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The Impact of Trauma on Mental Health: Insights from a BCBA Perspective

By Ms Stacie Dertinger, MDS. Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA)

Every individual experiences life events differently, but for some, certain incidents can leave long-lasting scars. These scars, both emotional and psychological, are referred to as trauma. As a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), understanding trauma and its implications is crucial for devising effective therapeutic interventions.

The Psychological Footprint of Trauma

Trauma can be a result of a single distressing event or a series of events. Regardless of its origin, trauma disrupts the normal functioning of an individual, manifesting in various ways such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions.

From a behavioural standpoint, those who experience trauma might exhibit behaviours like avoidance, heightened emotional reactions, or even aggressive outbursts. Understanding the root cause – the traumatic experience – helps in interpreting these behaviours not as isolated incidents but as a reaction to an underlying issue.

Evidence-Based Trauma Therapy

Given the profound impact of trauma on an individual's mental health and well-being, it's paramount to have therapeutic interventions that are both compassionate and scientifically validated. Our trauma-based therapy programs lean heavily into evidence-based interventions to ensure efficacy.

These interventions can include:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): A staple in many therapeutic settings, CBT focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviours, proving highly effective for trauma survivors.

  2. Exposure Therapy: This is particularly beneficial for individuals with PTSD. By gradually and safely exposing them to the traumatic memory, the aim is to reduce the power and emotional charge of the memory.

  3. Behavioural Activation: This strategy is useful in combatting the avoidance behaviours that trauma survivors often exhibit. By gradually introducing and reinforcing positive behaviours, individuals can reclaim control over their lives.

BCBA's Role in Trauma Therapy

As a BCBA, our approach to trauma is rooted in understanding the antecedents (events preceding a behaviour) and the consequences (results following the behaviour). This ABC (Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequence) model allows us to craft individualized strategies for trauma survivors, focusing on replacing maladaptive behaviors with positive ones.

Furthermore, continuous data collection and analysis provide tangible evidence of progress, ensuring that interventions remain relevant and effective.


Trauma leaves an indelible mark on the psyche. Yet, with compassion, understanding, and evidence-based interventions, individuals can find a path to healing and well-being. As BCBAs, our commitment is to support and guide trauma survivors through this journey, one behavioural step at a time.

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