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Learn / Strengths-Based Approach to Trauma Treatment

Strengths-Based Approach to Trauma Treatment

By 
Sarah Shawaker
|
 February 6th, 2024|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Dr. Malasri Chaudhery-Malgeri, Ph.D.

Key Points

  • A strengths-based approach builds on existing strengths and coping skills to recover.
  • This approach uses trauma-informed care principles to empower the patient.
  • Patients can take charge of recovery and use strengths to bolster their resilience.

A strengths-based approach focuses on a person’s behaviors, ways of thinking, and values that promote health1, instead of focusing on symptoms that can cause poor mental well-being. By emphasizing unique positive characteristics, patients’ recovery aligns with what will best help them heal. 

For example, a patient who expresses their emotions freely through art may receive more art therapy sessions to play to their strengths. Another client may bond and open up to peers, so they would attend more peer support groups. If a trauma patient responds well to eye movement therapy, then they might add in 2 more sessions weekly.

Trauma is highly specific to each patients’ experience, environment, and personality. A strengths-based approach acknowledges that people who have experienced trauma can access innate strengths to promote healing.  

Key Components of the Strengths-Based Approach

Some trauma treatment approaches use deficit or pathology-based methods, meaning they focus on addressing the negative symptoms; however, a strengths-based approach builds on existing strengths, resilience, and coping mechanisms to recover. 

Trauma-Informed Care

Notably, a strengths-based approach incorporates trauma-informed care principles,  which seek to address the effects of trauma and promote safety, self-regulation, and empowerment2. It recognizes and adheres treatment to the impact of trauma and creates a safe and supportive environment that fosters healing. Other methods might risk re-traumatizing the patient by treating trauma symptoms without sensitivity.

Therapists using a strengths-based approach, such as Judy Crane3, tend to have specialized trauma training and incorporate the idea of the Trauma Egg into their practice. The Trauma Egg offers a visual framework to view how trauma affects a patient’s life4, and it aims to promote personal reflection and healing. Using this concept, patients can “talk” to and peel back each separate component that their traumatic experience has given them. Adopting practices like these into a strengths-based approach can help the patient feel in control of their recovery.

Collaborative Decision Making

A strengths-based approach encourages collaborative decision-making between patients and their treatment team. It actively involves patients in their recovery process, respecting their autonomy and choices. By building on a patient’s independence, this approach can help them flourish in recovery with strength, growth, and resilience.

Empowerment

A strengths-based approach bolsters a patient’s natural positive coping skills, emphasizing their ability to adapt in the face of adversity. This approach views patients as inherently capable of their own recovery and in control of their lives, particularly in the context of trauma. 

Benefits of Strengths-Based Trauma Recovery

Patients participating in a strengths-based recovery can gain control and build a new mindset of creating and rebuilding, rather than being broken. 

Patients learn how to set goals, develop healthy coping skills to foster growth, and confront rather than avoid challenges. Their strengths and newfound resilience can then improve their personal, family, and community well-being5. It also builds self-esteem and competence in recovery and their daily lives.

While a strengths-based approach has many positives, it’s also important to find and address personal weaknesses5. Ignoring these could lead to a less effective recovery.


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