If you are struggling to cope with trauma, the 5 stages of trauma recovery will help you heal and enjoy life again!
This article discusses what trauma is and the 5 stages of trauma recovery. I have also included resources I used and additional resources you can use on your path to recovery.
Please remember to download the FREE Trauma Recovery Checklist at the end.
What is trauma?
Trauma occurs when you are significantly emotionally or mentally affected by something that has happened, and it can progress to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their lives. It can be a physical or psychological injury that comes from a sudden and overwhelming event.
Trauma is common, and we’re all resilient enough to heal from it, but sometimes we need help to fully recover. Using the 5 stages of trauma recovery will assist you on your healing journey.
Stage 1 – Seek Professional Help
The first stage in this process is getting a therapist. It is important to seek a trained trauma therapist. While it may not seem as if you’re making progress initially, therapy is an important part of recovery.
Therapy sessions can last a long time depending on individual circumstances, but they are crucial to fully working through trauma. There are stages that occur within therapy itself.
The first stage of therapy involves processing the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event or events that have occurred. The next stage involves gaining control over your internal reactions. Those intense feelings or thoughts which are triggered by triggers in your environment.
Next, you will focus on identifying and refining coping strategies for dealing with these overwhelming internal responses.
Finally, you will be able to move forward from the trauma and minimize its impact on your life. Even though PTSD may sound like something only war veterans get, many mental health professionals believe anyone who has experienced a significant traumatic event could benefit from counseling services aimed at treating PTSD symptoms.
There are different types of therapies for dealing with different traumas, so it’s important to do some research and find a therapist who specializes in treating what you’ve been through.
It’s also good to make sure that their approach suits your personal needs. There are therapists who use evidence-based approaches and others who practice more alternative forms of therapy. The alternative methods include art therapy or mindfulness meditation techniques (we’ll talk more about those later).
Here are reputable professional therapy services and aids that I highly recommend for your 5 stages of trauma recovery journey :
Stage 2 – Create Your Safe Space
The second stage of the 5 stages of trauma recovery is creating your safe space. Establishing a safe space is one of the most important steps in trauma recovery.
This is where you can reflect on your trauma without feeling threatened or unsafe. In order to establish a safe space, it helps to understand the types of places that are “safe” for you.
For some people, this means a physical location like their home, office, church, or an office.
For others, “safe place” means a place that has no association with any traumatic memories. It could be the corner market where they first met their spouse or an elementary school where they had an amazing teacher who inspired them to pursue their dreams.
Other people may need both physical and mental safe spaces: a room where they can go to relax after work and then another room in their mind which allows them to reflect on what happened during the day without feeling threatened by it again.
Weighted Blankets for Trauma Recovery
Stage 3 – Take Time to Reflect and Grieve
The third stage of the 5 stages of trauma recovery is remembrance and mourning. The definition of remembrance is to recall or bring back to mind, while mourning means to feel or show deep sorrow for something. Both are important aspects of healing after experiencing trauma.
If you’re in a safe place, it’s important to allow yourself time to grieve and mourn the loss you experienced during your trauma. You may experience feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, helplessness, or anxiety. These are all normal responses that come with remembering the event(s) and mourning the losses associated with them.
Remembering can also be joyful: reminiscing on happier times before the traumatic event occurred can help you heal and recover from your trauma.
Mourning is a slow process, not something that you can just rush through. Your body needs time to heal from the shock of your trauma.
It could take months or years for you to feel like yourself again—and there’s no right answer for how long this will take! Everyone heals differently after going through a traumatic experience. Your friend may recover faster than you do or vice versa; each person has their own timeline for healing and that’s okay!
Stage 4 – Reconnect with Yourself
At this stage, within the 5 stages of trauma recovery, your focus is on finding yourself. Reconnecting with yourself is important because it can help you understand how your trauma is affecting you and what you need to do to stay healthy.
The following are good practices for reconnecting on your 5 stages of trauma recovery journey:
- Art therapy uses art as self-expression to explore the emotions surrounding your experience with trauma. This may include activities such as painting, drawing, playing an instrument, or sculpting. You don’t have to be skilled in any of these things. The main point is to have fun exploring different ways of expressing yourself through art! You can read more about art therapy HERE!
Stage 5 – Transcend the Trauma
The last stage in the 5 stages of trauma recovery is transcending the trauma.
Trauma has a way of making us feel we are no longer connected to the rest of the world. At this stage, you have processed and managed the trauma in a way that feels integrated with the rest of your life.
Transcendence is the ability to find meaning in your life. This stage can be found in many different forms. For example, you may find meaning by giving back to your community or taking up a new hobby and helping others who are learning that hobby.
Transcendence is also about looking forward instead of backward—letting go of the past and allowing yourself to live in the present, while still making plans for the future.
This doesn’t mean that you never think about it again, or that it doesn’t affect your behavior in some ways. But it does mean that the pain and sense of being overwhelmed by what happened has greatly diminished. For example, if a dog attacked you, you might still be wary around them.
The silver lining is that once you’ve gone through the 5 stages of trauma recovery stages you can reach out and help others who are going through similar trauma. Show them that they are not alone and offer your support.
The trauma recovery process is difficult, but it is not impossible. The good news is that most people do eventually reach congruity and start living a full life again without being consumed by intrusive thoughts or flashbacks from their trauma experience.
If you’re going through trauma recovery, it’s important to remember that the process is difficult, but not impossible. The most important thing for you to remember is that you should never try to go through this process alone. It’s important to have a support system, but be sure to ask for help when you need it.
Additional Tools for Your 5 Stages of Trauma Recovery Journey
Sometimes, we need a little extra help while going through the 5 stages of trauma recovery. I have found that using a daily trauma recovery checklist aids my recovery process. You can download my FREE Printable – Trauma Recovery Checklist HERE!