SITT for Therapists
Clients present for therapy with complaints of relational conflicts, depression, anxiety, addictions, poor self-esteem, or general discontent. At the root of those symptoms is an unresolved story. Most clients have never made the connection between their present life challenges and their past hurts. Clients present with signs and symptoms, but it’s the job of the therapist to read the signs, translate the symptoms, trace them back to their origin, and from there, chart a course for recovery. Far too often, therapy has focused on the symptoms without paying attention to what precipitated them. We must learn to address the problem at the root rather than the fruit. The problem is seldom the problem. Usually, the presenting “problem” is actually a symptom of the problem.
Trauma is the “gateway” to a variety of psychological, emotional, physiological, social, and relational dysfunctions. Trauma, in one form or another, is what brings our clients into therapy. Unresolved, it continues to disrupt their lives. When people grow up in unhealthy, dysfunctional, or even abusive environments, they are ill-prepared for healthy living and relationships. Childhood adaptive states later become adulthood maladaptive traits. These are the people that most frequently show up in a therapist’s office.
Unresolved trauma is like an iceberg. People can steer around what they see on the surface, avoiding it as best they can, but what is under the water still threatens the ship. They can deny its significance, but what is below the surface will still collide with their life, creating damage and destruction.
When we don’t understand why people are sick, we can’t effectively prescribe a course of treatment. Unresolved stories of past trauma are at the heart of most people’s dysfunctions and disorders. It is all about our stories and the trauma they contain. That recognition is the beginning point for effective and life-changing therapy.
Why Story-Informed Trauma Therapy?
Where to start?
Questions Therapists Often Ask
What makes SITT different from other therapeutic approaches?
Many therapeutic approaches are client led. This creates a fundamental problem when you understand that childhood trauma is at the root of our client’s struggles. One of the primary responses to trauma exposure is the fear and avoidance of associated experiences in the future. Avoidance is also the central organizing feature of PTSD. Our minds tend to psychologically recoil from thoughts about painful experiences much like our hands physically recoil when touching a hot stove. That means that the very thing we need to talk about is what we avoid. Traditional therapeutic approaches support this avoidance when they encourage the client to lead the process. When clients enter therapy, they are paying therapists to take them where they need to go, rather than what feels comfortable in the moment. This requires us to know what they need and to be able to lead them compassionately into the difficult and painful places of their story.
What if I don’t see that many trauma clients?
Are you not seeing them, or are you not “seeing” them? Clients don’t generally present for therapy with concerns over their unresolved past trauma. They present with unmanageable lives, depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, or troubling behaviors. Their lives have become unmanageable and unsatisfying. They usually feel desperate for change. Unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns continue to express themselves in their lives. Those patterns are most often the result of family dysfunctions, childhood mistreatment, abuse, or other trauma exposure.
What if clients don’t come to see me for trauma recovery?
Most clients have never made the connection between their present life challenges and their past hurts. Clients present with signs and symptoms. It is our job to read the signs, translate the symptoms, and chart a course for healing. We must learn to address the problem at the root rather than the fruit. We have too often followed the client’s appraisal of the problem rather than inviting them to consider the cause. This frequently leaves people recycling through therapy without lasting change. Far too often, therapy has focused on the symptoms without paying attention to what precipitated them. The problem is seldom the problem. Usually the problem is actually a symptom of the problem.
How much training will I need to begin using SITT?
One of the goals of the basic six-day SITT training is to provide you with a roadmap that you can begin to use with clients immediately. Consultation and peer supervision will help you sharpen your skills in applying the principles of SITT, but you will be able to start working with clients through the SITT model with confidence at the conclusion of the first training.
Is SITT research supported?
Story-informed Trauma Therapy was studied by Tulane University and found to provide a significant measurable reduction in PTSD symptoms and improvement in clients’ reported quality of life. GAF scores improved from a mean of 58 pre-treatment score to a mean post-treatment score of 77 across the sample studied. The study concluded that, “the overwhelmingly positive results of this initial outcome study suggest that…the model can be found effective and used with a broader population in need of trauma recovery.”
How would SITT benefit my practice?
How would SITT benefit my clients?
Until your clients know, understand, and accept their stories, their unresolved story will continue to disrupt their lives. The symptoms that bring them into therapy may change, but the source of their struggles will persist. SITT addresses the origin of the disruptions, bringing healing, recovery, and permanent change. Most clients really do want to grow and experience healing. They want their relationships to be satisfying, they want to find contentment, they want to experience a sense of value, and they want to establish healthy lifestyles. What they need is a guide that understands the journey and can lead them there with compassion and competence.