shock,developmental trauma, and
developmental stress are breakthrough
concepts in the fields of mental health, pre- and perinatal psychology,
developmental psychology, traumatology and complementary medicine. Because
shock, trauma and stress states disrupt human development, we describe them as developmental
shock, developmental trauma and
Unfortunately, these terms are used almost interchangeably
in the literature. Our research revealed, however, that they each have unique behavioral
characteristics, involve different parts of the brain, activate different parts
of the autonomic nervous system and have very different orientations to time.
Most importantly, they require very different kinds of treatment interventions.
In order to differentiate between these, we created
ourTrauma Continuum, a taxonomy that differentiates
between these terms and also identifies the appropriate kinds of treatment for each.
Click here to view ourTrauma Continuum.
the groundbreaking work done in this area by William Emerson, Stephanie Mines
and Babette Rothschild. Emerson (1996, p.125 142),[i]
a pioneer in pre- and perinatal psychology, was one of the first to
differentiate between shock and trauma. Dr. Emerson also identified two causes
of shockthose of commission (an event in which something tangible happened)
and those of omission (something that should have happened but didnt).
Shock can be
single incident event such as an abortion attempt, an epidural procedure, long
labors in which a child is caught in the birth canal, a c-section or being
circumcised. It also can involve multiple obvious experiences involving
neglect, indifference and a lack of touch or comfort. Shock, like developmental
trauma, prevents the full development of the mammalian brain and makes it
difficult for a person to experience healthy love and compassion and can lead
to a lifetime of unhealthy, unsatisfying relationships and self-defeating
training and collaboration with William Emerson and the Association for Pre-
and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH) provided foundational experiences
for writing her book, We Are All in Shock: How Overwhelming Experiences
Shatter You and What You Can Do About It (2003). This innovative book helped us immensely in
organizing the shock component our trauma continuum. Much of our synthesis on
how to recognize and treat shock comes from these two sources.
specialist in body psychotherapy, has written several books that focus on the
appropriate interventions to use in treat shock.
She also provides training in Somatic Trauma Therapy through her center in
For more complete descriptions of these three terms, seeDevelopmental Shock, Developmental Trauma and Developmental Stress.
In Part IV of our book,Healing Developmental Trauma: A Systems Approach for
Counseling Individuals, Couples and Families,
we discuss effective interventions for treating developmental shock, trauma and