The shadow of shame and guilt keeps many people from living a full life. Under the burden of guilt, shame, and moral injury, they’re caught in a circular pattern of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression, and suicidal ideation. In these cases, guilt therapy, shame-informed therapy, trauma reduction therapy, TriGR therapy, and any tool that can be used to better manage the associated symptoms can be a source of healing and newfound freedom.
Guilt Therapy and the Important Role of Processing Guilt in Recovery
When trauma survivors repeatedly experience guilt and shame, they’re unable to get past the intrusive and horrendous reliving of the traumatic experience. Guilt occurs because they blame themselves for what happened, or feel that it could have been avoided if only they’d done something different. Besides believing their actions are bad, trauma survivors start to feel shame when they judge themselves as bad or damaged people.
“Moral injury” is the painful emotional aftermath of the trauma when what happened is something the individual believes they’re responsible for because their actions went against deeply held values or personal morals. The National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says the hallmark reactions of moral injury are “guilt, shame, disgust, and anger.”
Beyond guilt, shame, and moral injury, survivors of trauma are at higher risk for developing other severe mental health conditions, including depression, poor psychosocial ability to function, and suicidal ideation.
Learning effective ways to process guilt is therefore important in recovery, especially for the approximately 12 million adults in the U.S. who experience PTSD in any given year, according to the National Center for PTSD. And this doesn’t begin to approach the number of individuals who’ve experienced some kind of trauma.
Furthermore, more women than men (eight percent compared to four percent) develop PTSD sometime during their lives, although it’s likely that more men have PTSD but don’t seek treatment for it.
Untreated guilt prolongs recurring symptoms such as disrupted sleep, intense nightmares, the avoidance of places, things, and people associated with the experience of trauma, lack of strength, emotional outbursts with no seeming trigger, and declining interest in interacting with others.
What Is TriGR Therapy?
TriGR is a safe, structured, and effective approach to treating shame, guilt, and moral injury resulting from the experience of trauma. It is meant to be a brief intervention that typically occurs over 6-8 sessions.
The Principles of TriGR Therapy
TriGR’s primary goals are to help individuals learn to appraise the trauma they’ve been experiencing more accurately and work on re-engaging their values so they can live more purposeful and meaningful lives.
When individuals begin TriGR, most of them tend to overestimate how much control they had in the traumatic situation. Thus, one of this therapy’s main goals is to help individuals realize what they were able to control, what they did know about what was happening at the time, and what options were available for them to take in response to the trauma. A secondary goal, which is equally important, is helping the individual learn how to see the trauma in a more accurate context and find ways to cope with their trauma that embody more positive values rather than perpetuate the same suffering.
How Is Guilt Therapy Used?
Guilt therapy helps participants by providing a framework that’s both practical and effective in helping them make sense of the guilt they’ve been experiencing. The therapy uses guilt appraisal skills to help individuals get past the guilt they’ve been stuck in. They learn how to understand where the guilt comes from and begin to examine the kinds of thoughts that contribute to their guilt.
With its focus on guilt and associated shame reduction therapy, the treatment zeros in on what at the core is holding individuals back and preventing them from living a more value-driven life.
What does it do? This therapy is designed to help those suffering from guilt, shame, moral injury, and trauma get on with their lives. It is a powerful, strategic, and proven therapy that deserves its place in the evidence-based treatment regimen for the debilitating effects of PTSD and trauma.
Who Is Guilt Therapy Best For?
Is guilt therapy better than other types of therapy used to treat PTSD, depression, or suicidal ideation, and could it be for you?
Evidence-based treatments for PTSD have shown excellent results with military veterans who’ve suffered from severe PTSD for years without relief. Like these PTSD treatments, TriGR works best when individuals actively participate in between sessions by working on assignments. This is not a therapy that happens once a week and—without further work in between sesssions—successfully eliminates all guilt, shame, trauma, and moral injury.
The processes used in TriGR, which encompasses guilt therapy, shame reduction therapy, and trauma reduction therapy, are well-suited for veterans trying to learn how to reduce guilt and deal with the shame and anguish they experience as trauma survivors. It’s also recommended for those who’ve suffered trauma-related guilt and for whom some evidence-based treatments have not been effective at reducing symptoms.
Veterans are not the only ones who can benefit from this therapy. So can first responders. Anyone who has survived horrendous accidents, witnessed and/or experienced childhood or domestic abuse, sexual abuse or sexual trauma, been the victim of or witnessed a crime, or miraculously survived a natural or manmade disaster may benefit from guilt therapy.
Is It Right for Me?
As for whether this type of therapy is right for you, consider having a conversation with your therapist about how guilt therapy can be used as an addition to your current treatment approach. For example, there’s anecdotal support from trauma clinicians about the benefit of adding TriGR as an adjunct therapy to other therapy for the treatment of PTSD, such as prolonged exposure (PE therapy) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Adaptive Disclosure Therapy, and Building Spiritual Strength, (12-session group, 12-session individual, and 8-session group, respectively), are other adjunct treatments that deal with moral injury stemming from traumatic experiences.
PTSD can trigger another mental health disorder or worsen a preexisting mental health condition. Panic disorder, phobias, and depression commonly co-occur with PTSD and trauma, as does substance use disorder.
Rather than trying to figure out the best treatment for guilt, shame, and moral injury that result from experiencing trauma, take advantage of a free and confidential call to our expert advisors at FHE Health at 1-844-299-0618. We are available 24/7 to answer questions about trauma therapy and advise you about your treatment options.