Can you get past your past? Can trauma therapy help? Good questions. We have heard that question more than once. Whether it is being haunted by memories that you can’t keep down or over-reactions to situations that you know shouldn’t be threatening. Trauma’s effects show up in some different ways. Very often trauma’s effects shows up in our closest relationships with mistrust, tensions, second-guessing and sometimes failed relationships.
We offer a safe, comfortable space with a trustworthy therapist where you can explore your past, and make life and relationships feel safer and more secure.
Is This Trauma I’m Experiencing?
These days most people are familiar with the terms ‘trauma’ and ‘abuse’ and PTSD. They are terms that are in the media. Some of the signs of trauma are also familiar. Some are less familiar and less obvious. Anger and irritability, depressiveness, social withdrawal, and anxiety for no apparent reason are some of the common signs of trauma. Also fear that doesn’t have a clear, rational basis can indicate trauma.
Trauma may seem like a ‘heavy’ term reserved for really big, dramatic experiences like rape, combat and natural disasters. Fortunately, research has advanced our understanding at a neurological level what is happening in the mind of a traumatized person. What we now know from that research is that trauma can happen from relatively mundane and common experiences. The best current understanding is that the critical factor is that the person fears for their safety to such an extend that the person’s primitive animal defence mechanism are activated (i.e. fight, flight, freeze, or collapse). An unexpected passing of a loved one, or childhood emotional neglect can be perceived as a life-threatening situation. These are some examples of life events that are not uncommon, but can have a traumatizing impact of a person.
Trauma Therapy can Help you Get Past Your Past
The therapists at Russell & Associates are trained professionals and most have advanced training in trauma therapy. From advances in research in the past 10-20 years, we have a much better understanding of how to treat and bring about relief and possibly full resolution of trauma symptoms. For example;
- We know that a person who has suffered trauma can not simply ‘get over it’. Their mind and body is stuck in a loop of thinking, feeling and reacting they can’t get out of by ‘trying harder’.
- We know that the looping the mind and body is doing is a nervous system attempt to heal itself by completing an experience – except that the completing never happen successfully.
- We know that anxiety always accompanies trauma; and depression very often accompanies trauma too.
- We know that trauma symptoms can be caused by a traumatic event (acute trauma); a traumatic pattern in early life (developmental trauma); or by a traumatic event very early in life, before the person has developed language, and so particularly in this latter case the trauma is stored in the body and emotions, but not in words.
- We know that trauma typically has to be treated with talk therapy. But talk therapy usually isn’t enough. Therapies that target and heal the body and the emotions are required for full healing and recovery. The best trauma therapy combines talk therapy with approaches that address the physical aspect of trauma.
- We know that trauma is about an experience that was profoundly unsafe. That profoundly unsafe feeling carries on long after the traumatic event has ended. And so trauma treatment must first create a felt sense of safety in the therapy office. That is the therapist first task.
We understand these aspects of trauma and its treatment. Trauma requires a competent therapist to accurately tease out these issues so that the person receives the best treatment. Effective treatments for trauma exists, but it is very important that you work with a therapist who is astute and up to date on treatment options. The competent clinician who treats a traumatized client needs to have a general perspective on how trauma undermines a person’s basic assumptions about how the world and their own life operate in order to help a person re-establish a coherent perspective. It is also important to take into account the unique cultural perspective of an individual.
Your therapist at Russell & Associates will listen carefully, identify what requires treatment and will work with you to resolve the symptoms as efficiently and gently as possible.
Where Does Trauma Come From?
We understand there are different forms and causes of trauma. here is a broad outline.
Acute trauma is the ‘normal’ kind of trauma that comes to mind when we hear the term. A dramatic event that the person didn’t see coming rocked their world and left them shocked and reeling. The event might be a motor vehicle accident, sexual assault, robbery or some other form of criminal violence. Treatment of this kind of trauma is may be relatively brief and efficient since the trauma is constrained to an event or a small period of time.
In contrast to acute trauma that is discrete and contained in terms of when it happened, developmental trauma occurred as a pattern of behavior and interactions over a long period of time in childhood. These patterns aren’t abusive in the way we normally think of that term, but they are still damaging. For example, a parent who is not able to reliably regulate their own anxiety may unintentionally communicate to their child a) that the world is not a safe place, b) being a grown up is a scary thing, and c) that it is the child’s role and responsibility to regulate the parent’s emotions. These kinds of dynamics can create trauma effects in the child, since the child – using child’s logic will feel in grave danger because the adult isn’t reliable. This may show up in adulthood as a distrust of others and apprehension toward ‘being adult’ and an over-developed sense of responsibility for other’s feelings. Not the recipe for a full and abundant life. This creates a few challenges for trauma treatment. The individual may not immediately recognize that the behaviors and interactions were dysfunctional, because the person wouldn’t know anything different.
Childhood abuse can take a variety of forms: some obvious and some more subtle. Obvious abuse like physical violence and sexual exploitation need no explanation. Other forms of childhood abuse such as verbal violence, emotional manipulation and emotional neglect can be equally damaging, but more difficult to recover from since the wounds aren’t apparent.
Vicarious or Secondary Trauma
Vicarious or secondary trauma is equally potent but much less understood and accepted than the kinds of trauma described above. Police officers, firefighters, other emergency responders as well as counsellors and social workers witness and hear stories of traumatic events that have happened to others. But witnessing and hearing about can have the same effect as experiencing it oneself.
The symptoms can be similar, including hyper-arousal, numbing out, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts and collateral effects including substance abuse. What makes vicarious trauma more difficult to deal with is that the helper may have difficulty accepting that witnessing can have a traumatizing effect since they were doing their job helping others.
Since one’s spirituality is so central to who we are as people when one’s spirituality is exploited and hijacked for someone else’s advantage, the effects can be particularly damaging. This makes spiritual abuse is a special case of the abuse of power, and particularly difficult to recover from. The therapist’s at Russell & Associates can bring a reasoned perspective and an empathetic response to this kind of abuse and facilitate the recovery and healing from spiritual abuse.
How We Can Help With Trauma Therapy
Looking for therapists with the advanced skills in treating trauma? Looking for a therapist with training in EMDR?
In Winnipeg contact: