There is growing clinical consensus and research evidence that suggests a “trauma” history underlies most psychological symptoms.
These symptoms emerge and remain when a person’s brain is unable to recover on its own from a trauma experience.
Types of trauma
Trauma may take the form of “acute trauma” (i.e. exposure to a single traumatic event); “chronic trauma” (repeated exposure to stress such as domestic violence or abuse); or “complex trauma” (exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events).
The latter two have also been referred to as “developmental trauma”. In any case, the brain responds to a trauma in an evolutionarily determined survival mode. If/when the brain remains in that survival mode too long pathological symptoms may emerge. In simple terms, optimal brain function involves regular transitioning between activation and deactivation.
Trauma typically promotes a period of intense and/or prolonged activation as the person goes into high alert. In people who develop symptoms, their brains have gotten stuck in this high activation-high arousal mode. Their brains are no longer able to deactivate as they should, or they have entered a state of prolonged deactivation in reaction to the period of prolonged activation. This often leads to issues such as difficulty focusing, poor sleep, anxiety, impatience, irritability/anger, depression, etc.
Trauma informed psychotherapy can be helpful in facilitating a person’s brain to be able to engage in a healthy activation/deactivation pattern, but too often psychotherapy by itself is not sufficient when the trauma pattern is well established. This is when and why neurofeedback (also known as EEG biofeedback) can be helpful. Pioneers in the field such a Dr. Bessel van der Kolk have recognized the utility of neurofeedback as a part of a treatment regimen to help trauma victims achieve a better level of functioning.
If you have an interest in learning more about this training, either for making it a part of your practice or for being able to make informed referrals to certified neurofeedback practitioners, Sadar Psychological and Sports Center offers an introductory course that discusses the history, theory and applicability of neurofeedback which also serves as a pre-requisite for becoming certified in this type of biofeedback training.