TREATING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
At Polaris, all therapists are trained in the Post Induction Therapy (PIT) model of developmental immaturity. PIT is a form of therapy that seeks to treat the effects of childhood trauma and address the corresponding immaturity that may occur as a result. With regards to comprehensive, researched based psychology, PIT has been one of the most proven methods of directly addressing childhood trauma. Post Induction Therapy is a cornerstone of our treatment program and has been effectively employed by Polaris for years.
PIT was first developed by psychologist Pia Mellody in the 1980s who, having been a survivor of childhood trauma herself, sought to improve upon the treatments she received when she was younger. Drawing from the techniques Mellody realized were most effective for treating her own self, PIT was eventually synthesized into a full treatment model that could better enable clients to function on a daily basis.
Trauma—which can appear in a variety of forms—is something that does not just affect the victim during the traumatic events themselves, but can continue to affect them into the future. Though the victim does not necessarily need to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in order to benefit from PIT, the model does indeed help with PTSD treatment. Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to being traumatized, and because they are undergoing some of the most formative years of their life, it is important to monitor their continued development.
Post Induction Therapy Basics
Therapists may use a variety of methods to facilitate the PIT approach, based on client need. Nonetheless, PIT will always include:
Establishing a comfortable rapport between client and therapist is essential in creating an environment of safety. Victims of childhood trauma often struggle with feeling safe and trusting others, thus establishing a strong therapeutic relationship is vital.
This is often the most uncomfortable part of PIT, as it is the process of retelling and reflecting upon the incident(s) of abuse. The debriefing part of PIT may take a number of sessions to complete, depending on the extent of the client’s trauma. Clients are asked to recount their traumatic experiences in as much detail as possible, which can be a tremendously difficult and emotional process. Nonetheless, this debriefing is central to the effectiveness of PIT.
Preparing an Address
With childhood trauma comes emotional baggage; and working through childhood trauma means releasing said baggage. With PIT, the client is able to “give back” his or her emotional baggage through preparing a letter to the perpetrator(s). this process entails putting thoughts and emotions down on paper. Therapists typically encourage clients to include details of specific incidents and the personal effects of the incidents (including any physical and/or emotional damage) in the letter.
Addressing the Perpetrator
In the last stage of PIT, clients are asked to ‘address’ the perpetrator. The therapist will put an empty chair in front of the client, and the client is to imagine the perpetrator sitting in the chair. The client is able to address the perpetrator, expressing anything he or she wants to say. This allows the client to be in total control of the situation, without having to deal with the perpetrators response(s). Addressing the perpetrator is a way to empower the client to take his or her power back. This final phase of PIT is typically done in a group setting, as peers are able to provide support, feedback, and reassurance.
With the confidence to act, the client can then begin to learn act more deliberately—this is an essential step in overcoming developmental immaturity and the realization of the “self”. Where PIT is most useful is helping clients overcome dependency issues, fear, and innate feelings of worthlessness. At Polaris, PIT is a model that can be incorporated with other therapeutic techniques such as the use of art, music, and meditation. All of these techniques have been proven to be beneficial in the recovery process, and can even inspire lifelong creative interests that can help the client deal with any future traumatic events.
Essentially, the disciplined use of the PIT model in addressing developmental immaturity allows the client to overcome the obstacles alienating them from their developed sense of self while instilling the confidence needed to say “I can do this.” It’s a model that has helped struggling teenagers around the world, is continually improving with increased research, and is a real solution that is more than just a theory—its within reach.
After experiencing trauma, the victim may begin to blame themselves, develop feelings of low self-esteem, and become easily triggered by external stimuli. PIT can be effectively introduced to combat these problems, and reduce negative feelings and emotions while encouraging positive ones. An essential component of human maturation is the realization of one’s sense of “self”; if a victim of trauma’s sense of self is diminished by their experiences, however, they will remain—in a technical sense—developmentally immature. PIT, essentially, is a direct effort to overcome the barriers trauma has created between the victim and their fully developed self.
PIT is a treatment model that takes place between a victim and a clinician, and may incorporate other parties when appropriate. The clinician’s first priority is to make the client feel comfortable talking about themselves, their emotions, and the traumatic experiences they may have experienced when they were younger. Then, once comfortable, the clinician carefully guides the client to come to some crucial realizations: the trauma they experienced was not their fault, they are unconditionally valued as a human being, and their life is something they can still control.