How Understanding Epigenetics and Generational Trauma Can Inform Therapy

Epigenetics is the study of how genes might be impacted by people’s experiences and be passed down to future generations. Ongoing research suggests that trauma can impact the genes of future generations.


For instance, a 2019 study examined how psychological interventions that are customized to meet a client’s needs could improve epigenetic processes in the future. The author suggested that changing from competitive motivational systems to caring motivational systems with compassion-focused therapy might target diverse gene processes to benefit future generations.


A 2021 study focused on the potential impact of systemic racism on future generations at their gene levels. Although the author focused on the struggles of African Americans, she stated that racism-associated epigenetic marks might apply to any racially oppressed group.


Discover how understanding epigenetics and generational trauma can inform therapy.


Epigenetic Changes Can Impact Mental Health Risks

A person’s environment and behaviors can impact gene expression. These variables include nutrition, exercise, exposure to chemicals, smoking, stress, and adversity. As a result, the person’s gene expression affects development and disease. Therefore, the person can become more susceptible to mental health concerns.


Understanding a person’s environment and behaviors can influence treatment planning for mental health care. For instance, providers can work with patients and other healthcare team members to create a holistic care plan that addresses mind, body, and spirit along with past trauma. Collaboration from professionals in different disciplines in a patient’s treatment planning for mental health care helps ensure the plan is effective, minimizes negative behaviors and environments, and emphasizes positive behaviors and environments.


Epigenetic Changes Might Be Reversible

Because epigenetic changes do not alter the underlying DNA sequence, some changes might be reversible. Therefore, stopping the negative behaviors or removing the patient from the negative environment can reverse the effects. This intervention can lead to improved outcomes.


For instance, eating healthy foods, exercising daily, and engaging in mindfulness, meditation, or other stress-reduction activities can be beneficial. Also, medication might work in tandem with any of these methods.


The patient must actively participate in the treatment planning process for optimal success. Because time and discipline are needed to make lifestyle and behavioral changes, the patient must work closely with their providers to implement changes that meet their needs.


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