How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma
This is the third and final part of a series on betrayal trauma. In part one, Do I Have Betrayal Trauma? 26 Symptoms, we learned about what betrayal trauma is and some of the symptoms of it. You can find that post here.
In part two of this series, Betrayal Trauma Symptoms-Am I Crazy?, we learned about trauma responses and spiritual trauma.
In part three, Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, and Coach Cat, a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach, will talk about the stages of healing from betrayal trauma and how Betrayal Trauma Recovery can help.
How Do We Heal From Betrayal Trauma?
Once a woman finds out that she has been betrayed and that betrayal has caused trauma, she often wonders when and if the pain will stop. While betrayal trauma is complex and uniquely yours, healing from betrayal trauma happens in stages for each individual, though in different ways.
Coach Cat talks about the stages of the healing process.
“The good news is that there is hope for recovery and healing from any kind of trauma including betrayal trauma. The approach to your healing follows a path well-worn by trauma survivors and is adapted for use with this demographic. It approaches trauma recovery in three stages.”
3 Stages Of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
- Safety and Stabilization
- Grieving and Processing
As you progress through the stages, you will find more and more healing.
Betrayal Trauma Healing Stage 1 – Safety and Stabilization
Coach Cat describes what will happen in the Safety and Stabilization Stage with a BTR Coach.
“In this stage we will be most concerned with finding some safety and stability amongst the post discovery mess! In the first stage of trauma healing you can expect to feel supported and validated throughout.
“You should expect to find space to express yourself in response to the turmoil that your life has just been thrown into and be helped to identify your immediate needs in this situation.
“You will be supported to manage any crisis that has developed with the discovery. Here we will address issues relating to all aspects of safety; emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual and financial.
“You will likely be encouraged to undertake a health screen to rule out the possibility of Sexually Transmitted Infections and, where your physical health is impacted. For example, by lack of sleep, weight loss or significant distress that becomes unmanageable on a day-to-day basis, assessment by a medical doctor may be encouraged.”
“There will be conversation about the reactions of the addict to discovery and whether there are any threats to your safety or the safety of others, most notably any children, in the home. If such a threat is discerned, you will be supported to make a plan to address that.”
Establishing Emotional Safety Helps You Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Once your physical safety has been addressed, the BTR coach will start helping you find emotional safety.
“Your emotional safety will also be addressed, with an emphasis on avoiding further trauma by seeking details that you may find traumatic in the longer term and assessing your vulnerability to emotional abuse through gaslighting and verbal abuse.
“There will likely be some conversation about immediate boundary needs whilst you stabilize yourself as well as longer term boundaries beyond the crisis stage. Your financial stability may be discussed as it relates to your ability to care for yourself.
“You will be supported in implementing coping skills for emotional regulation and identifying safe people to lean on.”
Education Can Help You Heal From Betrayal Trauma
During this stage you will also be encouraged to learn about your trauma and your husband’s sex addiction. Coach Cat talks about how you’ll be educated.
“You will be provided with resources and education on both trauma and sex addiction and may use this information to plan for all eventualities moving forward with a focus on creating safety, no matter what happens.
“This stage will also cover the possibility of a therapeutic disclosure and polygraph as a means of avoiding the traumatic experience of staggered disclosure, where information is drip-fed periodically after many assertions of the fact that the full truth is now known.
“Whilst there is no specific timeline for each phase of healing, it is important to recognize that this is a long-term healing process.
“It is also not a linear or ‘end-to-end’ process and there are likely to be bumps in the road, setbacks and occasions where you find yourself circling back on some items.
“Of course, the behavior of the addict has much to do with the ease with which you pass through each stage. The aim, at every stage, will be for you to feel empowered to heal, with or without the support and assistance of your addicted partner.
During this stage, we recommend the following group and individual sessions:
- Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group
- Creating a Plan for Healing
- Spotting & Stopping Emotional Abuse
- Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting
- Setting & Holding Healthy Boundaries
- Growing Through Grief
- Understanding & Managing Triggers
- Advocating For Safe Disclosures & Polygraphs
- Separation (& Reconciliation?)
Betrayal Trauma Healing Stage 2 – Grieving and Processing
Coach Cat talks about the next stage of betrayal trauma healing, Grieving and Processing Stage.
“In Stage 2 you will be digging deeper into the traumatic after-effects and learning to process the trauma, loss and grief experienced, as a result of the betrayal. This season is about facing the reality in which you now reside.
“I sometimes think of this as the FEELING stage, where, in the midst of the new safety you have created (and continue to create and uphold) in stage 1, you are able to create time and space to feel the emotion produced by the trauma. This is a delicate balance of courage and pacing.
“To heal from the trauma and grief we must be prepared to feel it and allow the pain to ‘pass through’ but we must do so carefully and sensitively so as not to become overwhelmed.
“This stage of healing is best conducted under the care of a well-trained professional for those reasons.”
Sharing Your Experience Can Help You Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Sometimes the hardest part of the journey and experience is talking about it with others. Coach Cat talks about how sharing our story helps us.
“This phase includes telling your story, often repeatedly, which can help you to come to terms with the traumatic memories by ‘making sense’ of what has happened.
“Telling your story also helps to name, explore and mourn the losses you have experienced and break down some of the dissociative effects of the trauma.”
Some women need more than what BTR can offer to process their experiences. Coach Cat explains how other therapies can help.
“You may also be encouraged to explore other therapeutic options, including some of the emerging treatments that are proving effective in trauma recovery such as EMDR and Somatic treatments.
“These modalities aim to approach trauma-healing from the holistic ‘body, mind and soul’ perspective, as understanding of the impact of trauma on the body, and its ability to be held and stored at a cellular level is increasingly understood and accepted.”
Understanding Triggers And Emotions Can Help You Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Stage 2 can help you gain a greater understanding of your triggers and emotions. Coach Cat explains how that helps our healing.
“This stage is likely to build on the trigger response and emotional regulation work begun in phase 1, as you gain a deeper understanding of how your trauma triggers impact you and begin to reclaim and reframe some of your experiences.
“Here you will be encouraged to see the progress you are making in dealing with triggers and unwanted emotion as ‘fuel for the fight’, proving that you have the tools, resources and resilience needed to remain on the road to healing and thrive.
“Stage 2 may include additional work for those whose relationships end in long-term separation or divorce. This is a traumatic event, in and of itself and will require some deeper processing during this period.”
In this stage, we recommend the following individual sessions:
- What if He Relapses?
- Healing My Self-Worth
- Protecting My Children
- Spotting & Stopping Emotional Abuse
- Divorce Support
- Growing Through Grief
Betrayal Trauma Healing Stage 3 – Reconnecting
Once you learn how to manage triggers and get in touch with your emotions through grieving your loss, you are ready to reconnect to the world around you and accept your life as it is now. Coach Cat discusses Stage 3: Reconnecting.
“Stage 3 invites you to reconnect with the world around you. This is about integrating your story into the bigger story of your life, where the traumatic experience is no longer the only experience that defines you, but part of a larger pool of ‘life experiences’ which have shaped who you are.
“Here you will begin to feel more acceptance than resistance as you continue to ‘come to terms’ with the life you now live, whatever that means for you as an individual.
“This stage will look different for those who have made the decision to remain in a relationship with the addicted partner than for those for whom this has not been possible. Indeed, this may be the point at which some of those decisions are made.
“For those whose relationships have not survived the discovery of the addictive or problematic behavior, this phase of healing will include working towards a new sense of self and identity. It will allow for vision-casting, creating a vision for the future, and examining all of the possibilities this offers.
“There will be questions around those possibilities to be confronted, such as the possibility of any future relationships and where you find meaning and purpose going forward. There will also be the practical aspects of co-parenting and healthy separation for those in that position.
“For those who remain in relationships, this period will focus on reconnection. There are the challenging topics of trust, intimacy, sex and forgiveness in this stage, which will need to be addressed sensitively and with patience and grace.”
“Couples work may include assistance with communication and conflict management as well as emotional intimacy and sexual reintegration. There are also opportunities for couples to create a vision for their future relationship, built on an understanding that things will not be the same as they were before the discovery/disclosure.”
Learning To Thrive Can Help You Heal From Betrayal Trauma
Once you’ve made it to this stage, you no longer need to survive, you can now thrive. Coach Cat explains how thriving can lead to giving.
“Across the board, this phase encourages you to make meaning from what you have been through and to use that meaning to develop the identity of a ‘thriver’, no longer a victim but a VICTOR.
“This is also where many of us begin to feel a desire to use our experiences for the greater good and as a means of giving something back.
“This is the stage at which you will try new things and learn more about who you are and what you could be. You will be encouraged to assess the skills that have brought you this far and capitalize them to take you even further, integrating them into your life and as part of your ability to care for yourself in the future.”
As you move through the three healing stages with a BTR coach, they will guide you and help you find the tools that you need to thrive.
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