Trauma First Aid...and Then Some

Have you recently experienced a traumatic event and wondered ‘What the heck am I supposed to do about this?’  You’ve probably been so shocked or stunned that you have trouble even thinking at all. A recent experience of mine has prompted me to come up with some steps anybody can hopefully take to minimize the emotional fallout of the event and help you to regain functional status.

Trauma is Such a Common Thing These Days

I have mentioned this in recent posts, but I want to restate how often people suffer from traumatic experiences these days.  Some things get called traumatic that really aren’t, but anything that is of a kind that so overwhelms your ability to cope with it can be considered trauma.  There are so many overwhelming events that happen to people these days of many different varieties that trauma and PTSD are becoming more frequent. I had something like this happen to me recently when I wrecked my car and noticed how shaken up not only I was, but also the others involved in the accident.  I’d made me want to help others who’ve experienced the same or similar things to be able to cope. I call it trauma first-aid.

Trauma First Aid Steps:

  • Find a way to get calm:  After the event find some quiet, subdued environment to be able to slow down your breathing and ratchet down your level of emotional activation.  Many people use deep breathing exercises or some form of meditation to do this.

  • Practice self-care:  Do something nurturing for yourself.  Perhaps you enjoy taking a bath with scented salts or use essential oils to help nurture yourself and to relax.  The idea here is to do something good for yourself that is a clear message to yourself that you are important and deserve good things, particularly at stressful times.  

  • Fight against negative thoughts:  Dr. Daniel Amen calls this ‘Killing the ANT’s (Automatic Negative Thoughts).’  The idea is to catch yourself when you are thinking ‘This is awful’ or something else negative, and consciously work against them.  The absolute best thing is if you can find something to be grateful for, no matter how small, and try to focus on that. Maybe it is that you weren’t hurt physically, or you weren’t hurt as bad as you could have been.  The main thing is to notice the negative thoughts and to try to stop them somehow.

What Comes Next

Just like when you have a physical injury you go see a doctor after you get first aid, with traumatic injuries you also need to see a trained professional to help with PTSD treatment.  A trained counselor, social worker, or licensed therapist who uses trauma therapies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Image Transformation Therapy (ImTT), or another effective form of therapy can often be the difference between limping along with your trauma injury and healing.  

What I Can Do to Aid the Process

I’ve been working with individuals who’ve experienced trauma for almost 10 years now as a clinical social worker.  I use EMDR and Image Transformation Therapy to help people recover from the trauma they’ve experienced. What I can tell you is that getting PTSD treatment can be the difference between surviving and thriving for many people.  I personally have seen how effective trauma therapy can be, and having a qualified trauma counselor can be so helpful in getting past a traumatic experience. If you only have one major trauma you’re working on or struggling with, it can take as few as 7 to 10 sessions to get better.  Some people take longer, however. You can call me at 512-374-0100 for a free 15-minute phone consult to get a better idea of how I can help you, or you can leave your contact information in the form below and I can get back to you in order to set up the consult or schedule an initial appointment.  You owe it to yourself to get the help you need, so I encourage you to reach out for the help you may very well need to get better.

About the author:  Scott Kampschaefer, LCSW is a private practice therapist in Austin, Texas.  He has an extensive background in working with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder at a clinic for older adults with these disorders in Austin.  He now works with adults and adolescents of all ages in private practice.