Family Therapy for PTSD

When a loved one experiences a trauma, the aftermath can affect both the person who experienced it and family and friends.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) differs from other forms of trauma in that it instigates biological, hormonal and emotional changes that can last for months, years or a whole lifetime. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 10 percent of women and five percent of men are likely to experience PTSD at some point in their lifetimes.1

Usually the result of a military experience, violent or sexual attack, natural disaster or life-threatening accident, PTSD can permanently impact those who experience it. Many respond with substance abuse, depression, aggression and social isolation. Family members who watch these destructive trends in their loved ones are also affected greatly and can benefit from professional help.

Sean M., who suffered from PTSD and alcohol dependence, is now over six years sober: “To anyone who is struggling, I would say, just listen to others who have been around the program or who have been in recovery for a while. It does get better. The analogy I use frequently is, that in every rain storm the sun does come out, you just have to weather the storm. Sometimes you may need others to walk with you in the storm and hold the umbrella, but it does get better.” Read more of Sean M.’s HeroesInRecovery story here.

When a Loved One Experiences PTSD

Family therapy sessionA family member of one suffering from PTSD can go through a myriad of emotions: shame, guilt, anger or isolation. Family therapy is an option for those who have secondary trauma.

Family therapy for PTSD focuses primarily on the relationships between the trauma survivor and the family members. Proponents of this kind of therapy emphasize clear communication that allows for all parties to safely express emotions. Sometimes family members can offer too much or too little of one emotion. Sympathy, for example, can be great in small doses but coddling a trauma survivor may not encourage their own feelings of strength, self-esteem or capability.

If you’re considering family therapy for PTSD, talk to a professional here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We have experienced counselors and clinicians who are knowledgeable in PTSD and how to treat it. We can work with your family to discover new ways to cope with tragedy and get through this tough time.

If you’re thinking about family therapy for PTSD, the following are some tips to help you get started.

  • Be patient – Know that yourloved one suffering trauma may be having difficulties expressing emotions or may still be processing the event. Be understanding and open to communication.
  • Learn more about PTSD – Knowledge is power. Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatment options for PTSD to familiarize yourself with what your loved one is going through.
  • Don’t pressure the person to share his/her feelings – If your loved one is having trouble talking about the event, don’t pressure them. Let him/her take time, and help him/herto feel comfortable talking when the time is right.
  • Take care of yourself – Maintain your daily routines, and keep yourself healthy. If you aren’t healthy, you won’t be able to help the person you love.
  • Join a support group – Family members of the trauma survivor need help too. Join a support group, and share your experiences with others who have been in the same position. You can learn valuable coping strategies and see this event from a new perspective.2

It’s important to remember that recovering from PTSD is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Your family member needs your support and love. If you’re reading this, you’re already doing the right thing by trying to learn more about what he or she is going through.

Call us here at The Oaks at La Paloma at our 24-hour, toll-free helpline today. We can provide you with the assistance you need.


1Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Web. Accessed 14 July 2017.

2Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD.” U.S. Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs. 13 August 2015. Web. Accessed 14 July 2017.