how to work past trauma


Working with Past Trauma: Bridging with a Narrative Lens

Trauma presents itself in therapy in different ways. Individual trauma can lead to any number of social (anger, aggression, violence, mistrust, etc.), emotional (depression, suicidal ideation, etc.), and physiological challenges (fears, dreams, health issues, addiction) (Sanders, 2021). Individual traumas and work with trauma can be a significant part of therapists’ caseloads.

How trauma appears within a family system or in relationships can also bring partners to therapy. One partner may react in certain ways that could be misunderstood by another partner. Sometimes, past traumas can influence partners’ sexual lives, conflict management, and trust. Partners can also be overwhelmed by the desire to help or change the negative influence of trauma on their partner.

Relationship therapists who are working with partners who might be experiencing past trauma are in a unique position to provide education to the partners on trauma, help the individual who has the past trauma work through these challenges, and works with the couple on how to best work through the trauma challenges that may play a role in the relationship.

The narrative model can be an ideal model to apply to relationships when trauma plays a role (Johnson et al., 2019). The idea behind the narrative model is to explore the current “story” around the presenting problem, to seek out strengths within the individual and in the relationship for how coping has occurred, and to apply these strengths in co-creating a new story around the presenting problem. In this section of the course, you will apply the narrative model when considering relationships where trauma is a factor.

In addition, group therapy has been a notable intervention for those that have experienced trauma and for those in relationships with people who have experienced trauma (Morgan et al., 2018). The group approach allows for connection with others who are in a similar situation. Individuals can learn from others who have survived through difficult trauma and feel like they are not alone. Group relationship therapy allows for partners to process their own experiences, learn from others in similar circumstances, and also helps them not feel isolated in their experiences.


Johnson, D. J., Holyoak, D., & Cravens Pickens, J. (2019). Using narrative therapy in the treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the context of couple therapy. 
American Journal of Family Therapy
47(4), 216–231.

Morgan, E., Wieling, E., Hubbard, J., & Kraus, E. (2018). The development and implementation of a Multi-Couple Therapy model with torture survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
44(2), 235–247.

Sanders, J. E. (2021). Teaching note—trauma-informed teaching in social work education. 
Journal of Social Work Education
57(1), 197–204.

Weekly Resources and Assignments

Please Review the resources from the Course Resources link, located in the top navigation bar, to prepare for this week’s assignments. The resources may include textbook reading assignments, journal articles, websites, links to tools or software, videos, handouts, rubrics, etc.


Week 6 – Assignment: Prepare an Intervention from the Narrative Perspective that Assists when There is Past Trauma


Top of Form

 Due May 19 at 11:59 PM

Bottom of Form

For this week, you will create a resource guide that highlights how relationships are influenced by trauma and narrative tools for working with trauma. Please note that this assignment can be more of a listing rather than a formal paper. Think of this resource guide as something you would pass along to fellow MFTs that allows them to see how narrative and group processes can be applied to relationship therapy.

Part 1- Description

The first part of the resource guide is a description of experiences that can be part of relationships as a result of past trauma in one or both partners.

Part 2 – The Narrative Approach

The second part of the resource guide is specific to interventions that are part of the narrative model. The readings for this week build on the narrative model and describe populations that might be influenced by trauma and how this influences relationships. Narrative tools and techniques (and adapted narrative tools and techniques) are discussed throughout the readings and can be applied to this resource guide.

Your resource guide will consider the following tools and techniques from a narrative lens. You will 
describe/define the tool or technique and 
share an example of how this might look in the therapeutic setting with relationship therapy (You can use examples from the readings, just make sure you are citing). Please consider the following tools/techniques in your resource guide:

· Not Knowing Stance

· Deconstructive Listening

· Externalization

· Reframing

· “Outside Witnessing”

· Resiliency Stories (also known as Listening for Unique Outcomes)

· Constructing New Meanings/Co-create new shared story

· Narrative Group Therapy

Length: 3-4 pages

References: Include a minimum of 5 scholarly resources.

The completed assignment should address all of the assignment requirements, exhibit evidence of concept knowledge, and demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the content presented in the course. The writing should integrate scholarly resources, reflect academic expectations and current APA standards, and adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.


Dissociative Collusion: Reconnecting Clients with Histories of Trauma in Couple Therapy

Kleiner-Paz, I. I., & Nasim, R. (2020). Dissociative collusion: Reconnecting clients with histories of trauma in couple therapy. 
Family Process, 60(1), 32-41.

This article introduces a direction for couple therapy that involves building the relationship around the trauma. Utilizes narrative, CBT, and object relations therapies.


“I’m still fighting for the two of us:” How Partners of UK Veterans Construct their Experience of Living with Combat-Related Trauma

Doncaster, E., Hiskey, S., McPherson, S., & Andrews, L. (2019). “I’m still fighting for the two of us:” How partners of UK veterans construct their experience of living with combat-related trauma. 
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 45(3), 464-479.

This article is qualitative and narrative and looks at what spouses (wives) do to “help” partners through trauma.


Strengthening Vicarious Resilience in Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Narrative Approach to Couples Therapy

Laughlin C. F., & Rusca, K. A. (2019) Strengthening vicarious resilience in adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse: A narrative approach to couples therapy. 
The Family Journal, 28(1),15-24.

This article applies a narrative approach to looking at past trauma.


The Development and Implementation of a Multi-Couple Therapy Model with Torture Survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Morgan, E., Wieling, E., Hubbard, J., & Kraus, E., (2018). The development and implementation of a multi-couple therapy model with torture survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 44(2), 235-247.

Shares a model of group therapy where couples discuss experiences.


Using Narrative Therapy in the Treatment of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Context of Couple Therapy

Johnson, D. J., Holyoak, D., & Cravens Pickens, J. (2019). Using narrative therapy in the treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the context of couple therapy. 
American Journal of Family Therapy, 47(4), 216–231.

Authors bridge the idea of working with couples on trauma issues while utilizing a narrative focus.

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