliefs that we are having about our thoughts. We can be assured that most of us, if not all of us, will endure undesirable, unfortunate, and potentially traumatic experiences during our life time. However, not all of us will respond to such experiences in the same ways. I am assuming that some people may have learned to respond in over amplified stress responses to a particular stimulus, where as other people may react to such events in much more flexible and healthy ways.
When people experience the distress of fear, anxiety, depression, or anger, often they will have experiences of a secondary problems or distress about their genuine pain (e.g. anxiety about anxiety, depression about long-term experiences of anxiety, etc.). As clinicians, we need to address such secondary disturbances on the onset of the therapy, as it may overshadow the primary problem and interfere with our aim to resolve the original problem.
What is a safe therapeutic intervention?
There are many treatments models for PTSD problems, but the modality I prefer to use with my clients is the REBT/CBT one, which is the original cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as we know it. It was Albert Ellis who started to develop the Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) model in 1955, but the original model has been modified and changed over time based in face of new scientific and clinical evidence, although the core practice has not changed much.
Basically, REBT maintains that it is not the external world that is causing our disturbances, but the way we think and believe about the adverse events that we have experienced in our life time. We try to make sense of our experiences, but often may end up disturbing ourselves more, should we employ the so call irrational thought and beliefs in our analysis of our memories. The REBT/CBT practitioners aims is to address all that and to help the clients to think rationally about the experienced bad situations of their lives and positively moving forward towards achieving their lives long-term goals. We work as a team (i.e. client and therapist) to identify those irrational thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, which interfere with their recovery and which tend to lead into a self-defeating behaviour. Together we work on ways to respond in more efficient ways to the past traumatic event, as memorized, but without shame or blame. In doing so, we help our clients not only to feel better about themselves and their lives, but more so it helps them to get better and being better as human being.
Finally, according to REBT/CBT therapeutic model, the way we think about our experiences will determines our emotional and behavioural response to those experiences. If we think and believe in an irrational fashion (e.g. being demanding, rigid, etc.) about our life experiences, we than tend to develop a self-defeating cognition and behaviour, which are maintained and reinforced by our unhealthy negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, shame, anger, guilt and jealousy. On the other hand, if we stay rational (e.g. accepting responses, being flexible, etc.) about our negative life experiences, we may still experience strong negative emotions, such as worries, sadness, remorse and health anger, but these are an healthy negative emotion. Such health negative emotions will help us to keep ourselves focused on our life goal and will keep us functioning effectively in the face of any past or unfortunate future events, as memorised.