Contextual Trauma Therapy: Overcoming Traumatization and Reaching Full Potential

Fall 2021 - Book Review

"Contextual trauma therapy: Overcoming traumatization and reaching full potential" book cover
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Book Review

Gold, S. N. (2020). Contextual trauma therapy: Overcoming traumatization and reaching full potential.

Review by Bianca Harper, DSW, LCSW, Arizona State University

While the assessment and treatment of complex trauma has been examined in a variety of academic and practice settings, there exists an ongoing need to evaluate and enhance current practices by utilizing the lived experiences of complex trauma survivors. These nuanced experiences assist researchers and clinicians in better understanding the myriad ways that complex trauma impacts the lives of survivors and informs best practices to foster healing. In Contextual Trauma Therapy (CTT), Gold provides a unique contextual lens that is critical to understanding the multifaceted ways development is disrupted by complex trauma and strategies to help complex trauma survivors resolve trauma and enhance overall well-being.

Gold’s contextual framework provides a strength-based, collaborative approach to working with complex trauma survivors. Central to this approach is the necessity to develop a therapeutic alliance that promotes self-efficacy and choice. This client-centered approach emphasizes that clients are the experts in their own lives and can teach clinicians valuable information that can help guide case conceptualization and treatment. Additionally, clinicians must intentionally utilize engagement strategies that demonstrate how to develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship. The emphasis on cultivating a collaborative therapeutic alliance and supporting the client in enhancing quality of life, is a tremendous strength of CTT as it encourages clinicians to think beyond typical treatment methodologies.

A core construct of CTT is that complex trauma survivors are impacted by both the traumatic events they have experienced as well as childhood developmental deprivation resulting from a lack of essential interpersonal resources needed for psychosocial success throughout life. The focus on two distinctly different aspects of the client’s childhood experiences requires clinicians to possess knowledge of developmental and complex trauma literature that can guide their approach to case conceptualization, assessment, and treatment. This premise encourages clinicians to apply ecological and developmental frameworks to comprehensively assess for the impact of trauma as well as how unmet childhood developmental needs are manifesting in the client’s life. Gold comprehensively explores how childhood interpersonal neglect significantly influences the psychosocial trajectory of complex trauma survivors. This recognition, in conjunction with the impact of childhood complex trauma, assists clinicians in understanding the need for interventions tailored to the client’s unique experiences. [Continue…]