CPTSD Recovery Process
  • Healing is a nonlinear process - healing does not run a straight path.  Think about hiking or climbing a mountain- when climbing, there may be times that you cannot continue forward due to obstacles and must move horizontally to find a better path, and at times you may need to back-track down a few feet to find that better path.  Taking these steps backwards or moving sideways instead of forward does not equal “no progress” but is instead part of the progress.
  • Healing is a process not a destination – survivors often ask questions like “when will I be better?” or “how long will it take to heal?” or “how will I know when I am healed?”  The trauma never vanishes, but its effects can diminish.  You will always remember what happened, but the intensity of it will fade, similar to a cut becoming a scar and a scar fading over time. 

Assessing Your Recovery from Complex PTSD

Recovery is a process!  It is not black-and-white or all-or-nothing.   You may find yourself healing and progressing in some areas while continuing to struggle in others.  You may have good days and bad days.  This is a general way to assess your recovery progress.

When considering the below feelings/behavior, think in terms of “more often than not” rather than always or never.

Free Zone

Early Stage                                                                                  Late Stage

  • Able to openly talk about past pain with a loved one/trusted friend
  •  Word and actions are more consistent
  • Able to hold on to close relationships
  •  You know what you want from life
  • Able to hold steady employment
  • You can love another without fear
  • Able to tolerate stress without resorting to addictive/avoidant activities
  • Able to laugh about the past
  • Comfortable being affectionate toward a loved one
  • You feel optimistic about the future and you are more at peace with the past


Recovery Zone

                Early Stage                                                                                         Late Stage

  • Able to write about your pain
  • Able to tolerate feedback/constructive criticism without anger
  • Able to cut short temper outbursts
  • Able to show others appreciation for help given
  • Able to cut back addictive behaviors
  • Willing to follow the advice of a mentor
  • Able to slow your thoughts when they are accelerated due to stress
  • Able to accept the help of a therapist
  • Able to accept your deficits without anger
  • The defensive “wall” is down more than up


Trauma Zone

  • Addictive activities used (drugs, sex, cutting, etc.)
  • Moods change a lot and you often feel bad
  • Poor control over your temper
  • Stormy relationships
  • Bouts of depression
  • You feel as if you can’t trust anyone
  • Suicidal thinking or suicidal actions
  • You feel as if you don’t know who you are
  • Angry, rebellious, inconsistent
  • Racing thoughts, impulsive actions

  Adapted from The Angry Heart by Santoro & Cohen