Thoughts on “Trauma Dumping”

Last week was the full moon, and if you believe in that kind of thing, that belief was probably reinforced.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One thing that happened is a therapist posted a reaction video on Tik Tok of “When a client wants to trauma dump in the first session,” captioned, “Not happening on my watch ever again.” The video went viral in a bad way, and the poster got to be the internet’s Main Character of the Day, a title that no one wants.

I shared some thoughts about this video on my Twitter, but I decided to also do a blog post about it after I heard that some therapists have had clients bring up the video and mention that it had been harmful for them to see it.

Trauma dumping” refers to sharing details of a trauma with someone who did not consent and is not prepared to hear them. An example of trauma dumping would be when I had my internet installed, and the tech saw I was a psychologist and proceeded to tell me all about how terrible his childhood was for an hour while I repeatedly tried to change the subject.

Someone who “trauma dumps” is not a bad person. They might not have another outlet, they might not realize that the information is over-sharing, or they might not understand that the sharing is harmful to the other person. They can learn healthy boundaries and do better in the future.

You cannot “trauma dump” in your own therapy session. By that I mean, it is not possible to over-share details with someone who is not prepared to hear them because your therapist is supposed to be prepared for this. If I am not in a place to receive someone else’s trauma, I am not in a place to be at work today.

To anyone who is in therapy, and saw that video, and is now wondering if they have harmed their therapist by sharing their trauma: please talk to your therapist about the impact this video had on you.

Some therapists mentioned that they prefer not to have clients share excessive trauma details in a first session. This is valid – when I did my training in TF-CBT, we were told that it is better to wait until you have worked on some regulation skills before digging into the trauma memories so that the client has something to fall back on if the memories bring up big feelings. In that case, it is the therapist’s responsibility to communicate this and set boundaries in the session.

Others (myself included) pointed out that a client sharing trauma details means that they felt safe to open up, which is kind of the point of coming to therapy.

Either way, it is not trauma dumping when it is your appointment.

Unfortunately, the poster of the video has since received attacks on her appearance, had her personal information shared, and gotten death threats. I hope I do not have to explain why all of these things are not okay. (And these issues are why I have not linked the video or any articles about the video in this post.)

Since people were harmed by the video, therapists have a responsibility to hold the poster accountable and to provide correct information to the public. Accountability is not shaming.

In conclusion:

  1. You cannot “trauma dump” in your own session. That’s what your therapist is there for.
  2. Please talk to your therapist if you saw the video and are worried you’ve somehow harmed them by “dumping” in one of your sessions.
  3. Accountability is important and is not the same thing as shaming.
  4. Don’t send people death threats. Seriously? I have to say this?

As Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Have a great week, everyone!

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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