Experiencing a traumatic event is difficult and can have a lasting impact on your life. When you are working through this experience it is helpful to have a therapist by your side. A therapist will ensure that as you process what has happened to you, you are safe and secure. They will be able to support you while you reconcile the experience and find a way to move forward.
Finding the right trauma therapist will be an important step for your recovery from the traumatic event. If you have broken your leg you will go to a doctor to help you heal this injury. A traumatic event is an injury to the brain and your therapist is the one that will help you heal.
Everyone responds to traumatic events differently. Some can process the experience themselves and continue with day-to-day living without being affected. Others may find themselves struggling with day-to-day living. This is normal and without support can become something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a condition that occurs after a traumatic experience. A traumatic experience can be defined as an event that you believe you are in threat of death or severe injury. After such an event you may experience symptoms and if these symptoms persist for more than six months you can be diagnosed with PTSD.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD are:
Intrusive memories. These can occur when you are awake as thoughts or flashbacks, or when you are sleeping as nightmares.
Avoidance of people and places that remind you of the event and avoiding thinking about the event.
Negative cognition and emotion. Negative cognition and emotion refers to feeling hopeless, depressed, unable to feel at all, thinking negative thoughts about your life and circumstances.
Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities you usually enjoy.
Increased physical reactions. These reactions can be insomnia or hypersomnia, decrease in appetite, increased startle response, and even an increase in self-destructive behaviors.
These symptoms can vary in intensity, but they will affect your daily life. It is a good idea to reach out to a therapist, family, and friends to receive the support you need.
When you are deciding on a trauma informed therapist, it is helpful to have an idea about the types of counselling used to process trauma. There are a few different types of counselling that you could choose from.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the connection between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This therapy can help reframe negative cognitions and assist you in gaining perspective and feeling safe in your current situation.
CBT will offer a lot of education so that you understand what PTSD is and how the approach will assist you. Together with your therapist you will then look at the aspects of the trauma that are affecting you and allow you to regain a sense of control, safety, and control.
Art therapy offers the opportunity to express your emotions and experience through a somatic activity. This links your therapy to your body, where traumatic stress is often stored. Sometimes it is easier to engage without words before processing the experience verbally.
This process is not about making a pleasing piece of art, rather it is about allowing a free and abstract expression of your lived experience. This is contained by your therapist and together you will explore the art works to understand your pain, heal it, and regain your sense of self.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach that focuses on the traumatic memory itself. Using bilateral stimulation, either with eye movements or auditory input, a therapist will ask you to focus on the traumatic memory. The bilateral stimulation allows the memory to be reprocessed and stored.
This will mean that thinking about the event will not result in a triggered response as it had previously. EMDR is usually a short-term therapy, often needing approximately 6 to 12 sessions.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious thoughts and feelings that direct behavior and emotions. This approach will help you understand any links between the current trauma and unconscious patterns or events from childhood that might have made an impact on your ability to process the trauma.
You will explore your defense mechanisms that have been put in place to help you survive and understand what they are protecting you from. Psychodynamic therapy is usually longer in duration as it allows you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and rebuild your defenses so that you are no longer affected by the traumatic event.
Narrative therapy will look at creating a full story of the traumatic event for you to have a full story to understand and process. This story will be involved and include emotions, thoughts, physical sensations to the event. At the same time your therapist will help you construct a narrative of your life. This narrative allows you to see the traumatic event in perspective.
When you gain a sense of understanding and perspective you will also gain a sense of control and self-empowerment. This will help you move past the trauma associated symptoms.
When you embark on the journey of choosing your trauma informed therapy and therapist you may be unsure of where to start. You may decide to pick the approach that sounds the best to you. You can then set up an initial consultation with the therapist and decide if you could work with them and their approach.
If you feel like you cannot, it is not a problem, you simply try a different therapist. There is nothing wrong with ‘shopping around’ for the right therapist for you.
Taking this step is a big one and takes bravery, remember that you are doing this for yourself, and this will help you. You do not need to be held back by the trauma you have experienced.
We are here to help you at One Life Counselling and Coaching. Contact us to set up an appointment, we look forward to welcome you to your healing journey.