Having to deal with the aftermath of trauma at any stage of our lives can cause us to feel disempowered and emotionally fragmented. Thoughts afflict us, feelings debilitate us, and we strain to harness our own emotions. We even struggle to understand ourselves. Why do our bodies automatically react in certain ways? Why do we feel compelled to engage in negative and often damaging behaviours? Activities that we engage in daily can be a trigger of an immutable reminder, almost dictating our actions without our control. Ultimately, we react by emotionally distancing the part of us that had to deal with this trauma from ourselves. We instinctively split our innermost being to cope.
Internationally, over 70% of the world’s population has been subjected to at least one traumatic event during the course of their lives. This stretches over a range of different cultures, races and orientations. Trauma can manifest in being caught up in various forms of addiction, self-harm, self-hatred, self-destructive behaviour, as well as having to manage suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Trauma survivors have to deal with daily triggers, which can often leave them feeling helpless and misunderstood by even those closest to them. This regularly leads to feeling immobilised and unable to manage their routines and achieving their most heartfelt desires.
What is Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST)?
Every traumatic encounter is uniquely experienced and consequently, each one needs to be uniquely understood and supported. Given that each person experiences trauma and its manifestations differently, survivors need to be treated in a way that speaks to their own individual needs during their healing process. This is the fundamental sentiment of Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST).
Dr Janina Fisher is a well-established and highly acclaimed clinical psychologist who specializes in coping with the long-term consequences of trauma. After having worked and completed research alongside internationally renowned specialists, she placed this extensive knowledge into practice by developing and pilot testing the effectiveness of TIST.
TIST doesn’t just form a baseline therapy for trauma survivors. It reconceptualizes the concept of trauma in a way that provides a specific understanding of how survivors are forced to relive its memory through fragmentations of themselves. Here, trauma is not only viewed as something that affects one psychologically, but it also influences their physiology and innermost selves. For this reason, trauma is not only an event that our mind remembers but our body and soul also grip to these recollections.
How does Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment Work?
When we are triggered in the face of a situation that is reminiscent of a profoundly negative past experience, our bodies can also react in a way that that is comparable to the event itself. It is as though we are perpetually caught in a psychological and physiological mode of fear that we will repeatedly meet with a harmful event.
TIST takes into account that trauma is connected to every part of our being. It aims to address the associated stressors with a more holistic approach, and it functions within a framework of progressive phases. One of the most empowering aspects of TIST is that it concentrates on the educational component of emotional description and understanding, and not the traumatic event itself.
The Science behind Trauma
The basis of fear is unknowing. In this sense, we may be fearful of what we do not understand in terms of the fundamental mechanisms and the inner workings of our trauma. For this reason, the first stage of TIST deals with a form of psychoeducation, which provides clients with a basic understanding of the science behind trauma and its effects on the brain and nervous system. This section works through why our memory of such events can be fractured, or even completely absent. Its objective is to intellectually empower the client through gaining scientifically proven knowledge of why our minds and bodies react in the way they do concerning past harm.
Understanding through Mindfulness
The second part of TIST is to allow the client to become familiar with a model that outlines why we can experience emotional distancing as a result of a traumatic event. This model is then placed within the clients own personal experience of how the legacy of their trauma manifests in their thoughts and actions. This is undertaken through a mindful frame of reference, where clients are encouraged to examine their own potentially destructive thoughts, impulses and behaviours. Here they are provided with the understanding that these thought patterns, feelings and reactions symbolize a connection to the parts of themselves that were previously exposed to trauma. There is a high emphasis placed on ‘I’ and examining each fragmented part of themselves by reframing their perspective and comprehension of their thoughts and actions.
Different Responses to Feelings, Impulses and Behaviours
The next stage of the therapy process assists clients with distinguishing between possible reactions such as flight, fight and freeze. Clients are then assisted to contemplate their own emotions and behaviours through this lens by redefining their emotions, using non-judgmental language. This allows them to appreciate that these bodily reactions are standard adaptive reactions.
Personal Emotional Boundaries with Oneself
The final phase of TIST helps clients to establish boundaries with themselves and their personal connection to, and association with their own emotions and impulses. Here they learn how to reframe their connection to their own emotional experiences. They are then able to dis-identify with how they experience an emotion, and any connected damaging impulses or behaviours.
Who can benefit from Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment?
Even though TIST is a recently developed treatment, clients have provided highly positive feedback. Since it concentrates on personal empowerment and a deeper understanding of themselves and their emotions, it has been better received in comparison to other traditional options such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Clients reported being more optimistic in conquering impulsive behaviours and strengthening their desire to learn more about themselves.
Considering that TIST confronts how to cope with issues stemming from trauma with an emphasis on the fragmentation of the self, it has shown to be a particularly effective form of therapy for those suffering from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Dissociative Identify Disorder (DID), or Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD). TIST has the potential to assist anyone who has suffered past trauma, by providing them with the knowledge they need to take control of their own emotions, in a healthy, positive and affirming manner.
Explore the foundation of Trauma-informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST) by reading Dr. Janina Fisher’s bestselling books Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation and Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists. You may also wish to read the published findings in Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment: A New Approach to Treating Unsafe Behaviour by Dr. Janina Fisher of The Trauma Center. Begin your journey of healing the ongoing impact of past harm with a trauma counselling session.
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