Individual Therapy and the 4 R’s of Trauma Informed Therapy


Individual therapy focused on a trauma informed therapy approach is a hot topic in the last few years and finding a therapist has become increasingly difficult. Before I start talking about the 4 R’s and individual therapy, I want to point out that both are available at Take Charge, Inc. in Overland Park, KS. I serve clients throughout Johnson County: Leawood, Overland Park, Lenexa, and Olathe.

Mental health awareness is trending. To create awareness and encourage others to seek help, celebrities are publicly announcing their struggles with mental illness and childhood trauma. Millions tuned in to watch Mathew Perry talk about his history with addiction. Kendall Jenner continues to share about her experience with anxiety. Others, like Nikki Minaj, Drew Barrymore and Oprah Winfrey have openly discussed their depression and childhood physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. 

Even if this is a trend, I say keep the trend going! Individual therapy and trauma informed therapy is exactly what we need. We need to stop ignoring the effects of trauma and start healing. We need programs to help children currently being abused and the children of past abuse, who have become adults living with the effects of their trauma. In fact, that is the premise of a trauma-informed approach during individual therapy. We call it the 4 R’s framework and it starts with realizing the widespread impact of trauma. These 4 R’s are:

  • REALIZE – What Has Trauma Done to Us?

 Trauma is an experience that overwhelms your capacity to cope.  It is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma creates a disconnection to ourselves including our body and emotions.   According to the 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), one in three children under the age of 18 experiences trauma. That means one third of the children playing at the park, know what it means to fear for their lives! These traumatized children grow up to become adults who struggle with anger, depression, aggression, sadness, and low self-esteem. Trauma is not a new trend. Our adult population is made up of grown-up versions of these children. Add to that the intense trauma experience of those in historically marginalized groups (African American, Indigenous, person of color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, woman, individuals with a disability, etc.). Then consider the impact of global events such as Covid-19, school shootings, 9-11, and Russia attacking Ukraine. Talk about widespread impact! It is no wonder why people feel overwhelmed, scared, helpless, or deeply unsafe.

  • RECOGNIZE – The Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma comes in a variety of types with an equally diverse set of results. Being verbally or physically abused is traumatic, but so is being bullied or emotionally neglected. The way trauma manifests later in life is not an indication of the level or type experienced. It is important that we all, mental health professionals and everyday people, learn the signs and symptoms of trauma. Someone who marries an unaffectionate partner, and pretends to be happy but secretly suffers from depression while floating in and out of therapy could have or is experiencing the exact same trauma as someone who lives impulsively, overindulges in drugs/alcohol, engages in years of promiscuity and serial monogamy, and proudly claims the title “survivor”. Can you tell what level or type of trauma they experienced?

We need to be able to recognize the effects of trauma, past and present, and actively engage in opportunities to create healing. If you, or someone close to you, is experiencing changes in mood, appears “zoned out,” displays argumentative or aggressive behavior, avoids and isolates, or is expressing negative feelings about themselves or the world in general, seek help! Individual therapy, with a focus on trauma informed therapy, can help identify the trauma triggers and start the process for calming the mind and behavior. You don’t have to struggle alone or live in fear.

  • RESPOND – You Are Not Alone

Individual therapy is all about creating a safe place to share your emotional needs. A trauma informed therapy approach gives you opportunities for you to reprogram your brain. You can replace fight/flight with pre-crisis choices, identify your triggers and design alternative coping skills so the response to a trigger is less harmful to you and others. When you feel understood you start to feel safe. If you recognize the signs of trauma in yourself or in those around you, acknowledge them in a caring way. Let them know you are genuinely interested and invested in their peace of mind. If you are the one in need of individual therapy, give yourself permission to get help. Strength comes from actively rejecting the notion that the only way to survive is alone.

  • RESIST – Become A Change Maker

A part of individual therapy is to change your learned responses to trauma and see the impact of individual or historical abuse in a different way. Another is to change the way we interact with others. Ask others what you can do to support their healing. Tell others what you need to continue yours. If world events are triggering your fight/flight brain, give yourself permission to turn off the news or walk away from a conversation. If certain people remind you of your abuser or traumatic events, allow yourself to acquire new friends or limit your social interactions. Resisting re-traumatization is key to conquering feelings of depression, fear, and anxiety.

Thinking ahead about your triggers and stressors is something you can work on in individual therapy. You can playout various scenarios in a safe environment and practice positive responses. With each of my clients, I provide a safe, comfortable environment that allows you to put your thoughts and feeling into words, without fear of criticism or judgment. For more information about trauma informed therapy and individual therapy, please contact Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255.

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