Sep 9, 2023

Couples Therapy for Trauma: Healing Together

Being involved in a relationship with an individual who has experienced trauma might occasionally provide unique difficulties. Traumatized people frequently behave in complicated manners for their partners to comprehend. For instance, they might display suspicion, swiftly rise to anger, have panic episodes, or disengage. Trauma can impede emotional processing, making it difficult for those who have gone through it to express what is happening inside them. This can lead to disagreements and misunderstandings, and it can be challenging for well-intentioned partners to know what kind of help to offer.

Couples therapy can be an invaluable resource for couples dealing with traumatic experiences. Couples therapy in San Francisco is especially beneficial, as it allows couples to gain insight and process trauma from the comfort of their city. Couples therapy on a deeper level can help facilitate healing by addressing issues often overlooked or ignored in traditional couples therapies, such as childhood trauma, relationship patterns, and unresolved conflict.

The effects of trauma on personality

Understanding the specifics of your partner's trauma is crucial before you can respond to it. Trauma is a phrase used to describe severe emotional and psychological anguish brought on by an event or series of events. This can involve going through things like:

  • Physiological, sexual, or psychological maltreatment
  • Forget or ignore
  • Significant illness or harm
  • Feeling or seeing violence
  • Having experienced racism or prejudice
  • Poverty/homelessness
  • Natural catastrophes
  • The unexpected passing of a valued one
  • Anything that makes a person or group powerless

Our bodies enter survival stages during a traumatic incident, which aids us in coping. These states, meanwhile, can also make it difficult for us to absorb what is going on emotionally. When an encounter is deemed traumatic, it indicates that the person's powerful feelings are virtually locked inside their neural system. As a result, their body and brain will react the same way they did at the initial trauma when they later recall the traumatic incident in some way (i.e., when the trauma gets triggered). This indicates that you will probably witness your partner go into a state of survival, like fighting, escaping, or freezing.

Fight and Flight State

The body becomes highly active during the fight-or-flight response, generating a burst of energy to aid a person in fleeing or attacking a threat. Your companion could become exceedingly tense and overwhelmed at this point. Here are a few signs that your partner might be in a fight-or-flight situation:

  • Aggression is raising one's voice, acting out violently, or intensifying a disagreement
  • The agitation seems tense
  • Anxiety/panic
  • looking overpowered, crying, and trembling
  • Misperceptions that show mistrust and make unfavorable assumptions
  • Screaming, beating, verbal abuse, hurling objects, violence against oneself or others, and suicidal thoughts or threats

Freeze State

A significantly different reaction takes place when the body is frozen. The body becomes inactive, aimless, and numb to save energy and suppress pain sensations. This might appear like this in your partner:

  • Disengagement, quiet, withdrawal from a discussion, and shutting down
  • Depression causes excessive resting and a lack of interest in activities
  • Inability to concentrate or remember specifics
  • Not responding to issues and refusing to engage
  • Using drugs to disconnect even further and stay away from pain
  • A lack of sexual chemistry

Couples therapy can be an effective way to address trauma and its effects on relationships

Couples therapy is an effective and powerful tool to help couples process the effects of trauma on their relationship. Couples trauma therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment for partners dealing with intense emotions and difficult conversations surrounding their traumatic experiences. Couples therapists such as Dr.Cammy are experienced in addressing the unique needs of couples who have experienced trauma and can help them understand how it has impacted them individually and together. Couples therapists also utilize techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to aid in processing experiences and creating healthier communication patterns.

Couples therapy can also help couples heal from past hurtful experiences, identify triggers for stress or anxiety, recognize unhealthy coping mechanisms, and develop healthy ways to manage inevitable conflicts. With the help of a couples therapist, couples can learn to identify their needs and wants, practice practical communication skills, and build resilience for the future. Couples therapy allows partners to heal from trauma and create healthier relationships.

Trauma can cause a lot of damage, but it's possible to heal and move on together

Trauma can cause deep wounds and lasting pain, but couples therapy allows individuals to heal together. Couples who have experienced trauma can explore their feelings and emotions with a knowledgeable therapist in a safe and supportive environment. Couples therapy also offers practical communication skills that help partners learn how to express themselves effectively, which is essential for healing from painful experiences.

Couples can better understand each other's needs, recognize dysfunctional coping processes, and create new strategies to deal with inevitable disagreements with the assistance of a trained couples therapist. Couples counseling not only enables couples to recover from painful experiences but it also fosters long-lasting relationship improvement. Couples therapy offers a secure setting to do just that. Working together through difficult times can strengthen relationships. After a traumatic event, couples can rebuild more robust, more fulfilling relationships.

How to support a traumatized partner

Learn about trauma with your partner

Having compassion for your partner requires the development of all the knowledge above. When you comprehend how trauma impacts the neural system, you recognize that sometimes your partner can't control these reactions. They are still capable of coming up with new responses, but for the time being, this information can allow them to rethink how they are acting. You might interpret their attitude as a response to their overstimulated nervous system rather than seeing it as an attack on you. Additionally, when your partner comprehends the concept of trauma, it enables them to take responsibility for their actions and strive toward developing self-control.

Identify the triggers for your companion (and your own)

There is always a trigger associated with trauma responses. As an illustration, suppose your spouse is quite upset when you inform them that you will leave for a little work trip. It could be challenging to pinpoint the precise cause of such a robust response. However, it begins to make sense if you consider their past. For example, you might know that your partner was severely neglected as a child. If that's the case, the trigger is probably a feeling of abandonment your partner has.

Although they can rationally distinguish between a parent leaving them and a work trip, their nervous system might not be able to do so. By discussing this with your spouse, you may reassure them of your love for them and help them take steps to control their emotional reaction. It is also crucial to recognize your triggers and how they could be sparked in your relationship.

Recognize and scale distress

Trauma reactions can heighten the severity of a disagreement, and there may be times when your partner struggles to feel in control of their actions. Because of this, creating an emotional spectrum with your partner might be incredibly beneficial. This might be done by posing the question, "How distressed are you dealing with right now, on a scale of 0–10?" Consider stepping away from the conversation if your partner has a rating higher than 5. Your partner will do better if they focus on self-control at this point rather than trying to work things out with you.

Recognize your limitations

While your traumatized partner needs your sympathy, you don't want to encourage a pattern of violence in your relationship. If your partner doesn't actively try to modify harmful and inappropriate habits like violence, verbal abuse, and threats, you'll probably go through your trauma in the relationship. Be wary of any urge to excuse your partner's actions or think their mental well depends on you. Understanding their perspective and taking responsibility for it are two different things.

Recognize when assistance is needed

Getting assistance is not a sign of shame. Trauma can cause a relationship's dynamics to become perplexing and crippling. Therapy can be crucial, especially when one or both relationship members have experienced trauma. You can learn about the phases that contribute to relationship distress with the help of couples counseling. Attending individual counseling can also assist you in developing awareness that might favorably impact your relationship. 

Trauma can have the effect of being an uncomfortable, disruptive influence in your relationship. You could feel helpless at times to solve the problem. However, you can begin to experience the best of both yourself and your relationship with a depth of compassion and deliberate efforts toward progress.

If you're struggling with trauma in your relationship, seek help from a therapist today

If you and your partner are struggling with the impact of trauma on your relationship, it is essential to seek help from a therapist. Couples Therapy by Dr.Cammy can be incredibly beneficial for both of you as it can provide a space to express yourself safely and openly. She offers emotionally focused couples therapy in the San Francisco bay area. A family therapist can also assist in creating strategies to manage triggers better, improve communication, and foster healthy boundaries in the relationship.

With the guidance of an experienced counselor, you may gain more insight into your feelings and behaviors, leading to improved understanding and connection between each other. A specialist can assist in rewiring your partner by teaching them coping mechanisms or guiding them through traumatic experiences. You cannot be your partner's sole source of support. Please encourage them to contact a therapist to begin their healing process, offering couples emotionally focused therapy sessions.


Trauma can profoundly affect any relationship, making it difficult to navigate. Couples Therapy is one way to address the issue of trauma and its impact on your relationship. Working with a qualified therapist can help you better understand your feelings and behaviors and those of your partner. Such an approach will also provide you with strategies to manage triggers better, improve communication, and foster healthy boundaries in the relationship. With the guidance of an experienced counselor, couples can work together to overcome trauma-related issues and gain insight into each other's perspectives—leading to improved understanding and connection.

Get in touch with us now if you're interested in learning more about marriage counseling, relationship counseling, or internal family systems therapy in San Francisco as a trauma recovery technique! Dr. Cammy also offers family therapy, couples treatment, and individual therapy.