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The Trauma Experience: How can Trauma Therapy reduce our Negative Thoughts

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explains how Trauma Therapy can help to reduce our negative trauma beliefs.

Trauma therapy tackles trauma and its effects on our mental health on four levels: emotions, cognitions, body, and behaviours. Trauma disrupts our assumptive world theory, which rests on the three fundamental beliefs that the world is benevolent (i.e. generally the world and its people are good), meaningful (i.e. generally there is a cause-and-effect between actions and outcomes), and worthy (i.e. good people deserve good outcomes). These beliefs make the world feel like a predictable, stable, fair, and safe place, which helps us to function on a day to day basis.

It would make it a lot harder to go about our daily lives if we felt that we are constantly in danger, that our environment is unpredictable, or that the world is out to harm us. Yet this is often the perception we develop shortly after a traumatic incident, and if we get stuck in our survival mode, and is common for individuals suffering from Acute or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Often, traumatic experiences are followed by negative beliefs about us, other people, and the world as a whole. As a result, it can be difficult to experience positive emotions, and when left untreated, these thoughts can trigger more and more depression, fear, rage, bitterness, numbness, and disconnection from others.

Trauma therapy works to identify the changes we have experienced in our belief system and persistent negative thoughts that are causing us distress. It can help us to work through these thoughts and construct meaning from our trauma that can allow us to move on in a new way.

For example, after a traumatic incident, it is common to believe that there is no hope, and that the world is a bad place. Even if this is the case, it is not a helpful or productive thought for our wellbeing in the long-term. Unpacking the thought, understanding how it generalized from our trauma, what it means for us, why we may be holding on to it, and how it is stopping us from processing the past is a key element of trauma therapy.

Trauma therapy can also guide integration of thoughts and feelings. For example, many trauma survivors report that they “know” that the belief that they are never safe is “illogical”, but that the feelings of fear and unsafety are so strong they find it hard to adequately assess the situation and determine what is “real”. When survival mode is triggered after trauma, it may skew our reality and taint everything with the colour of danger, even when we are safe. Trauma therapy can help to determine when we start going into survival mode, identify cues that reflect reality better, and make us more confident in our evaluations of threat and safety.

Together, these steps can reduce the impact of trauma-related persistent, damaging negative beliefs and enhance our wellbeing so we can look forward into the future.

Read more about how trauma therapy can help improve your distress, physical symptoms, and unhelpful behaviours. To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you recover from past trauma, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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