Disclosing a Trauma in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Trauma Disclosures: How to Talk About Trauma and How to Support the Person Disclosing It

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

By Sarah Desantis, LCSW

Sharing and talking about trauma can be hard and overwhelming. The first step is to identify what is holding you back from opening up. Below are a few common reasons why sharing a trauma may be hard:

  1. Fear of invalidation
  2. Fear of judgment/victim-blaming/not being believed
  3. Fear of reliving the details

The above fears are natural and valid concerns. In the tips outlined below, you will find some suggestions for how to work through these fears. If you’re not ready to talk about the trauma with a loved one, you may want to consider speaking with a licensed therapist. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information about scheduling an appointment with a professional.

Tips for disclosing a trauma

Identify a supportive person. If you aren’t sure who to talk to, make a list of the supportive individuals in your life. Then write down the pros/cons of telling each person. Prioritize individuals who have demonstrated a pattern of compassion, validation, and empathy. 

Also, consider the appropriateness of the person you want to talk to. If you’re a minor, it’s important to talk to a trusted adult. If you’re an adult, choose someone you trust and know well and/or a licensed professional.

Self-compassion. It’s very common for people to treat themselves unkindly when bad things happen. Make sure to give yourself a lot of kindness and grace. It takes so much strength and courage to tell a loved one about a trauma. Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. Try to engage in some extra self-care when you talk about the trauma. 

Confront avoidance. Although talking about trauma is extremely difficult, it is also necessary for the healing process. This doesn’t mean that you need to relive the details, what’s more, important is opening about the effect it’s had. It is important to feel and express natural emotions that come up after a trauma such as sadness and fear. 

Avoidance may reduce uncomfortable emotions in the short term, but it will likely increase feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and other PTSD-related symptoms in the long term. When individuals talk about painful experiences with a safe, supportive, and attuned human; they learn that the trauma can be dealt with and difficult emotions can be tolerated. Memories can be organized in a healthy way rather than developing problematic beliefs and self-blame (e.g., “this is all my fault.”). 

Tell that person exactly what you need (if you know). Make a list of do’s/don’ts and communicate this with that individual prior to disclosing your trauma. For example: DO listen and validate my experience/DON’T give me advice.

Make a script or write a letter. Sometimes it is easier to write down what you want to communicate. You could later read the letter to your support person, use it as a bullet-point guide, or simply as a preliminary exercise to decide what you want to say.

Seek out a therapist who specialized in trauma/PTSD. There are many evidence-based therapies shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Attending therapy is an act of self-love and perseverance. Don’t deny yourself life-changing support. 

Part II:

Supporting Someone Disclosing a Trauma in Fort Lauderdale, Fl

How to support someone disclosing a trauma

Supporting an individual who is sharing something traumatic, can be daunting. You may wonder: What if I say the wrong thing? How can I make this better? It’s also very natural to feel deep emotions in reaction to what is shared. You might feel immense grief or intense anger towards the perpetrator. 

If you notice your mind is getting caught up in big emotions or the desire to say the perfect response, refocus by trying to stay present and listen instead. Sometimes listening can be the best kind of support. 

Listed below are some helpful tips on how to support someone disclosing a trauma. 

Don’t Assume. 
Every person needs a different type of support. Do not assume that you know what type of support your loved one needs. Ask! 

Try saying something like:

“It is so courageous of you to share this with me. What type of support do you need?”

-Or-

“Thank you for sharing this with me. I don’t know what to say but I want to support you. Is there anything I can do?”

Be patient.
Recognize that the healing process is not linear. There may be hard days, and that is normal. Acknowledge and validate your loved one’s feelings in those moments. What’s most important is that you convey that they are not alone and you are here for them. 

Don’t make it about you. 
As mentioned above, it’s natural for big emotions to emerge when hearing about a traumatic event(s). Underreacting and overreacting can do more harm than good. The goal is to temper your response as best you can so that you can hold space for the person disclosing the trauma. 

It’s important to allow yourself to express some emotion but not to the point where the person disclosing the trauma has to stop and comfort you. For the big emotions, inwardly acknowledge any feelings coming up for you and try to put them “on a shelf” to come back to later. Take a deep breath and shift your attention to the person sharing the difficult experience. Focus on expressing empathy, concern, and compassion.

Don’t ask for specific or excessive details. 
It’s natural to want to know more and understand the “whys” of a traumatic event. Sometimes asking “why do you think this happened?” can be construed as victim-blaming or doubting their experience. Instead, ask the person if they’re comfortable telling you more all while avoiding excessive details. 

It’s usually very difficult to talk about a traumatic event and details that prompt specific memories can be unnecessarily painful. Most importantly, respect your loved one’s decision to disclose to whatever level they choose.

Avoid toxic positivity.
Stay away from surface-level reassurances or platitudes such as “this will make you stronger,” “it could have been worse,” or “everything happens for a reason.” Rather, validate the natural emotions of sadness, anger, or fear. Your loved one doesn’t need perspective, they need you to hear them.

So now you have a few tools and suggestions for not only disclosing trauma but how to support someone sharing a trauma. Human beings are incredibly resilient and still, traumatic events can really stress a person’s mental health. 

Approximately 8 million Americans struggle with PTSD. Data shows that individuals who receive treatment for PTSD see symptom reduction nearly twice as quickly (36 months) as opposed to individuals who don’t seek treatment (64 months). That is an additional 28 months of struggles, over two years!!

Again, individuals who seek treatment for trauma often experience better outcomes. So please reach out to a licensed therapist with a specialty in PTSD/trauma. Our practice offers evidence-based treatment for PTSD. To read more about this treatment approach called Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), click here


License: SW17665
License: SW17665

Sarah DeSantis is a licensed clinical social worker and is an expert in depressionanxiety, PTSD and trauma-related issues, mood disorders, and eating disorders. Call 954-488-2933 or email today to discuss how our services can help you.

Copyright © 2022 The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale, LLC


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