Effective Trauma Counselling
Has a trauma in your life left you with residual symptoms you just can't seem to shake? Talking to a Psychologist can really help.
What is Trauma, and how does it affect a person?
A 'traumatic event' is one which results in the destruction of trust.
For someone suffering after a trauma, one or several events has robbed them of their sense of safety in the world and their ability to deal with life and all its issues is impeded. Their trust in others is destroyed, and cruelly this also tends to erode trust in oneself. The challenge for those who have experienced one or more traumas is that speaking about the event triggers extreme levels of anxiety and distress. Often their common coping strategy has been to avoid any reference to the event (which is almost impossible to do). Many resort to alcholol or drugs to provide temporary relief from their constant, highly anxious state.
Traumatised individuals are characterised by their constant attempts to control almost all aspects of life and isolate themselves from others.
What does a Psychologist do in Trauma Counselling?
Trauma counselling involves the following positive steps and processes:
Simple, clear, and repeated information about the nature of trauma, and how the day to day experience of the traumatised individual is a logical consequence of what has happened to them.
This information often involves some simple education of how our brain reacts to trauma and the state of hyperarousal (being on one's guard all the time) this creates.
Strategies are then used to restore a sense of safety to the person through body work (breath work, grounding exercises, Mindfulness)
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is also used to identify how the trauma has affected their thinking (e.g. - 'I always need to be on alert') and how these thoughts add to their high levels of distress and anxiety.
Exposure Therapy is also used to 'expose' the individual to the thing, the event, the memory that caused the trauma. This exposure is only commenced when there is a level of trust established with the therapist, and the client has developed some skills (helped by the counselling sessions) in self-calming. The exposure is then introduced in a gradual manner, with less stressful events, thoughts and memories worked on initially as the client builds confidence in their ability to tolerate high levels of stress to arrive at a place of increased safety.
Do you suffer lingering trauma, and want to seek help? Call or book an appointment for trauma counselling today, or get to know more about Brisbane Psychologist Dr. Clive Williams.
Trauma Counselling Case Study*
Ben was assaulted at work. After some time off, he returned though found himself highly anxious, even though the person who assaulted him no longer worked there. He was now almost always anxious, had difficulty sleeping and according to his wife was a ‘different person’. He became highly controlling within the home and extremely angry when his wife or children were too loud or did things which he did not like. He stopped helping with the weekly shop and then refused altogether to go to work. He further refused to be involved in social activities with friends or family. His drinking increased and most nights Ben fell asleep watching television only to go to bed and stay awake. Ben’s anger was further provoked when the medication he was given did little to help. Initially he refused therapy stating that “talking about it wasn't going to change a thing!”
As time progressed Ben became estranged from his family and only when his wife asked him to leave did he attend counselling for trauma.
Initially, Ben’s hostility was also directed at the trauma therapist and Ben repeatedly challenged the benefit of “talking about himself” as a waste of time. As he and the counsellor then focused on his marriage, over time, Ben was able to see that his behaviour at home would be difficult for anyone to tolerate.
As Ben learned more about PTSD, he could see he had become hypervigilant, constantly on guard for any perceived danger. He began to realise that his attempts to avoid any reminders of the assault had turned into trying to avoid any potentially stressful situation. Still with some trepidation, he began Exposure Therapy. Though the sessions were confronting, the repeated talking about the assault allowed him to process the effect it had had on him. He began to process the emotions that had also followed the assault which previously he had also avoided. In short Ben learned that avoiding memories of the assault had kept him stuck in fear. Through exposure, he learnt to have greater control over these memories and emotions rather then they having control over him and his life.
* Case studies are based on common characteristics of many client examples. They do not refer to any one particular person. Any resemblance to actual persons is completely coincidental.
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