Approach to Trauma Therapy
Trauma is a Part of Life
The first thing you will need to learn in therapy is that trauma is a part of life and it shapes who we are. A traumatic event can be a once-off experience or it can be experienced through a long period of time. However, its sequels may last forever. We cannot change the past, but we can change our bodily reactions, our emotional overwhelm or lack of emotions. We can understand trauma and ourselves better. Instead of being a slave of our trauma symptoms, we can use our traumas to grow and feel empowered.
For example, when your wife or your husband makes a comment about you, you may immediately feel triggered and thoughts like "s/he doesn't love me" may come to mind. Feelings of rejection may also be present. Your instant reaction is to attack back with a criticism or similar. Before you know it, you are both triggered and your discussion has escalated into an argument, or even worse. But those thoughts or feelings may have more to do with not feeling loved by one of your parents or feeling rejected by them as a child. This is traumatic for a child. Your childhood trauma is playing out in your intimate relationships.
1. Learning about Trauma
Your first step in our trauma counselling work will be to understand what is happening to you. You might be worrying about your panic attacks, your constant worrying or your outbursts of rage. I will share with you some facts about trauma that will help you understand these intense experiences. The better informed you are, the better you will be equiped to making steps into transforming your traumatic past into a fulfilling and rich future.
2. Gaining in Self-Awareness
You cannot change your past, but you can change your current reactions to triggers from your past. During our work together, you will become aware that a lot of your sensations, feelings, thoughts and impulses have a lot more to do with your past than your current reality. You will understand that you have been triggered, but you can change how you feel. You will become more and more aware of your triggers and you will feel more empowered to change your reaction to them. By constantly observing your current reality and notice what comes from your past, you can start leaving your past behind.
3. Emotional Self-Regulation
You will learn how to self-regulate. Your emotions will no longer rule your life. You will be able to step into and out of an emotion with confidence. You will have less and less periods of feeling numb and hopeless. Your will also be able to calm down when facing stressful situations. You will learn to move, become more present, activate your nervous system, or become more passive, more present, calm down your nervous system. Both your presence and emotional self-regulation will give you a new sense of confidence and security. It will not happen over night. It will take time and constant practise, but in time you can change your reality.
4. Processing Trauma
This stage can be different depending on who you are and the type of trauma that you suffered. If you had a good enough childhood and experienced a car crash, for example, we can work on the debilitating sequels of the accident and you will move on with your life. However, if you had a difficult childhood, it might take longer to process the sequels of your traumas. Some people wish to talk about what happened to them. Others prefer to leave their past behind and never talk about it. Processing trauma does not necessarily mean that you need to talk about what happened. If you notice changes in your life and you no longer feel hijacked by the sequels of your past, you have processed your trauma. Usually, it would be something like an inner knowning that it did happen and it happened to you, but it is in the past, with no emotional charge attached to it.
5. Finding Meaning
Your last stage in your trauma therapy will be to move on from your past and start creating meaning in your life. As your past no longer hijacks your efforts to build a fruitful and joyful life, you may have a sense of what your future life might look like. You will find the energy to go out there and create it.
How I Work
My work is informed by evidence-based psychodynamic and attachment theories, neuroscience and trauma research, mindfulness, and some input from different body-oriented therapy approaches. My knowledge of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is also useful to balance your nervous system and/or process traumatic memories.
I will explain to you in simple words how your nervous system and your brain works in relation to trauma, so that you can understand what is happening to your body, and we will create a space where you can test different reactions, and ways of coping with your overwhelm in a safe space. You will be offered guidance and insight, and you will reflect on your experience, becoming more aware of your normal patterns of response to triggers, and eventually changing them.
Our work will mostly involve talking about your experiences, emotions, thoughts and behaviours, but you may also be invited to move and explore different gestures, walking around the room, standing up or sitting in a different position, following your gut instinct, drawing, etc, but only if that feels right for you. You will never be forced to do something you are not comfortable with.
As an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP), I abide by its ethical framework, including maintaining confidentiality, working closely with a supervisor, and being actively involved in the profession through CPD and different roles in counselling associations.
© Alda Counselling - Exeter & Teignmouth