Responding To Disasters, Traumas, & How To Communicate As A Clinician

It appeared important now more than ever to address disaster relief efforts from mental health practitioners in order to meet the needs of those affected.

Trauma has an impact on individuals & even the wider community.

Over the summer of 2021, a lot has happened in the United States & globally.

In a recent episode of Mood Unfiltered, Tiffany & Richard discuss the impact of natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, wildfires in California, & in the people involved in the retreat from Afghanistan.

Our episode & blog post will focus less on the exact context of the events. And instead, the goal of the content produced is to address & assess the trauma that an individual or group of people have experienced.

It's important to keep in mind that people can only be helped if they choose to seek it out themselves versus being forced or pressured to get it.

Trauma is an important issue to address whether from natural disasters or traumatic events. The reason being is that trauma can be vicarious & affect how other people feel.

Consider for example, a veteran coming back home after a tenure of war in Iraq. They settle back home with their family, but experience passing sensations of PTSD in their day to day life. This veteran could have night terrors disrupting the household sleep, the veteran could be having flashlights because of environmental cues (like flashing lights or bang noises), or hear a combination of words that trigger the veteran into fight or flight.

Although this example is hypothetical, it's not to far fetch from someone living an experience as described. The people closet to the veteran in this instance would have to deal with the PTSD symptoms & the emotional burden it carries.

An example of vicarious trauma can exist beyond veterans coming back from war, but extend to a client-counselor relationship. A counselor works with an assortment of people discussing their personal lives & potential horrors they are trying to figure out. Counselors without the proper training, boundaries, or emotional intelligence can get too sucked into the client's lives & have their entire days affected negatively because of it.

If trauma isn't treated appropriately, not only will it affect how an individual interacts with the world but how a community can be affected altogether.

It's imperative that all trauma is assessed through a hierarchy of needs as provided by Abraham Maslow.

In the case of disaster relief, physiological needs should be considered carefully as vital resources can make the difference between a mind that is healthy or full of brain fog.

After physiological needs are met, each level should be evaluated based on the circumstances of individual need & within the context of a traumatic event.

These levels of need should be evaluated for a person who might've had a traumatic event recently.

But here are some suggestions on managing trauma:

-Look For Healthy Distractions

It can be easy to fall into a perpetual feedback loop of negative thoughts or painful memories. This process of reminiscing of such thoughts can lead to overthinking these events into narratives that could very well be made up from internal dialogue. This feedback loop can also reinforce thoughts people have about themselves that are entirely negative, self-sabotaging, or narcissistic.

Instead, look for activities, passions, or work to keep the mind off of these negative thoughts. Some examples include, working out, getting a new job, volunteering at a nonprofit, meeting up with friends, reading a book, playing chess, intramural sports, & the list can go on.

While taking up on a time-consuming activity isn't a viable treatment method to deal with trauma, it's a healthy distraction to ease the mind away from their bad experiences into something more fulfilling.

-Group Therapy

Group therapy is ideal for people who have experienced an issue in common, which can build community. Here, in a safe space, they are able to share their thoughts & feelings with others who are going through exactly the same thing.

It allows group participants to try to find similarities, build on strengths, and find better coping mechanisms for their individual issues. Group therapy can be particularly helpful for survivors of trauma, victims of sexual abuse, veterans with PTSD, or children who are being bullied at school.

-Stay Off The News & Social Media

Often the news isn't always pleasant as there is reporting on worldly tragedies on a daily basis. Social media can have millions of people keeping an eye on the same issue in a form of echo chamber. Paying mind to what the mind consumes is something to be mindful of because there is potential that a person can retraumatize themselves from seeing/hearing something they wished they hadn't.

With social media platforms abundant, people are constantly seeing updates that include links to current events. It's easy to feel FOMO on something important that is happening in the world.

While this can help with staying informed about what is going on in our society, there are also drawbacks like oversharing personal information or constant exposure to violence or negativity.

Turn off the TV screen, or get off the social media apps for a bit & redirect attention to something more attuned to mental health care.


EMDR can be used to help people who are struggling with traumatic events in their life.

EMDR is a type of therapy that has been proven to be effective for PTSD patients in the past.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is done by having the patient recall traumatic memories while focusing on different sensory inputs like tapping or eye movements.

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy utilizing a variety of forms of rhythmic stimulation, including bilateral stimulation, to help people cope with trauma.

The way that this is done is by having the patient connect negative emotions with positive ones in order to lessen the intensity of traumatic memories. It is important not only for individuals who have experienced trauma, but also for family members who want to support them through this difficult time.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It is designed to help people cope with traumatic thoughts and feelings. There are many EMDR specialists across the country and they have had success with their clients.

People who have undergone EMDR therapy believe that it helps them process and release distressing memories, thoughts, and feelings about a trauma or other event. Many people experience less distress as they remember negative experiences during EMDR therapy sessions.

The process is not so much about forgetting or "moving on" from the event as it is about finding a way to integrate it into our lives in a healthy manner. It can be used to treat all sorts of traumatic events that have happened in the past, even those that were forgotten or that don't fully make sense.

In fact, one study showed that EMDR can be efficacious for those with PTSD stemming from sexual abuse even if they don't remember the abuse itself. These findings suggest that EMDR may prove helpful for those who cannot access traditional talk therapy because they cannot remember

There are a number of ways to treat trauma whether you're a client looking for treatment/coping methods or a clinician open to increasing therapeutic skillsets. Trauma is a touchy issue that should be taken care of with mindfulness, patience, & a glimpse of hope that eventually things will get better.


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Please consult your doctor or clinician on your health status before making any changes to treatments. While we strive to work towards providing better insights in the field of mental health, our views & opinions should not be reflected as medical advice.

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