Understanding Counselling for PTSD Using Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST)

June 8th, 2024
In: Anxiety

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that affects many individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events. While there are various therapeutic approaches to treat PTSD, Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST) offers a comprehensive method that integrates principles from multiple therapeutic models. Understanding how TIST works and its benefits can provide valuable insights for those seeking effective counselling for PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. These symptoms can interfere with daily functioning and significantly impair a person’s quality of life.

Trauma-Informed Stabilization Treatment (TIST)

TIST is a therapeutic approach developed by Janina Fisher, Ph.D., that combines elements from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems (IFS), and other trauma-focused treatments. TIST is a gentle framework for treating PTSD that helps individuals understand their symptoms, befriend their reactions and learn new ways of relating to their experiences, all while being careful not adding more stress to the individual’s system. TIST was designed to address the fragmentation often seen in individuals with PTSD, helping them stabilize and integrate their traumatic experiences.

Key Components of TIST

1. Trauma-Informed Approach: TIST is grounded in a deep understanding of the impact of trauma on the brain and body. It recognizes that trauma survivors often experience symptoms such as dissociation, hyperarousal, and emotional dysregulation.

2. Stabilization: The initial focus of TIST is on helping clients achieve emotional and physiological stabilization. This involves teaching clients to recognize how trauma shows up in their lives and to begin to interpret their symptoms in a new, empowering way. At the same time, skills are developed and practiced to manage distressing symptoms and create a sense of safety and control.

3. Internal Parts Work: Drawing from IFS, TIST helps clients identify and work with different parts of themselves that hold trauma-related emotions and memories. This approach fosters self-compassion and helps clients understand how different parts of their psyche are protecting them.

4. Mind-Body Integration: TIST incorporates techniques from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to address how trauma is stored in the body. This includes mindfulness practices and body awareness exercises to help clients work with physical tension and trauma-related sensations.

5. Processing and Integration: Once stabilization is achieved, TIST helps individuals make sense of past traumas. This helps clients integrate these experiences into their narrative, reducing their emotional charge and impact on daily life.

Benefits of TIST for PTSD Counseling

1. Comprehensive Healing: By addressing both the psychological and physiological aspects of trauma, TIST provides a holistic approach to healing. This can lead to more profound and lasting recovery.

2. Enhanced Self-Understanding: TIST is a non-pathologizing approach. Through parts work, clients gain insight into how different aspects of their personality respond to trauma. It helps illuminate the fact that our responses tell the story of how we survived the trauma - it helps us befriend the responses and with conscious attention, allows the responses to relax naturally. This self-awareness promotes healing and self-compassion.

3. Improved Emotional Regulation: Stabilization techniques help clients understand why symptoms are happening - for example, linking strong reactions in the present to implicit memories of the traumatic experiences, as well as  techniques to manage their symptoms effectively, thus reducing the intensity and frequency of PTSD symptoms.

4. Safe Trauma Processing: trauma processing in TIST is about making sense of the past and linking it to how the body is responding to present day situations. Without a focus on trauma memories, this approach minimizes the risk of re-traumatization.

5. Empowerment: Clients are empowered to take an active role in their healing journey, learning skills and strategies that enhance their resilience and coping abilities.

Implementing TIST in PTSD Counseling

Therapists trained in TIST use a range of interventions tailored to the individual needs of each client. A typical TIST session might include:

- Psychoeducation: Educating clients about the effects of trauma and what their symptoms are really communicating; this is a very important step as trauma survivors are often confused about their symptoms.

- Mindfulness and Grounding: Practicing mindfulness exercises to help clients stay present and grounded during sessions.

- Parts Mapping: Identifying and mapping out the different internal parts that hold trauma-related emotions and beliefs.

- Somatic Techniques: Using body-based interventions to release stored trauma from the body.

- Narrative Reconstruction: Helping clients reframe and integrate traumatic experiences into their overall life story.

Conclusion

TIST offers a gentle, affirming framework for treating PTSD that helps individuals understand their symptoms, befriend their reactions and learn new ways of relating to their experiences - all while being careful not to add more stress to the individual’s system.

John Woychuk is a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association; a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional, ADHD-Certified Clinical Services Provider and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Please contact me for appointment inquiries.

 

John Woychuk
M.A., CCC
J. Woychuk Counselling and Psychotherapy
6082 McGirr Road, Nanaimo, V9V1M1

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