Recovering Autonomy and Competence through Resource-Oriented Trauma Therapy

Resource-Oriented Trauma Therapy is a therapeutic approach specifically designed to help individuals like you who have been through traumatic experiences. It focuses on empowering you by tapping into your inner strengths and resources to facilitate healing and growth. Rather than solely focusing on the pain and distress caused by the trauma, we will also explore your resilience and the resources you possess, both internally and externally.

Together, we will work collaboratively to create a safe and nurturing space where you can freely express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in an attentive, judgement-free environment. Healing is a unique and individual process; therefore, our sessions will be tailored to meet your specific needs and goals.

Why is resource activation necessary?

Resource deficiency as a risk:

Your ability to cope with a traumatic event and the development of enduring symptoms depend heavily on the availability of personal and psychosocial resources. Therefore, if you have:

  • Pre-existing traumatic stress,
  • Mental preconditions, and
  • Limited social support

you are at an increased risk of developing enduring trauma-related symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Risk of chronicity:

Acute distressing symptoms usually subside within a few days to a maximum of 4 weeks when you can mobilize sufficient coping resources. However, if you lack the opportunity to calm down and process the experience, such as due to the absence of helpful resources or the presence of additional distressing problems, the symptoms can become chronic. Intrusive symptoms can evoke a sense of loss of control and regulation over your own experiences and emotions. Trauma-related fears and avoidance behaviors, sleep disturbances, constant tension, and difficulties with concentration are typical consequences that impair your daily life and quality of life.

The chronicity of trauma-related symptoms can be described as a negative spiral in which the symptoms continue to spread further.

Loss of Resources in the Chronicity of Your Trauma-related Symptoms can lead to:

  • Limitations in life due to the symptomatology
  • Experiences of powerlessness and incompetence
  • Self-doubt and self-blame (“You are incapable” / “unlovable” / “not normal”)
  • (Temporary) loss of ego functions
  • Emotional lability
  • Problems with self-esteem regulation
  • De-differentiation and regression (e.g., feeling that the external world is threatening, intense fear of loss, neediness, and emotional dependency)
  • Subjective loss of agency and decision-making ability
  • Secondary psychological and physical comorbidities

In this process, you rely less and less on existing resources and lose the feeling of being able to exert influence – as a result, experiences of powerlessness and incompetence can lead to diminished self-worth.

Resource activation is not a self-contained phase of therapy; it is continuously utilized to influence your trauma-related symptoms and improve your quality of life and emotional stability (Gromes, 2010).

Internal Resources

Your internal resources include skills that are necessary for perceiving your own emotions and needs, regulating affect, impulses, and relationships, as well as communication. They also include your ability to adapt to new environmental conditions, find creative solutions to problems, and seek help when needed.

Your important personal resources also include stable values and beliefs that provide a sense of meaning and hope even in difficult life situations. Associated with this is your ability to have a secure sense of your own identity as a person and experience a stable sense of self-worth.

The awareness of your personal resources and the internal connection with your own abilities significantly influence your actions, emotions, thoughts, and the experience of the world. Your internal resources are constructive forces that provide emotional security, and therefore, they have a significant impact on your resilience—the ability to remain mentally healthy under stress.

External Resources

Your external resources include all sources of support in your personal environment, such as partners, family members, friends, or other individuals. Socioeconomic resources, such as employment and financial means, have a demonstrable influence on your Health. Support from external support systems, such as medical and psychosocial services, also falls under external resources.

Following trauma, you may experience temporary disturbances in interpersonal relationships. It may become necessary for you to involve your partner in therapy through mediation conversations to alleviate the strain on your relationship.

When social resources are insufficiently available, such as due to social withdrawal or unemployment, it can be helpful for you to activate a corresponding support network in addition to psychotherapeutic treatment.

My approach to Resource-Oriented Trauma Therapy

Together, we will work collaboratively to create a safe and nurturing space where you can freely express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I will listen to you attentively, without judgment, and with deep empathy. Understanding that healing is a unique and individual process, I will tailor our sessions to meet your specific needs and goals.

In Resource-Oriented Trauma Therapy, we acknowledge that you are not defined by your traumatic experiences alone. Instead, we recognize the multifaceted nature of your identity and the various strengths and resources you possess.

We will focus on identifying and cultivating these inner and outer resources, such as your personal strengths, supportive relationships, coping strategies, and positive experiences, to promote resilience and facilitate healing.

Throughout our sessions, we will explore different therapeutic techniques and interventions tailored to your needs. These may include mindfulness exercises, grounding techniques, somatic experiencing, guided imagery, expressive arts, and other evidence-based approaches. These techniques aim to help you reconnect with your body, regulate your emotions, process traumatic memories, and foster a sense of safety and empowerment.

Please remember that healing from trauma takes time, and there might be moments when the journey feels challenging. However, I want you to know that I firmly believe in your resilience and capacity for growth. I am here to provide you with support, guidance, and compassion as we navigate this path together.

I want you to feel empowered in our therapeutic relationship, so please don’t hesitate to share any concerns, preferences, or questions you may have along the way. Your voice and choices matter, and I am committed to creating a space where you feel heard and respected.

The goals of resource activation

The goals of resource activation in your trauma therapy are to empower you, help you develop coping skills, gain self-awareness, and, most importantly, autonomy. By activating your own resources, you will ideally gain the ability to regulate stress in acute distressing situations and, as one of the therapy goals, when trigger stimuli reactivate symptoms.

Engaging in constructive activities, such as reviving an old passion or engaging in imagery exercises learned in therapy, can contribute to improving the quality of your life. Control techniques, such as grounding exercises and self-soothing techniques, can help you manage distressing memories and promote present-focused awareness.

The ability to effectively cope with difficult situations allows you to develop increased self-confidence and trust in your own ability to take action. Coping experiences serve as a catalyst for continuous change, both within and outside of therapy, and have a positive impact on reducing traumatic stress.

Resource activation aims to activate self-regulatory functions, foster present-oriented awareness, reduce avoidance behavior, promote self-care, and enable coping experiences.

If you have experienced physical or sexual violence or severe neglect, you may struggle to care for your own needs. Therefore, establishing a self-care mindset and implementing it in your daily life is essential treatment goal. It is important to work on challenging self-limiting beliefs and fears that hinder attending to your own needs, as this can be a prerequisite for constructive changes.

To begin, it can be helpful for you to experiment with changes, reflect on the experiences, and then decide whether it is worthwhile to treat yourself more self-caringly. Anything that reduces your trauma-related stress symptoms can be considered self-care. Engaging in activities and experiences that positively recharge your “emotional inner battery” is important. These activities allow you to experience joy and authenticity and can counteract the often chronic exhaustion experienced by individuals with complex trauma.

Incorporating self-care into your daily life should become a natural part of your routine. Creating a list of soothing activities can be helpful for self-regulation and stabilization during distressing situations. Additionally, consciously collecting positive memories and experiences related to help and support can provide you with a solid foundation during crisis situations.

The ability to effectively cope with difficult situations will allow you to develop increased self-confidence and trust in your own ability to take action.

Coping experiences serve as a catalyst for continuous change, both within and outside of therapy. They have a positive impact on your neural stress network, as the challenging situation or emotion becomes linked to a relieving experience. This new experience is then stored, leading to the correction and calming of the previously perceived threatening state. In other words, a “hot” trauma-induced state of stress is “cooled down.”

In therapy, it is important for you to experience coping and mastery as quickly and sustainably as possible, especially when addressing difficult and painful topics. One of the most significant coping experiences for you as a traumatized individual is to feel the improvement in symptoms after engaging in confrontational treatment of trauma-related issues or traumatic memories. Additionally, reconstructing a coherent and functional narrative about the traumatic experience is a crucial aspect of the healing process.

Deliberate activation of resources during the confrontational processing of distressing memories

A relatively new approach in trauma therapy is the deliberate activation of resources during the confrontational processing of distressing memories. This can be done in various ways to regulate the level of distress. For example, you can alternate between a resourceful memory and the traumatic memory to gain a sense of manageability and control over the traumatic distress.

Vividly recalling positive relational experiences can also be highly effective in regulating stress and providing comfort. Moreover, imaginative means can be used to mobilize protection and self-care for traumatized aspects of your personality, which can serve as coping resources during trauma processing. This allows you to experience emotional distancing and develop a sense of coping and control over the symptoms, reducing the need for avoidance as a coping mechanism.

In conclusion, the promotion of your personal and psychosocial resources holds great importance in trauma therapy. The experience of powerlessness and helplessness in trauma often leads to a loss of available resources, and therefore, resource activation should be used purposefully and tailored to your individual needs within a treatment plan. It is important to continually discuss therapy goals and the practical benefits of therapeutic methods, including resource activation, during therapy sessions, as this involves you as an active partner in therapy. Resources represent your potential for change and are prerequisites for transformation and development in therapy.

Moreover, it is worth noting that as you address and overcome distressing life events, you can experience positive changes and an improved quality of life. You may experience:

  • A greater sense of vitality and wholeness.
  • Heightened perception of sensory experiences, such as an increased appreciation of light, colors, shapes, smells, and sounds in nature.
  • The emergence of a sense of belonging.
  • Increased awareness of your personal competence resulting from overcoming past wounds.
  • Deepened experience of relationships.
  • A clearer understanding of what truly matters in life from your personal perspective.

These positive experiences associated with the resolution of traumatic events are often referred to as “posttraumatic growth” or experiences of personal growth.