Trauma Bonding: What It Is and How Therapy Can Help Break the Cycle

Trauma bonding, or Stockholm Syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon where an individual develops a close, emotional connection with their abuser. This dynamic is reinforced by emotional dependency and manipulation, leading individuals to feel attached to and controlled by their tormentors. It is prevalent in children due to their vulnerability. Due to the complexity of its intricate nature, it is crucial to identify the signs of trauma bonding so you can address it in your child.

Signs & characteristics of trauma bonding

Persons may isolate themselves from others as they become dependent on their abuser. As a parent, you may notice that your child may isolate themselves from other peers. Victims may feel conflicted, struggling to reconcile the abuser’s harmful actions with their feelings of attachment. This roller coaster of emotions can be intense. Victims may fear retaliation from the abuser or think they cannot escape and stay attached to the abuser. Common sources of childhood trauma include bullying, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, loss of loved ones, experiencing or witnessing violence, accidents or medical trauma. A victim of trauma is so worried about upsetting the abuser that they do everything to try to please them. Their self-esteem diminishes, and as a result, trauma bonding increases as the fear of leaving the relationship grows. It also impacts future relationships as they find it difficult to trust others.

Role of Therapy in Breaking Trauma Bonds

Therapy creates a safe and secure space for victims to open up and share their thoughts, emotions and complex behaviours. Therapists foster trust and nonjudgmental support by inviting victims to share their past experiences and traumatic events. Therapists provide insight into their experiences and strategies for coping and implementing them in their daily life.

Therapeutic Approaches to Breaking the Cycle of Trauma Bonding

When children experience a traumatic event, the memory can stay stuck as they cannot process it in their minds or body. They are not able to verbalize the traumatic experience like an adult would.
  • Helps children process their distressing emotions, thoughts/beliefs, and body sensations, to achieve healthier coping and well-being.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Helps children learn skills to help them process the trauma, manage distressing thoughts and feelings, and promote healthier behaviours.
  • Introduces emotion regulation techniques to children and mindfulness practices to cultivate self-compassion.

Play, Art and Sand Tray Therapy

  • Therapeutic approaches that help children express their uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and memories through play, art and scenes that reflect aspects of their inner and outer world.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

  • Helps children change the scary parts of their traumatic memories, making them less intense. It allows children to process traumatic memories and reduce distressing physical and emotional reactions.

Somatic Experiencing

  • Focuses on the body’s natural ability to heal from trauma. This gentle, body-focused approach tunes into your child’s physical responses, like tension or sensations, and regulates their emotions.

It’s tough to see your child hurting. Trauma can make them feel as if they’re stuck in a dark place with no apparent way out. They might feel anxious and scared and struggle with everyday tasks.

At J. Gordon Psychology Group, we believe therapy is part of living a healthy life; you don’t have to be in crisis or facing an emergency to seek support. Our practice is built on long-term connections, and we walk with you as you navigate your life’s different phases and challenges.

We provide strengths-based, compassionate, collaborative, evidence-based, and relationship-focused therapy.

Healing is possible, and we’re here to help navigate the path to recovery.

Get the support your child needs.