Addressing Trauma Individually and as a Family


Addressing Trauma Individually and as a Family

When events happen, the event is actually the same for everyone, but each individual experiences and stores the memories of that event differently. This rule particularly applies to traumatic events. Things that happened in the family that may not have been particularly traumatic to you as a parent or caregiver may still be causing pain for your teen now, even though they happened years ago. This is called trauma, and as your child is healing, it is important to address trauma both individually and as a family.

Bad Stuff Happens to Everyone; Why Is This Called Trauma?

In an ideal world, life would be perfect. Unfortunately, negative events affect all of our lives. For many people, these events happen, and then after a short time, the stress is alleviated, and they are able to function normally again, leaving only memories.

For other people, however, these same events can overwhelm the brain’s capacity to process what has happened, and the negative event gets “stuck,” unprocessed. This is what is referred to as trauma. While seemingly ordinary events can become traumatic for some people, examples of frequently traumatic events can include witnessing or being subjected to events such as:

  • Verbal, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • Fighting or violence in or outside of the home
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Bullying or coercion
  • Accidents or serious illness
  • Violence, such as shootings
  • War or terrorism
  • Natural disasters
  • Divorce or relationship issues
  • Behaviors surrounding addiction or mental health disorders
  • Financial difficulties, such as loss of job

Why Is My Teen Still Hurting From Childhood Trauma?

The child’s brain is particularly vulnerable to trauma because it is not yet fully developed. Therefore, it is more likely that negative events will overwhelm the child’s capacity to understand and process emotions surrounding those events, resulting in trauma. These unprocessed emotions can fester, much like a physical wound, and cause pain, and your child may not even be aware of the source of the pain. Instead, they might act out, including seeking drugs or alcohol to try to numb or escape the pain. Unfortunately, the only true escape is finding and processing the emotions surrounding these traumatic experiences.

The Value of Seeking Individual Therapy

The best way to identify and process the emotions surrounding trauma of any kind is through individual therapy. A licensed professional can use a variety of therapeutic methods to help your child identify the source of their initial trauma, as well as other events that may have compounded their pain over time.

The confidentiality of therapy allows your teen to open up and express their emotions surrounding their pain in ways that may be difficult to express within the family or even with trusted friends. In some situations, this may be the first time they have opened up to talk to anyone about their trauma, and a licensed therapist can guide them safely through the process, offering them needed support. Individual therapy gives them a safe place that is theirs to tell their story and express their pain and heal from their trauma, something that is just for them.

Do We Need Family Therapy for My Teen’s Trauma?

When the pain from your teen’s trauma has turned to behaviors such as substance abuse, then the trauma affects the entire family. Not only will family therapy be beneficial to help support your teen’s healing, but it will also help your family process what they have suffered due to your child’s related behaviors.

Family therapy is a safe place for families to express concern and pain as well as love and healing, all with the help of a trained therapist. There is no manual that comes with families to help them work through complex problems like trauma, substance abuse, or mental health diagnoses. Yet there are licensed therapists who can listen and guide families toward healing, helping each family member and the group as a whole to work through trauma and painful experiences.

Why Both Individual and Family Therapy?

The ideal way for your child to heal is to have access to both individual and family therapy. Within their individual therapy, they will be able to process their emotions as well as gain skills to help them in the future. Family therapy will provide the support and complete their healing process, as well as provide healing for the entire family. Family therapy can help educate family members about trauma, substance abuse, and mental health diagnoses as well. When trauma is addressed at both the individual and familial level, it provides the most comprehensive healing for both your child and your family.

We do not have control over the things that happen to us, nor do we have control as to how they affect our child. We do have control over how we address trauma, and by offering access to both individual and family therapy, we can offer the best possible outcome for healing. At Sustain Recovery, we firmly believe that the family is an essential part of the healing process for each adolescent. We understand that many teens have experienced trauma and need the help of their families to be able to heal completely. Substance abuse and mental health diagnoses are not the problems; they are the symptoms of your child’s problems, such as trauma. Our extended residential program seeks to help your teen identify and process trauma as well as learn accountability while they heal from substance abuse. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is the right program for your family.