Abreaction Therapy

Abreaction Therapy

Abreaction Therapy

Abreaction Therapy focuses on reliving a traumatic event and going through the emotions associated with them to heal and move forward. Originally created by Sigmund Freud the method gives patients a way to release their unconscious pain and escape from the memories and feelings that have kept them from moving forward. Therapists who work as Abreaction counselors use catharsis or the cleansing of emotions to get rid of the spirit and thoughts associated with the experience. As a process that brings out difficult emotions the client will go through an emotional removal that takes away the burden of the traumatic event after treatment.

Goals of Abreaction Therapy

The goal of Abreaction Therapy is to cleanse the patient's body by going through their trauma yet again and letting go of painful thoughts and emotions. When the client has completed their treatment they should be able to speak openly about the event without feeling uncomfortable or unable to cope. Therapy clears up what has happened and heals the individual so that they can move forward and prevent the trauma from ruining their personal lives and relationships. As a traditional and direct form of therapy this is an awareness tool that helps clear up the conscious tension which can be extremely dramatic when it is associated with heavy emotions and painful memories.

When is Abreaction Therapy Used?

Abreaction Therapy is implemented when a client is in need of an emotional and spiritual breakdown. By leading them through the event again and reliving the memories and feelings it releases fears and rejections that have been kept in since the event. It is used only for those who've dealt with trauma and hardship which is also affecting their current lives and relationships with others. Traumatic events can ruin trust, love and security. It's common that the clients suffer from a lack of self esteem and assurance in themselves because of what's happened to them. They may be participating in behavior that's detrimental to their health because they have yet to face the feelings associated with trauma.

How Abreaction Therapy Works

As a form of "reliving" in psychotherapy, Abreaction Treatment may take longer than other treatment plans. Currently Abreaction is not used in its current form but as a combination approach which outlines the traumatic event to integrate the past and constructively deal with the pain associated with it. Being that the trauma is complex and affects the patients in various ways the counselor works with the technique carefully to relive memories and overcome the patient's disassociation from the event and pain. The treatment works by acknowledging the flashbacks and distrust. It is likely that the patient will also undergo disorientation toward the beginning of treatment. The counselor has to be careful when they are reliving the event being that it often promotes flashbacks as an unavoidable element in working with trauma. The therapist will have to ensure that a trusting relationship has been put in place with the patient before thoughts are expressed. Security between the two will create safety in the presence of the therapist during Abreaction.

Toward the beginning of the treatment the counselor creates stabilization in the room and provides the patient with a psycho-education so that they can possess a deeper understanding of what's happening and why. The moment when the event is relived could occur quickly because of a trigger that's been made accidentally. Although it may feel like internal pressure and conflict for a period of time the counseling will release the unprocessed emotions and material for the purpose of bringing them closer to the surface. The pressure may feel like a power struggle although it results in conscious and sub-conscious clarity.

When the thoughts and feelings are released the client gains understanding, clarity and a new identity. This is a beneficial strategy in working with hostile memories because it creates a new role for the individual. This is a collaboration platform between the therapist and patient to rid of disturbing memories, close them and move forward in life. Being that the counselor is a hand to hold during the process it acts as a physical anchor. The creation and development of the relationship is essential and it could take a lengthy session time until the client is ready to relive the event. For patients that are severely damaged it can take many sessions before internalizing the security and commitment.

Criticism of Abreaction Therapy

The criticism toward Abreaction Therapy pertains to its use as a major treatment instead of a combination method; which has led to its current use as an integrative therapy approach.


Disassociative disorders glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sidran.org/sub.cfm?contentID=38§ionid=4
Laws of the unconscious mind. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://website.lineone.net/~ian_heath2/1ab - abreactn-2.htm

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