Add To Cart

Section 2
Traumatized Relationships

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents

Read content below or listen to audio.
Left click audio track to Listen, Right click to "Save..." mp3

In the last section, we discussed feelings of guilt.  In my practice, I have defined two distinct types of guilt.  They are unrealistic guilt and realistic guilt.

In this section, we will discuss the Relationship Inventory technique.  As you know, personal relationships can provide emotional support to grieving clients.  For this reason, in my practice I review the Relationship Inventory technique with my grieving clients.  If you already use the Relationship Inventory technique in your practice, compare your model with the model described in this section. 

In the model of the Relationship Inventory technique I will describe, there are three types of relationships.  The three types of relationships are pre-trauma relationships, relationships during the trauma, and post-trauma relationships.  In my practice I find that clients experiencing grief may initially be overwhelmed by the Relationship Inventory.  Therefore, I ask clients to pick only three relationships with which to begin.  Other important relationships can be explored in later sessions.

Relationship Inventory Technique: Three Types of Relationships

♦ #1 Pre-Trauma Relationships
As you know, reviewing pre-trauma relationships provides the grieving client with an opportunity to explore which needs he or she met through relationships prior to the trauma.  Luke felt that trauma robbed him of his former life.  Luke, age 26, was traumatized when he was hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed.  Luke stated, "Why me?  It’s not fair.  Nothing happened to the guy that hit me.  He’s fine.  He even walked away from the wreck.  Now here I am paralyzed and alone."  Luke associated losing the use of his legs with losing his former lifestyle, including his relationships. 

I asked Luke to choose three important pre-trauma relationships to begin the Relationship Inventory technique.  Luke tearfully stated, "Well, there was my girlfriend, Liz. She was killed in the accident, so she probably doesn’t count.  The other two would be my brother John and my high school buddy Reggie."  I felt Luke could benefit from reviewing all three of these relationships, so I stated, "Liz counts, because she was important to you." 

First, to help Luke review his relationship with his brother John, his high school buddy Reggie, and his late girlfriend Liz, I gave Luke a writing assignment in which he answered several questions about his relationships.  For the purpose of brevity, I will only list four of the questions I asked Luke in this technique.  As I read them, ask yourself, are any of these questions similar to the questions you ask during the Relationship Inventory technique?   

4 Questions Luke Answered About his Relationships
--Question one:
"How did John and Reggie respond to you during or after the trauma?"  Because Liz was involved in the trauma, but did not survive, I structured question one to apply to Liz as well.  "How would you have wanted Liz to relate to you?" 
--Question two:  "What needs did John, Reggie, and Liz fulfill?  What needs did they leave unfulfilled?
--Question three:
  "Which five adjectives could you use to describe each of your relationships?"
--Question four:  "What were the various feelings you experienced while writing your answers to these questions?"

After I reviewed Luke’s answers with him, it was apparent that all three relationships were important to him and affected him positively prior to his trauma.

♦ #2 Relationships During the Trauma
Second, to help Luke realize how his trauma affected his relationships, we reviewed his relationships during the trauma.  For this part of the Relationship Inventory technique, Luke substituted his coworker Dan who visited him in the hospital several times for his girlfriend Liz.  Luke stated, "Dan and I were just acquaintances before, but now it seems like we’re pretty close.  He lost his mother in a car accident, so he sort of knows what I’m going through." 

I phrased questions regarding relationships during Luke’s trauma similar to those regarding his pre-trauma relationships.  I also asked, "How have relationships during your trauma influenced your recovery?" and "Would you have wanted John, Reggie or Dan to act differently?"  Luke stated, "John was pretty upset.  He came to the hospital all the time at first, but when the doctor said I’d never walk again, John became a ghost.  I wish he could have stuck by me like Dan and Reggie."  

♦ #3  Post-Trauma Relationships
In addition to pre-trauma relationships and relationships during the trauma, the third type of relationship I review in the Relationship Inventory technique are post-trauma relationships.  Once again, I asked Luke to describe his relationships in the months after his paralyzing accident with his brother John, his buddy Reggie, and his coworker Dan.  Luke did so with five adjectives for each relationship. 

I then reviewed additional questions regarding Luke’s relationships.  These questions  were structured to start reducing Luke’s feelings of loneliness.  Again, for the purpose of brevity I will only list four questions.  See if you can relate any of these questions to questions you have asked your grieving clients. 

4 Questions Structured to Reduce Luke’s Feelings of Loneliness
--Here is question one:  "Which aspects of your relationships are positive?"
--Question two:  "What is it about Dan and Reggie that makes you feel you can trust them?
--Question three:  "Which of your needs are being met?  Which needs are you meeting?
--Question four:  "If you had not been traumatized, how would your relationship with your coworker Dan be different today?"

After reviewing his answers to these questions, Luke stated, "I guess I need my friends in a different way than I did before.  It’s almost like the whole idea of friendship has changed for me.  I’m glad I don’t have to go through this alone."  Clearly, the new insights he gained helped Luke to identify helpful relationships in his life.  Are you treating a client like Luke whose needs have changed after trauma and could benefit from the Relationship Inventory technique?

In this section, we have discussed the Relationship Inventory technique.  The three types of relationships are pre-trauma relationships, relationships during the trauma, and post-trauma relationships. 

In the next section, we will discuss Feelings of Isolation.  In my practice I have found that there are four basic reasons grieving trauma survivors experience feelings of isolation.  These reasons for feelings of isolation are difficulty participating in social gatherings, perceived outcast status, blaming the victim, and the "Just World" philosophy.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Busch, F. (2015). Review of Restoring mentalizing in attachment relationships: Treating trauma with plain old therapy [Review of the book Restoring mentalizing in attachment relationships: Treating trauma with plain old therapy, by J. G. Allen]. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32(1), 216–220.

Delelis, G., & Christophe, V. (2018). Motives for social isolation following a negative emotional episode. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 77(3), 127–131.

Elmer, T., Geschwind, N., Peeters, F., Wichers, M., & Bringmann, L. (2020). Getting stuck in social isolation: Solitude inertia and depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. 

Ferrajão, P. C., & Elklit, A. (2020). The contributions of different types of trauma and world assumptions to predicting psychological distress. Traumatology, 26(1), 137–146. 

Heintzelman, A., Murdock, N. L., Krycak, R. C., & Seay, L. (2014). Recovery from infidelity: Differentiation of self, trauma, forgiveness, and posttraumatic growth among couples in continuing relationships. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 3(1), 13–29. 

Riggs, D. S. (2014). Traumatized relationships: Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, fear of intimacy, and marital adjustment in dual trauma couples. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(3), 201–206.

What are three types of relationships reviewed in the Relationship Inventory technique? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 3
Table of Contents