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Does Trauma Counselling Work?

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Trauma comes in many forms. One way to think of it is as the lasting physical, emotional and psychological effects to traumatic experiences. These experiences may involve a threat to your life or safety, but trauma can also come from any stressful or fear evoking situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed, frightened, or helpless. It isn’t the specific situation that predicts whether an experience will be traumatic for us or not, but rather our subjective emotional experience of the situation or event. In fact, the same outer experience can lead to trauma for one individual and not another. Or, that same event can result in trauma for both individuals who then have two very different trauma responses. It is for this reason that psychologists and researchers have developed many different approaches to supporting and treating individuals with trauma.

When we find ourselves in situations that are likely to cause pain or be a threat to us, our biological response is often one of Fight, Flight or Freeze. Let’s say you are walking home from work late one evening and decide to cut through a dark alley. A stranger grabs you from behind. In that moment, you can fight back - perhaps you know martial arts and are able to overpower the stranger, hold them down, and put yourself in the position of control. You may flee the situation - you were a 400m sprint athlete in college and run away from the dangerous situation OR in the moment your mind may flee or disassociate such that moments later you don’t have any recollection of what the stranger did or did not do to you. Or you might freeze - your body unable to move and defenseless against the stranger. In one situation, you might fight, while another you might flee or freeze. If your response is one where you feel helpless, the fear and stress experienced can become imprinted within you and can cause on-going challenges and pain throughout your life.

What is trauma counselling?

In trauma counselling, the focus is often on helping people to connect their mind-body to free up the energy which was imprinted and stuck within them - to find a way to release it. Some people find physical activities like yoga helpful in learning to reconnect to their felt-sense experiences which may have been numbed, while others find it helpful to work with a psychologist or psychotherapist who is specially trained in therapy approaches to work with trauma.

A trauma informed therapist is someone that knows the science behind how trauma operates and who utilizes safe and secure practices to help a person work through their trauma. Some approaches work on retraining our brain to let go of the past, others focus on putting the pieces together to have a narrative of the experience, while others yet have the client directly confront their fears. Finding the right approach for you often involves experimenting with more than one approach so it can be helpful to work with a psychologist or psychotherapist who is trained in a number of different approaches.

How trauma counselling can help you?

Evidence-based trauma counselling in Calgary is a great option to help heal your old wounds and symptoms that get in the way of your present day life.

Trauma counselling has been shown to relieve the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Body pain
  • Fear responses
  • Mood swings

What does trauma counselling involve?

Once you have determined who will be a good fit to work with as your trauma therapist in Calgary, you will begin the process of mapping out what counselling for trauma will look like.

Your trauma counselling therapist in Calgary will want to make sure that the following is foundationally set up for you.

  • You feel safe to do therapy and work on your trauma symptoms
  • You understand that you are leading the process and going at your pace
  • You understand the type of therapy being used and what it entails

How do I know if I have trauma or should seek post-trauma counselling?

It is likely all of us will experience events in our lifespan that evoke strong emotional or physical responses. For many of these people, these emotions and feelings lessen as time passes. This is not the case for many other people who will continue to feel the pain and symptoms without any dissipation - this is an indication of trauma. People experiencing trauma can feel ashamed, have suicidal thoughts, feel emotionally numb, be quick to anger, experience obsessive thinking, have panic attacks, and more. In many ways, you may no longer feel like yourself or in control of yourself.

Here is a checklist of symptoms that may indicate trauma:

Mind:

  • Nightmares
  • Disassociation (Being somewhere else in your mind)
  • Confusion
  • Repeated thoughts/images of event
  • Loss of memory and concentration abilities

Actions:

  • Not leaving the house
  • Favorite things to do become not enjoyable
  • Avoiding doing what resembles the event that caused the trauma
  • Our reactions to people who remind us of that person
  • Isolating yourself

Body:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anger outbursts
  • Mood swings within
  • Not sleeping
  • On guard in our body
  • Pain in body
  • Easily triggered
  • Hyper aroused (anxiety)

What are some of the different types of therapy approaches for trauma counselling in Calgary?

Here are a few trauma specialties you can ask if your therapist is trained in or look for when selecting a psychologist or psychotherapist.

Author: Ken Fierheller, Registered Psychotherapist

Tracy Miles
Well written Ken. I love that you gave resources and options. I enjoyed the mind body connection you refer to throughout this post. Thank you

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