Trauma: Treatment and coping methods

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Learn about the different treatment options for coping with trauma including psychotherapy, medication and coping mechanisms.

What treatments are available?

Different treatment options are available to help you better understand and cope after a traumatic experience. Sometimes, it takes trying a few options before you find the one that is the best fit for you.


Trauma-focused psychotherapy is often helpful after a traumatic event, even if you have not been diagnosed with PTSD or another condition. This type of psychotherapy can help you to identify, understand and process the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that come up after a trauma.

Psychotherapy can take place one-on-one with a therapist such as a psychologist or social worker who is trained in trauma-focused psychotherapy. Sometimes you can attend a trauma-focused group to learn new skills and strategies for coping with your reactions.

If the trauma you experienced involved other family members, it can be helpful to attend therapy together. However, this may not be a good option if someone in your family caused the trauma, as in the case of abuse or neglect.

Helpful forms of psychotherapy after a traumatic event include:

  • relaxation training
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
  • Integrative Treatment of Complex Trauma for Adolescents (ITCT-A)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI)


Medications, on their own, are not usually recommended for treating exposure to trauma.

If you are diagnosed with a psychiatric condition such as PTSD or major depressive disorder after a trauma, you could discuss possible medications with a psychiatrist or paediatrician.

Medications tend to be most effective when they are combined with psychotherapy and behaviour changes.

How can I help myself if I am dealing with the effects of trauma?

Things you can do when you are feeling distressed

  • Relaxation exercises
  • Paced breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Guided imagery
  • Grounding exercises – to help you focus on something in the present to give you relief from feeling like the trauma is happening again
  • Examining your thoughts – to help you move from extreme thoughts or catastrophizing to more balanced thinking
  • Talking to a trusted adult about your thoughts and feelings

How to use: This audio meditation helps you connect to the present moment using your sense of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Use this meditation when you want to ground yourself in the here and now or if you are having unwanted thoughts, feeling physical discomfort or uncomfortable emotions. Follow along with the meditation, bringing your awareness to each of your five senses in the moment.

Things you can do every day to help your healing

  • Physical activity – to reduce anxiety and boost your mood
  • Self-care – having a bath, eating a balanced meal or doing something kind for yourself to take care of your basic needs
  • Social activities with friends and people you trust – to help prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Daily mindfulness exercises
  • Getting enough sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Maintaining regular, healthy eating habits

How to use: This audio meditation helps you connect to your breath. Use it to steady yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed or have any unwanted thoughts, feelings or sensations. Follow along with the meditation, paying attention to the rhythm of your in-breath and out-breath.

When will I start to feel better?

If you are struggling with negative reactions after a trauma, you will likely need to attend regular therapy sessions for six months to a year to recover and learn how to develop long-term coping skills. The good news is that seeking help early and sticking with regular treatment will increase your chances of fully recovering from the effects of trauma.

Last updated: March 22nd 2019