R is for Babette Rothschild’s Superb Work Providing Safe Trauma Therapy

Babette has helped many people to deal with traumas. Her work combines kindness, wisdom and practical tools.

She believes that safe trauma therapy aims to improve a client’s quality of life. You can discover more about her work via the following link.


Writing in her book Trauma Essentials, Babette describes ten principles she believes are essential for safe trauma therapy.

Below is a summary of these principles. She outlines these in the introduction to the book and explains each in depth in the subsequent chapters.

In the following sections the direct quotes from Babette are written in italics. The other text is my own.

Trauma Essentials

1. First and foremost: Establish safety for the client within and outside the therapy.

It is vital to create a safe atmosphere in which the client can explore challenges at their own speed. If possible, provide the person with tools or techniques they can use to calm themselves and take control when provoked by traumatic memories.

Babette outlines Pierre Janet’s three-stage approach to trauma therapy. The aim is to provide stabilisation and safety before working with difficult memories.

2. Develop good contact between therapist and client as a prerequisite to addressing traumatic memories or applying any techniques – even if that takes months or years.

Carl Rogers, a founding father of modern counselling, described the importance of creating a safe atmosphere in which the client is able to feel safe.

Babette underlines this approach. The client needs to feel at ease and able to proceed at their own pace.

Trauma Essential

3. Client and therapist must be confident in applying the brakes before they use the accelerator.

Applying the brakes has become Babette’s slogan for working with trauma slowly.

The client should learn how to apply the brakes to stop the process or take control of flashbacks or other symptoms. They will then feel more confident in being able to proceed with the therapy.

4. Identify and build on the client’s internal and external resources.

Babette underlines the importance of building on the client’s strengths. She describes this in the following way.

When the focus is on trauma, it is easy to forget the accompanying mechanisms that have helped people to survive and carry on, even when they have PTSD.

Resources of both the past and the present are important allies; they mediate the negative effects of trauma. Resources are partners that make survival and life after trauma possible.

Wise therapists will listen as carefully for coping mechanisms as they do for possible trauma.

It is vital to help a client to build on their resources. This will make it easier to proceed with the trauma therapy

5. Regard defences as resources. Never get rid of coping strategies or defences; instead, create more choices.

Babette explains this in the following way.

By definition, defence mechanisms are coping strategies. They enable us to deal with adversity. They are like old, dependable friends who help us to get though the hard times.

When they cause us trouble is when they are our only options for dealing with distress.

The coping strategies a person develops sometimes fall into one of two categories.

a) They help themselves or other people.

b) They hurt themselves or other people.

The therapist can help a person to expand their repertoire of options for dealing with difficulties. This gives them more choices and freedom to shape their futures.

6. View the trauma system as a pressure cooker. Always work to reduce – never to increase – the pressure.

The therapist can provide tools the person can use to reduce this pressure. Some pressures result from blaming themselves or not knowing what is actually happening on the physical and psychological levels.

In the video below Babette explains how to help a person undo the effects of self-blame and understand what really happens to the brain and body under the impact of trauma.

This comes from a series of interviews based on her book 8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery. You can discover more about these via the following link.


7. Adapt the therapy to the client, rather than expect the client to adapt to the therapy. This requires that the therapist be familiar with several theory and treatment models.

Good therapists will provide lots of options and help the client to build on what works for them. The client will then feel more able to shape the future in their own way.

8. Have a broad knowledge of theory – both psychology and physiology – of trauma and PTSD. This reduces errors and allows the therapist to create techniques tailored to a particular client’s needs.

9. Regard and respect the client’s individual differences. Never expect one intervention to have the same result with two clients.

10. The therapist must be prepared to at times – or even for the whole course of therapy – to put any and aside all theories and just talk with the client.

Sometimes it is helpful to just sit and talk. Simply speaking person to person can benefit the client and provide a platform for future work. Never underestimate the power of simple human contact.

Let’s conclude with a somewhat controversial view, but it is one that has helped many people.

Babette says there is a prevailing belief in the trauma recovery world that all traumas need to be resolved by the memories being processed. This may be a useful approach for some people, but this is not always the case.

At lectures Babette asks people:

How many of you have had a trauma in your history that you have not worked on but nonetheless function fairly well in spite of?

Normally two thirds of the people raise their hands.

In the video below she explains that some people can progress in their recovery without being obliged to relieve painful memories. They can be helped to move forward in other ways.

Babette continues to do superb work with safe trauma therapy. She provides many practical tools that people can use to enrich the quality of their lives. You can read more about her approach via the following link.


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