What To Do When Trauma Treatment Isn’t Working

Trauma treatment not going well? These tools and strategy shifts can help.

Jennifer Sweeton, PSY.D., M.S., M.A.

As a skilled therapist, you already know your client needs to build resources and coping skills before going into the trenches with traumatic memories.

That’s why it’s critical to be well-versed in multiple evidence-based or evidence-informed therapy modalities. But why is it that sometimes even the most proven treatments seem to fall flat when working through trauma?

This is something I get asked frequently in my trainings and seminars. And my answer is two-fold.

Therapy not working so well?

For starters, evidence-based does not mean “guaranteed.”

It’s important to keep in mind that while there is fantastic research behind certain treatments and approaches—that research is looking at averages. It means that the treatment was shown to help reduce clinical symptoms for many people—but not all people. This means there is chance your client will fall into the group of people it was not helpful for.

This isn’t the only possible explanation, however. I believe that the larger and more common reason proven strategies might not be working with your clients is because they are being done at the incorrect time in treatment.

Getting the timing right

Timing is everything. And it’s important to remember that your client might not be ready to do some of the techniques and exercises that these therapies are asking them to do.

So how can we turn the corner? Well, we have to pay attention—and, most importantly, we have to make sure that the client is able to connect with their body before pursuing many top-down modalities.

Learn more about this notion in my quick YouTube video:

Using EMDR


EMDR brings the same life-changing levels of healing as other first-line trauma treatments, but many clients make significant progress in fewer sessions and end therapy early less often.

These two free worksheets can help you get started. Please feel free to use them with your clients!

EMDR Mastery Course

And if you are looking for even more information and resources on EMDR, I encourage you to enroll in my EMDR Mastery Course.

Throughout six engaging video modules, I’ll show you how to use brain-based techniques to change your clients’ traumatic memories and help them feel safe again.


Meet the Course Expert:

Dr. Jennifer Sweeton is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and internationally-recognized expert on trauma, anxiety, and the neuroscience of mental health. Dr. Sweeton has been practicing EMDR for nearly a decade and has treated a variety of populations using EMDR and other memory reconsolidation approaches, including combat veterans, individuals with PTSD and complex trauma, and those suffering from treatment-resistant anxiety.

She completed her doctoral training at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, and the National Center for PTSD. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree in affective neuroscience from Stanford University, and studied behavioral genetics at Harvard University.

Dr. Sweeton resides in the greater Kansas City area, where she owns a group private practice, Kansas City Mental Health Associates. She is a past president of the Oklahoma Psychological Association and holds adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She is the president-elect of the Greater Kansas City Psychological Association. Dr. Sweeton offers psychological services to clients in Oklahoma, Kansas, and internationally, and is a sought-after trauma and neuroscience expert who has trained thousands of mental health professionals in her workshops.

Learn more about her educational products, including her upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

Topic: Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) | Trauma

Tags: Advice | EMDR | Strategies | Therapy Tools | Tools | Trauma | Trauma Treatment

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