A trigger is anything (e.g., a sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or thought) associated with a past negative event that activates a memory, flashback or strong emotion. Because triggers are directly associated with a particular event or events, they are unique to each individual. That explains why different stimuli will trigger different people; and why a therapist can never remove or avoid every potential trigger in a practice setting.[1]

At the same time, common themes in triggers (see the list below) are apparent and therapists are encouraged to consider whether some of these potentially triggering situations can be anticipated. If a client is able to identify a trigger, the clinician and patient can problem-solve together to either avoid or minimize that trigger during future interactions.

Common Triggers

Sight

Sound

Smell

Touch

Taste


[1] Schachter, C.L., Stalker, C.A., Teram, E., Lasiuk, G.C., Danilkewich, A. (2009), Handbook on sensitive practice for health care practitioners: Lessons from adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/handbook-sensitivve-practices4healthcare.pdf