Psychological trauma can be seen as any experience that radically overwhelms our capacity to cope. If this has happened to you, you may be well be struggling to imagine that you’ll ever get back on your feet. You can be reassured, however, that a way forward can almost always be found. I work with clients who have been through many different forms of trauma, including:
- Childhood abuse
- Military combat
- Sexual violence
- Serious accident
- Civil unrest
- Armed robbery
- Traumatic bereavement
- Critical incidents
Some of my clients come with a formal diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but many do not. While diagnostic categories can be helpful, my focus is on what happened to you and how we can help you recover.
I am trained in a variety of specialist treatment models, all of which address aspects of the traumatic experience. We may not use all of them our work together, but they are at our disposal. See below for a simple explanation of trauma and some more information on how I work. Again, I can explain all of this more fully when we meet so that you can make an informed choice and we can decide together how many sessions would be most helpful.
What is trauma?
Psychological trauma takes many forms. It can arise from intense and devastating experiences, such as bomb attacks, armed conflict, kidnapping, sexual assault, road traffic accidents or the unexpected death of a loved one. It is also triggered by the cumulative impact of more chronic adversity, such as domestic abuse, workplace bullying, or parental neglect. For those who work in professions such as medicine, aid work or journalism, repeated exposure to other people’s trauma can lead to almost identical symptoms. It is important to remember that people can also be traumatized by something terrible happening to a loved one.
However trauma is encountered, it is an experience in the outside world for which people have no internal map. Amidst the chaos, however, survivors tend to report common experiences. They will often feel as if a particular experience is happening again and again. This can take the form of flashbacks during the day or nightmares at night. It is common to feel a sense of constant threat, which leaves people feeling emotionally anxious and physically drained. At the same time, they talk about feeling numb and disconnected in an attempt to protect themselves from what they’ve been through. Traumatic experience manages to be both something people cannot hold in mind as well as something they cannot stop thinking about. This traps them between states of overpowering feeling and blank states of no feeling at all.
If all of that wasn’t enough, survivors often feel guilty for what has happened, or are unable to shift the blame from someone else. Other common reactions include difficulties with concentration, sudden mood swings or the overwhelming sense that nothing is real or meaningful. One writer has described it quite simply and movingly as the persistent feeling of being “afraid and alone”.
Although it may be hard to believe, there is life beyond trauma. Things may never be quite the same again, but it is possible with time and care to move through the overwhelming and unspeakable feelings to a place of re-connection. Indeed many survivors report significant personal growth during the recovery process alongside the grief and distress.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
The client is asked to follow the therapists’ fingers with their eyes, whilst recalling the traumatic event. This may sound unorthodox, but it is believed that this helps the brain process and store away otherwise unmanageable experience. Before eye movements are used, however, we work together to equip you with the resources and strategies to help you feel more stable. There is now a substantial evidence base proving EMDR’s effectiveness and it is one of the core trauma treatments recommended by NICE and offered in the NHS.
Psychodynamic trauma therapy
A psychodynamic approach is extremely useful in helping articulate not just what has happened, but to identify what that experience means to you. Traumatic events tend to stir up our deepest fears and anxieties, which can knock out our capacity to make sense of thoughts and feelings. Once the underlying anxiety has been understood and worked through, a sense of balance, self-awareness and healthy functioning can be restored.
Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM)
This simple but effective biological intervention works by identifying the debilitating symptoms of trauma that get stored in the body’s nervous system. These can then be processed and discharged in a way that frees you from stuck, repetitive responses. Some people find working with the body is a powerful complement to talking through their experience.
Trauma Risk Management (TRiM)
This protocol developed by the UK Armed Forces is very useful in helping assess your responses to what has happened and identify potential problem areas.