What are the family therapy activities for trauma?

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This blogpost will answer the question “what are the family therapy activities for trauma?” it will be based on the strategies utilized for trauma during family therapy. It will include cognitive approaches for dealing with trauma in family therapy, behavioral approaches to deal with trauma in family therapy and play/art therapy techniques to deal with trauma in family therapy.


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The family therapy activities for trauma are based on :

  • Behavioral approaches to deal with trauma
  • Cognitive approaches to deal with trauma
  • play/art therapy activities to deal with trauma

The behavioral activities to deal with trauma in family therapy

The behavioral activities to deal with trauma in family therapy are:

  • Positive behavioral interventions for increased physical activity
  • Relaxation exercises to decrease anxiety and hyperarousal
  • Graduated activity tasking to reintegrate  well into life
  • Deep muscle relaxation exercises for better connecting with the self
  • Mindfulness training to utilize senses to remain present minded
  • Social skills training to minimize detachment and isolation and strengthen interpersonal skills among family members
  • Make a list of pleasurable activities and enjoy doing 2 to 3 of them daily
  • Talk with friends and obtain comfort from loved ones

Cognitive Activities for dealing with trauma in family therapy

The cognitive activities for dealing with trauma in family therapy involve:

  • Thought restructuring to minimize hyperarousal among the family members
  • Understanding the triggers that give rise to the flashback and changing the way triggers influence the individuals in family
  • Practicing safe place exercise to relax in times of anxiety or fear when coming in contact with anything or any memory related to trauma
  • Generalizing the traumatic experiences 
  • Decatastrophizing the negative emotional states that result due to flashbacks 
  • Understanding fear and anxiety related to the traumatic event as a result of viscous cycle
  • Maintaining a thought record to discuss and channelize thoughts more efficiently.
  • Using guided imagery techniques and meditation for deep relaxation
  • Using systematic desensitization to overcome the traumatic feelings
  • In-vivo mastery of the traumatic events to channelize your experiences about the traumatic events.
  • Eye movement desensitization technique to deal with traumatic experiences 

Research has investigated the cognitive therapies to be most efficient and effective in dealing with trauma in family therapy.  Studies have validated psychodynamic approaches, person centered therapy and supportive therapy to be less effective than cognitive therapy (Cottraux et al., 2008; Emmerik et al., 2008).

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing has been proven scientifically to be the best suited therapeutic intervention for trauma related family therapy. It aids individuals to heal from the emotional distress related to traumatic events most efficiently (Bisson et al., 2008).

Play/art therapy techniques for trauma in family therapy 

The play/art therapy techniques for trauma in family therapy are:

  • Coloring technique to relive the traumatic experience and address the feelings associated with the incident. This helps in catharsis of inbuilt feelings. Sharing the feelings with family members helps generalize the experience.
  • Exploring emotional baggage individually helps identify the suppressed feelings and unfinished businesses related to traumatic events among members of the family.
  •  Helium balloon technique can be used to resolve the unfinished businesses related to trauma and say goodbye to the open ended feelings.
  • Empty chair technique can be used to resolve the fear, anxiety and apprehension related to traumatic events. It can resolve the underlying conflicts related to traumatic experiences.
  • Dream manual can be used to record dreams related to traumatic events. Flashbacks related to traumatic events can be interpreted and analyzed for better healing from the trauma. 
  • Sand tray playing and drawing trauma related feelings in the sand helps healing from the trauma.
  • Using play dough activity, the members of the family can be made to draw the traumatic experience. it can be drawn into any object and then analyzed for the negative and positive association to the individual.
  • Candle wax and blue ink can be used to make a projection of feelings using guided imagery. The traumatic experience can be reimagined and projected onto the blank chart sheet with candle wax. The drawing can later be surfaced using a cotton dipped in blue ink. The therapist interprets the drawing and facilitates the members of the family register feelings associated with their individual experiences.

Play and art therapy techniques have been used for treating trauma in family therapies (Naff, 2014). During the use of art activities, the therapists attune themselves to the subjective levels of negative experiences and distress of individual family members (Gantt & Tinnin, 2009). 


The blogspot answered the question “what are the activities for trauma in family therapy?”. We learned different types of activities within the behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and play/art therapy that are utilized for dealing with trauma in family therapy. We also learned that research studies have empirically validated the techniques based on cognitive restructuring and eye movement desensitization techniques to be the most effective in dealing with trauma in family therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions


The therapy techniques used in family therapy are :
Structural therapy
Strategic therapy
Supportive therapy
Relationship therapy


Ask for support
Take your time
Know other members experience
Connect with other members
Seek family therapy if necessary


Trauma therapy is a form of therapy that deals with providing solutions to the problems of emotional anxiety and treating mental health consequences that result due to traumatic events. It aids people to get over the flashbacks, fear and anxieties related to life threatening experiences.


The recreation therapy is based on:
Physical functioning
Emotional functioning]
Social functioning
Cognitive functioning
Spiritual functioning

What are creative and therapeutic activities?

The creative and therapeutic activities are based on play/art and recreation. They include drawing, sketching, colouring, gardening, music, meditation, yoga, zumba, exercise,jogging, swimming, praying, massage and other creative techniques.


Bisson JI, Ehlers A, Matthews R, Pilling S, Richards D, Turner S. Psychological treatments for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2007;190:97–104.

Cottraux J, Note I, Yao SN, et al. Randomized controlled comparison of cognitive behavior therapy with Rogerian supportive therapy in chronic post-traumatic stress disorder: A 2-year follow-up. Psychother Psychosom. 2008;77(2):101–110.

Cohen, J. A., Mannarino, A. P., Berliner, L., & Deblinger, E. (2000). Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for children and adolescents: An empirical update. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15(11), 1202-1223.

Gantt, L., & Tinnin, L. W. (2009). Support for a neurobiological view of trauma with implications for art therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 36(3), 148-153.

Naff, K. (2014). A framework for treating cumulative trauma with art therapy. Art Therapy, 31(2), 79-86.

Van Emmerik AA, Kamphuis JH, Emmelkamp PM. Treating acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder with cognitive behavioral therapy or structured writing therapy: A randomized controlled trial. Psychother Psychosom. 2008;77(2):93–100.

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