Retraumatization - Working Through A Repair With Therapist

done loads of work. Recently in a session and my therapist made a declaration that “it’s because you were S. abused as a kid”. I can’t see or write the full phrase. Please only use abbreviation.

Now that has not been my truth but it obviously triggered me. I do not remember anything like that. My truth has been something different from childhood. Now I believe it actually retraumatized me.

I had a nightmare, dissassociated, hyper vigilant, anxious AF, catastrophic thinking on and on. I have not had these symptoms for months.

I used my tools and got out of it after a little over a week. Still healing from it but feeling better. Horrible experience.

Now my therapist and I have to work through a repair. Anyone have experience with this? Was your system able to trust your therapist again? How clinically sound is it to make declarations like that to a client? Advice?
 

joeylittle

Administrator
Still healing from it but feeling better. Horrible experience.
I'm going to say something you may not agree with....but going through that trigger, and then beginning to heal? That's the basic premise of prolonged exposure (PE) therapy, which is a very well-tested way to recover from PTSD.

And - one of the biggest criticisms of PE is that it can cause re-traumatization, while it's helping the person heal.

So, I am both very sorry to hear about how taken by surprise you were, and how it was extremely painful. Those symptoms rearing back up after being quiet for months, that's a horrible experience, it truly is.

My advice would be to see this as a more complex event between yourself and your therapist. From what you describe, it doesn't sound like they intended to trigger you via exposure - it reads like more of an accident, on their part. That doesn't erase your pain - and there is a re-building of the traumatic alliance that you're want to go through.

Personal anecdote, if it's useful:

Pretty recently my therapist addressed me using a phrase that it took me a good long while to build up the nerve to ask him to stop using....which I had done about a year ago, and he'd be really good at not using it with me. Then last week, he slipped and said it. He didn't notice. I didn't point it out. Mistakes happen. But it happened again next session, and I asked him again to not use that phrase with me, and he apologized. But for me, the apology wasn't sufficient because I didn't think he was understanding what a big deal it was, to me. So, long story short - we spent the session talking about it, and he did a good job of holding his ground - it really was a mistake. I expressed what it meant to me, to hear those words from him, and was able to make some bigger connections to what I thought it meant, that he forgot, etc....anyway - it was worth the time to just talk it out.

We also agreed that it needs to be the next specific trauma processing target that we go after, so that the phrase loses it's power over me. Because really, that's the goal. Not that no-one ever say that combination of words; rather, that I can put my trigger back in the past, where it belongs, so it stops taking over my present moment.
How clinically sound is it to make declarations like that to a client?
It's quite clinically sound, but clearly you were not prepared for it. That makes it something that you can learn from - it was horrible that you were knocked back by it, but ultimately you and him have learned something about a very significant block that you can work through.

Or am I misunderstanding the context, here? (totally possible, I'm a little scatter-brained tonight)
 
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