In the aftermath of trauma, you may feel less like yourself. As noted in chapter three of Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services, trauma can influence the way you think and feel about life and the future. For example, after a traumatic experience, you may find it difficult to believe normal life events are possible. An inability to believe you can have things like healthy relationships and fulfilling work can negatively impact your mental wellness. Therefore, internal family systems therapy (IFS) can support healing the whole person.
At Insight Recovery Center, we believe everyone is whole. However, that wholeness can be buried under the pains of life and trauma. Psychotherapy like IFS can support you in rediscovering your wholeness for long-term mental wellness in recovery. However, you may be wondering what IFS therapy is.
What Is Internal Family Systems Therapy?
According to the article “The Efficacy of Internal Family Systems Therapy in the Treatment of Depression Among Female College Students” by Shelley A. Haddock et al., IFS is a therapeutic modality that focuses on the many parts that make up the inner self. IFS is focused on helping you understand and attend to your experiences and behaviors with mindfulness and self-compassion.
Thus, IFS therapy suggests that the many parts of the self work together harmoniously. However, when faced with trauma and life stressors, the parts of the self are forced to take on unhealthy roles to cope with emotional distress. Therefore, looking at childhood trauma can give you insight into how trauma decreases mental wellness.
Negative Impact of Childhood Trauma on Mental Wellness
As noted in an article from the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, childhood trauma, whether direct or indirect, can have profound consequences for your physical and mental wellness. Childhood trauma can be defined as exposure to actual or threatened death, injury, or sexual violence. Listed below are some examples of childhood traumas:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Car accidents
- Witnessing violence between caregivers
- Community violence
- Exposure to war
- Learning about a trauma that happened to people close to them
All childhood traumas are significant. However, interpersonal, intentional, and chronic traumas can increase the risk of poor mental wellness. Therefore, if you experience chronic childhood trauma, you are more likely to develop substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stressors like trauma create a stress response that impacts your behavioral and emotional response to different things.
Moreover, your stress response system is made up of different interacting systems. These interacting systems work together to react to perceived threats through the fight or flight reaction. However, trauma, especially in childhood, can disrupt your body’s ability to regulate its stress response. Understanding the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and PTSD can give you insight into how these disorders and trauma can impede your mental wellness.
Common Responses to Trauma
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), some common stress reactions to traumas can include:
- Feeling detached from others
- Being easily startled
- It may be difficult to concentrate
- You may avoid people, places, and things that remind you of the trauma
Resiliency to trauma can be particularly difficult when the trauma stems from childhood. Thus, with low resiliency, your symptoms may expand to include:
- Feeling numb
- Unable to enjoy activities and hobbies
- Guilt and shame
- You may blame yourself for the trauma
- You may think about harming yourself
Understanding how common stress reactions can evolve into maladaptive thinking and behaviors showcases the importance of addressing psychological distress to support mental wellness.
Benefits of IFS Therapy for Mental Wellness
According to “Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among Survivors of Multiple Childhood Trauma” by Hilary B. Hodgdon et al., an important part of trauma recovery is addressing the negative self-perceptions that form from dysregulation. IFS therapy’s focus on fostering mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-acceptance can be an effective tool in decreasing emotional dysregulation. Since stress is a part of life and you cannot erase trauma, learning to accept and manage uncomfortable feelings rather than attempt to eliminate them may be more beneficial for long-term healing.
The IFS concept of the multiple parts of the self utilizes mindfulness and self-compassion to attend to the vulnerable parts of the self to increase your ability to tolerate and process those distressing internal experiences. Furthermore, the introspective awareness aspect of IFS therapy presents an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
When you are able to recognize all the parts of yourself, you can address and understand the maladaptive mechanisms that impede your mental wellness and daily functioning. Therefore, IFS therapy highlights the value of self-compassion for healing, especially the parts that make you feel shameful, guilty, or alone.
Finding Whole Person Healing at Insight Recovery Center
At Insight Recovery Center, we recognize that your resilience to life stress and trauma impacts your mental wellness and coping mechanisms. We are committed to supporting you with various therapeutic modalities like IFS therapy to address maladaptive thinking and behaviors. Our philosophy on intrinsic wholeness speaks to our understanding that every part of you is important to your long-term recovery.
The process of healing is not to cure or correct your behavior to fit into some one-size-fits-all idea of treatment and recovery. Instead, we focus on educating and supporting you with techniques and approaches to give you the tools to build healthier coping strategies. With healthy coping strategies and a commitment to uncovering your wholeness, you can truly start to discover your recovery.
Experiencing trauma, especially in childhood, can make it difficult to regulate your emotional response to psychological distress. Difficulties regulating your stress can increase your risk for mental health disorders and lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms like avoidance and substance use. Therefore, therapeutic modalities like internal family system therapy (IFS) focus on the parts of the whole by increasing self-awareness with mindfulness and self-compassion to reduce unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns. Insight Recovery Center is committed to providing modalities that recognize treating the whole person. IFS can support you in building healthy coping strategies to support long-term healing as you discover your recovery. You can learn more about the benefits of IFS by calling Insight Recovery Center at (828) 845-8325.