Counselling for Psychological Trauma
Psychological trauma may be thought of as a particular kind of crisis. As with all crises, the reaction to the triggering event is a very individual thing. While there are some events that practically anyone would find traumatic, such as being involved in a natural disaster, serious road traffic accident, or terrorist atrocity, other events may be experienced as stressful by some but traumatic by others. Trauma results from a degree of stress that overwhelms the person’s ability to process it at the time. People’s resilience or vulnerability to experiencing something as traumatic differs widely and the support a traumatised person receives after the event is a significant factor in how well they are able to deal with it and recover from what they’ve experienced.
A person who has just suffered a traumatic event may feel like they are in crisis and need help to regain a sense of stability and safety. Where there is a history of repeated trauma or abuse, the person’s baseline anxiety levels may be high so that it doesn’t take much extra stress to tip them over a threshold into crisis. Secondary trauma can also overwhelm a person’s normal adaptive coping mechanisms. This is where you have not experienced the traumatic event yourself, but have had contact with it as a friend or relative of the primary victim, or as a witness or helper for them. Sometimes, a traumatic reaction can develop just through feeling an emotional connection with a traumatic event – the feeling that “that could have been me.” This can even happen by connecting with the incident and those affected through the television, radio and newspapers.
Symptoms Characteristic of a Trauma Reaction
The main symptoms are intrusions, avoidance of reminders of the event(s), distress on contact with reminders, hypervigilance, and disturbances in cognition and mood. These are described in more detail on the EMDR page.
My approach to counselling . . .
- Short-term or longer
- Focused on the presenting issues and the client’s goals
- Trauma counselling
- EMDR therapy
- Relational and holistic
- Transpersonal and integrative
- Objective and non-judgmental
- Major influences include: Crisis theory, trauma theory, Babette Rothschild, C.R. Rogers, C.G. Jung, S.W. Porges and polyvagal theory, A.N. Schore’s affect regulation theory, transpersonal psychology, psychodynamics, the evidence base from research and clinical practice
Mental Health Crisis
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis (e.g. thoughts of imminent serious self-harm or suicide, disturbed behaviour, or psychotic symptoms) and you need urgent assistance, please make contact with one or more of the agencies listed on the Mental Health Crisis page, who will be able to help you.
Crisis Interventions for Trauma
The principles of treatment for personal crisis are also appropriate for psychological trauma (Flannery & Everly, 2000; Hobfoll et al., 2007). Actively working on learning how to reduce the heightened state of arousal helps with calming and grounding, and may also help with sleep difficulties. The normal sense of self may be shattered by trauma, so it is important to build and support the sense of self through re-establishing the basic routines of daily life, encouraging connectedness with friends and family, and fostering hope for the future.
EMDR for Acute Stress Disorder
In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, symptoms of an acute stress reaction may be present. This is similar to PTSD with some dissociative symptoms, and is a natural and normal reaction to the experience of trauma. In most instances it will calm down within a few days or weeks. There has been a great deal of debate in the literature over whether to actively treat for trauma at the acute stage, but research has now demonstrated good outcomes through early intervention (see, for example, Shapiro, 2012). Benefits include a more rapid amelioration of symptoms and a reduced risk of developing PTSD at a later date.
For clients who may be interested in EMDR therapy in the days or weeks after experiencing a trauma, the advisability of this can be discussed in the initial assessment session.
Make an Enquiry
If you would like more information about psychological therapy and how we may be able to work together to address your concerns,
you are warmly invited to call, email, or message me through the form on the Contact page.
07801 273768 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Flannery, R. B., & Everly, G. S. (2000). Crisis intervention: A review. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 2(2), 119-125.
Hobfoll, S. E., Watson, P., Bell, C. C., Bryant, R. A., Brymer, M. J., Friedman, M. J, … Ursano, R. J. (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry, 70(4), 283-315.
Shapiro, E. (2012). EMDR and early psychological intervention following trauma. Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée, 62(2012), 241-251.