what is the best trauma therapy

Trauma can impact all areas of your life. More and more research is showing trauma not only affects your brain but will impact your nervous system and your body as well. Dr. Scaer’s research showed us that those with a history of complex childhood trauma have a higher likelihood of developing chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.  For some the symptoms of trauma may not show up for weeks, months, or even years later. For others, those symptoms may show up right away. No matter what- healing is possible. We will review 6 different types of trauma therapy in this post.

How Can Trauma Therapy Help With Trauma? 

Both Dr. Scaer’s and Peter Levine’s work heavily studied how our bodies respond to traumatic events. Essentially, they have found that when one endures a traumatic event and experiences helplessness it will create a freeze response. Peter Levine was able to study this first in animals. This response in turn gets stored in our bodies uncompleted which leads to the PTSD related symptoms someone may experience. 

The goal of any trauma informed therapy is not to forget about your memories of the traumatic event or to recover repressed memories. The goal is to process the memories both cognitively and somatically, so they are no longer dysregulating your nervous system when you think about them. Essentially the memories will lose its power. You can learn skills for coping with the emotions, the negative thoughts, and responses to the trauma. 

Is There a “Best” Treatment for Trauma? 

There is no one size fits all in any type of therapy but especially trauma therapy. The question to ask is what will help you specifically. I encourage people to do their research. I give them things to read on different types of therapy and will have conversations about what each entail and answer any questions. For some we may even try different types of therapy in a couple different sessions to see which they feel like is a best fit for them. It is always important to remember that you have a say in what your treatment looks like. Do your research. Ask all the questions. You know you best. 

What Are Trauma Therapy Options?

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy 

EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987. It is an evidenced based trauma therapy that can also be used for other symptoms such as anxiety and depression. 

EMDR’s main objective is to help you process through and release traumatic memories through sets of bilateral eye movements. Some therapists may also you buzzers, tapping, or sounds for bilateral stimulation. Essentially- think of it like a memory getting stored on pause in your brain. EMDR is pressing play on that memory to help you reprocess the memory fully. The bilateral eye movements keep both hemispheres of your brain activated allowing information to move across more smoothly. You can find out more information about EMDR here.

what is the best trauma therapy
Accelerated Resolution Therapy

A.R.T is a newer but also evidenced based therapy for trauma. A.R.T was developed by Laney Rosenzweig. It is like EMDR in that it also uses bilateral eye movements. It differs from EMDR in that it uses other therapeutic modalities such as Gestalt techniques and voluntary image replacement to reprogram how your brain is storing both the memories and the images so they are no longer triggering the same physical or emotional responses. 

You can find out more about A.R.T here


Brainspotting differs from A.R.T and EMDR in that it uses fixed eye movements instead of bilateral eye movements. BSP is based off the theory of where you look affects how you feel. Essentially- when talking about an activating event, even if it is not trauma related and noticing the body activation with it- will have a resonating spot in your visual field. Although Brainspotting has what they call set ups it is a lot less structed than EMDR and even A.R.T. It is not yet evidence based- but there is research that supports Brainspotting as an effect therapeutic approach. 

You can find out more about Brainspotting here

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy stems from cognitive behavioral therapy. It has been shown to be affecting in decreasing symptoms of PTSD. CPT will help someone learn to challenge and change negative beliefs that have developed from the traumatic experience. This helps to create a new understanding of the traumatic event. You can find out more about CPT here.

Somatic Experiencing: 

SE is not yet an evidence-based therapy, yet. However, there has been research that has shown SE to be an effective therapeutic approach in treating PTSD related symptoms. SE is a somatic focused therapy that focusing on bringing awareness to physical sensations in your body. SE is based off the theory that trauma gets stored in your body due to an incomplete freeze response. The goal of SE is to release the trauma from your body and restoring your functioning. You can find out more about SE here.

Prolonged Exposure 

PE stems from CBT as well but focus is mainly on behavioral strategies. Since avoidance is a system of ptsd and one many suffer from- PE works to gradually expose someone to their traumatic memories, feelings, and thoughts. You can find out more about PE here.

What do I do next? 

If you are suffering from symptoms stemming from trauma that are impacting the way you live, your relationships, etc. know that there is help. It is possible to heal. Is it a hard journey? Yes. But it is possible. If you are interested in ART, BSP, EMDR or CPT you can reach out today for a free 15 minute phone consult to see if we would be a good fit in working together. 

Blog Disclaimer – These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.


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