Trauma and PTSD Counselling in Hamilton Central
“The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way we can grow is if we change. The only way we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we are exposed is if we throw ourselves into the open.”
– C. Joybell
Trauma is so much more than just a word that describes an enormous, obvious shock to the system. There are all sorts of ways we can be traumatized, and innumerable ways that this trauma can manifest. Generally speaking, we can define trauma as a reaction to any event that is overwhelming to some aspect of the psyche, and carries negative feeling as a result. That could mean things like abuse, an experience of war, or a serious accident – but it can also mean an experience of abandonment as a child, a moment of fearful realization, or a series of repeated unpleasant events that leave an indelible mark in a person’s character. Two people could be in a serious accident, and one of them could walk away traumatized, and the other cannot. It always depends on how you interpret the event.
That is the only measure. And there is beauty in that too. The problem with traumatic events is that they imprint a person with skewed negative ideas of the world, like forcing scratched sunglasses onto someone. So even when they leave the moment, they still can’t see properly. But these sunglasses are not just on the eyes – trauma is memory and idea and emotion that is stored in your cells, in the “back of the brain” we often say, in the places that we can’t access consciously.
Fortunately, advancements in neuroscience and modern therapies now give us very, very effective ways of helping your body and mind to unlock and process events which were never before accessible.
There are (very generally) two main types of trauma:
- Large ‘T’ Trauma
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (single event)
- Small ‘t’ Trauma
- Attachment or Developmental Trauma
- Ego threat/ life shocks
The first instance is much easier to notice and is usually much louder in its feelings. However, the small ‘t’ trauma is more insidious and thus far in psychotherapy, is typically overlooked.
Possible Symptoms of Trauma:
- Anxiety / Panic
- Physical health symptoms
- Emotional volatility / disregulation
- Shame/ guilt/ self-esteem issues
- Sleep dysfunction/ Nightmares
- Intrusive imagery
- Repetition of feeling/ experiences (flashbacks)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, that is only a partial list. Almost any psychological symptom could be rooted in trauma! In fact, it is a useful way to look at mental health to see ALL of our neuroses as symptoms from small or large forms of trauma. If a therapist does not have some way of dealing with trauma, then that therapist is severely limited in what they can treat, and how far they can go in a person’s healing.
The main therapies that deal with trauma are:
- EMDR (Eye-movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing)
Using bilateral stimulation of the brain, overwhelming and information stored during traumatic events can be accessed and re-organized by new neural systems in the conscious mind, thereby allowing previously abrasive psychological material to be healthily relegated to memory and its emotional content dispersed.
- CBT (Cognitive –Behavioural Therapy)
One of the most popular therapies used by counselors today, CBT looks at changing the way individuals think and how they react to these thoughts. With psychological trauma, CBT helps to process and evaluate thoughts and feelings about the trauma. This treatment is often paired with other physiological therapies such as Somatic Experiencing to ensure all elements of the trauma are addressed.
- Somatic Experiencing
This technique utilises the body’s unique ability to heal itself by focusing on bodily sensations as opposed to thoughts and memories. The therapy looks at what’s happening in the body by getting in touch with trauma-related tension. At this point, natural survival instincts take over and the participant releases pent-up energy by crying, shaking and other physical reactions.
Healing from trauma – whether the big or small ‘T’ – is very possible! And it is incredibly exciting to work with and watch transform. We all seem to have an inherent healing tendency in our selves, and in therapy, with patience, self-compassion, and courage, we can take your life in new directions that you may never have thought possible.