Distressed young man soldier attending therapy session with psychiatrist

Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR)

Though everyone can experience trauma, veterans are especially impacted by severely traumatic situations. The typical reaction is either to fight, flee, or freeze when faced with danger. Experts now recommend Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR) treatment to help veterans cope with PTSD and better learn to deal with the aftermath of the dangerous situations they have faced.

What is an Instinctual Trauma Response?

Instinctual trauma response is simply the way the body and mind respond to traumatic situations. When faced with danger and life-threatening circumstances, most people get the urge to either run or stay and fight. However, others may freeze entirely, unable to react because they are frozen in fear.

Linda Gantt and Dr. Louis Tinnin developed a model to identify all seven stages of usual instinctual trauma responses. They include:

Self-repair techniques may include rocking back and forth, overeating, sleeping, sitting in a quiet place, showering, and more.

Typical Symptoms of PTSD

People who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may exhibit a variety of symptoms. These may occur soon after the incident, or not for years down the road because the memories were repressed. Individuals may experience:

What Types of Trauma Can ITR Treat?

ITR treatment can work for a variety of trauma types. Many veterans experience trauma during their time in the military. Whether they were stationed overseas or simply in training, a variety of situations could have occurred that triggered an emotional or physical response.
This type of treatment is also ideal for childhood trauma. Veterans who experienced abuse, homelessness, or another scary situation as a kid may require therapy to purge those scars. Dissociative disorders can also be treated.

Instinctual Trauma Response Treatment

In order to treat symptoms of PTSD and other mood disorders and depression in veterans, it is important to get to the root of the response. Treatment for instinctual response trauma helps the therapist determine what some of the person’s triggers may be. Identifying them is the only way to work on stopping them and forming healthier habits instead.
The individual suffering will be encouraged to discuss their traumatic situation. Sometimes, art therapy and other therapy options may be utilized to assist with sorting out feelings and memories from that time. It is necessary to get the right part of the brain and the left part of the brain on the same page regarding what occurred so it can be dealt with properly. The right side of the brain is what stores the body sensations experienced during the fifth stage of ITR.
ITR treatment focuses on externalized dialogue and graphic narrative.

What Is Externalized Dialogue?

Externalized dialogue refers to an individual speaking their thoughts, fears, and emotions out loud. The parts of the person that feel the negative or shameful need to be brought to light and dealt with so they can move past it. No one can move past their trauma if they do not speak about it and make sure they are open and honest with themselves rather than attempting to hide certain emotions within their own minds.

What Is Graphic Narrative?

A graphic narrative or a visual narrative structure refers to a storytelling technique that helps people find and end their triggers. The objective is to put together the full story using a mixture of drawings and text to create a storyboard, kind of like a graphic novel or comic book. It’s also ideal to give a verbal recounting of the story. This helps to bring out fragmented memories and put words to emotions that were felt during that time. Having a full story, complete with a beginning, middle, and end, can help the person finally put it to bed and keep it in the past.

What Is the Goal of ITR Treatment?

The goal of ITR treatment is to educate the individual on how the brain and body are wired and why they react to traumatic situations in the ways they do. Then, the treatment process trains the individual to use more appropriate responses and ease their anxiety in that moment. With empowerment throughout the process, ITR treatment should help a person come out of their frozen or altered state of consciousness, and understand what to do should a similar situation arise in the future without feeling stuck.

Benefits of Combining ITR Treatment With Group Therapy

Oftentimes, one type of treatment is not enough for complete recovery. It takes a combination of therapy types and treatments to help a person feel normal again. Group therapy is an excellent addition to the treatment of ITR because it allows veterans to get together with others who have also experienced traumatic situations. A person knowing they are not alone in their thinking and symptoms can do wonders in letting them see they are not abnormal or unusual. Plus, talking with other people and learning their coping methods can inspire individuals to give the same techniques a try.

Solara’s Instinctual Trauma Response Therapy for Veterans

At Solara, veterans can learn to regulate their nervous system, process their emotions, and develop the skills they need to live a life free from the debilitating effects of trauma. Whether you are struggling with PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition related to your military service, Solara’s veteran program can help you find the path to healing and recovery.

Solara Mental Health is VA contracted as a community care provider. Once authorized, housing, transportation, and accommodations will be provided.

Learn More About Solara's Instinctual Trauma Response Treatment

When you feel ready to receive Instinctual Trauma Response Therapy, consult with our experts at Solara Mental Health. Our residential mental health treatment center in San Diego, California, focuses on holistic and evidence-based therapies for veterans. Contact us to start on your journey toward improved well-being. We offer a variety of programs and work to treat countless disorders so every individual receives the precise help they require.