Trauma Counselling: Options for Improving Physical and Mental Health

Trauma counselling

Trauma Counselling: Options for Improving Physical and Mental Health

Experiencing or witnessing an exceptionally stressful or traumatic event can shatter one’s mental health and sense of calm and security.

Traumatic events usually occur without warning and include accidents, illnesses, violence, natural disasters, sexual assault, physical or domestic abuse, etc. A traumatic event creates feelings of shock, disbelief, denial, and distress, ultimately leaving a significant scar on one’s emotional and psychological health.

Trauma is not limited to adults; childhood trauma (adverse childhood experiences) occurs when a child feels extremely threatened by an event, such as bullying, neglect, or physical abuse. Unresolved trauma during childhood generates feelings of fear and helplessness that continue into adulthood, creating the foundation for further trauma. This is why trauma counseling is essential from an early stage.

The symptoms of psychological trauma are most commonly described as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Characterized as an anxiety disorder, PTSD features severe, persistent symptoms such as insomnia and nightmares of the traumatic event. However, not everyone develops PTSD after trauma; for some, it may take weeks or even years for symptoms to surface.

What is Trauma Counselling?

Trauma counseling is any therapy effectively used to help people evolve positive coping mechanisms for their fears and anxieties. Individuals who seek professional help early on have the best chance of overcoming their issues and improving their mental health.

If you’re persistently suffering from any of the symptoms listed below for weeks or months, you should seek help immediately:

An important fact to remember is that it’s not the situation or event that signals trauma symptoms. Rather it’s the psychological and emotional experience of the situation or event. However, irrespective of the source, psychological trauma has three common traits:

Moreover, since everyone responds differently to trauma, professional help is based on individual symptoms, diagnosis, and unique needs. Moreover, the type of trauma counseling can change as the treatment progresses. So, it’s essential to keep an open mind and explore all the options that may be useful.

Types of Trauma Counselling

There are various treatment options available for those dealing with psychological trauma. Broadly, they are categorized as talking, creative, and pharmaceutical therapies. Talking therapies involve individuals discussing their traumatic experiences with a therapist, whereas creative therapists are more skill-oriented.

Nevertheless, the type of treatment depends on the kind of trauma, the individual’s personality, and the counsellor/therapist. The crucial aspect is finding what works best for you.

On the whole, treatments usually include identifying, accepting, and processing a traumatic incident along with releasing pent-up feelings. In addition, learning to control strong emotions and restoring one’s self-esteem is also part of the healing process.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is particularly useful for treating psychological trauma. The underlying concept behind CBT is that our behavior and feelings are connected to our thoughts or cognitions. So, by modifying these factors, we can be more attentive toward our cognitions, acquire new strategies to enhance our mental health and regain self-confidence.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on identifying and rebuilding one’s shattered assumptions and beliefs, a process known as cognitive restructuring. Trauma-focused CBT helps individuals rethink and re-evaluate the problematic meanings of their traumatic experiences to develop better-coping mechanisms rather than suppress their thoughts and overthink negative outcomes.

CBT usually involves eight to 12 short sessions over a few months. These active sessions help individuals develop strategies to confront and ultimately overcome their anxiety, fears, and avoidances. The techniques taught during CBT include: 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is frequently used along with CBT. It is conducted by the counsellor sitting near the individual and waving their hand back and forth across their field of vision. While it is not completely understood how this therapy helps, research shows it is often helpful during trauma counselling. 

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

The emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) originates from Thought Field Therapy (TFT), a technique developed specifically for trauma treatment. EFT is similar to acupuncture and involves the therapist tapping at certain points on the upper body. During TFT, the individual can tap on themselves, according to the therapist’s guidance, especially if invasive touch was the source of their trauma. Although this technique is not robustly supported by research, some individuals have found it helpful. 

Exposure

As mentioned, exposure is a technique taught during CBT. Avoiding fearful or stressful situations is common among trauma patients. However, the more avoidant an individual is, the less likely they are to face and overcome their fears.

Hence, exposure involves introducing the individual (in a secure environment) to their feared or suppressed situation. Exposure can be conducted with the therapist asking you only to imagine a stressful or frightening situation. It can also be done using real-life situations, during which the therapist may accompany you.

Nevertheless, exposure is done progressively. For instance, if the thought of using public transportation is too overwhelming for an individual, the therapist will initially ask you to imagine the situation, and with time will make you travel on a bus.

Imagery Rescripting

Another technique used in CBT sessions to deal with traumatic memories is imagery rescripting. In this technique, the individual is encouraged to perceive painful memories as ‘ghosts from the past’ and to transform them into creative, less distressing images.

During imagery rescripting, the therapist may ask you to imagine watching your traumatic memories on television, then switching the television off, making the images smaller, dimmer, distant, black and white, etc.  

Somatic Experiencing

Somatic experiencing analyses what is happening within the body by evaluating trauma-related tension. This technique uses the body’s capacity to hold onto feelings and emotions, including trauma. During therapy, you will be asked to tune into your body’s emotions and responses to help process the trauma physically.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT)

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) combines ideas from various behavioral therapies. CAT teaches individuals to modify their learned beliefs and attitudes about themselves and others and helps them make better, positive choices.

The concept of CAT therapy is to help assess patterns of association and how they affect relationships with ourselves and others. With the help of a therapist, an individual will progressively understand how to cope productively with the trauma in their life in a secure environment.

CAT takes you on a journey of self-discovery and involves various creative techniques such as painting, writing, self-reflection, and journal-keeping.

Creative Therapies

Creative therapies use art, music, or drama in a therapeutic setting aided by a trained professional. Individuals don’t necessarily need to have any specific skills in creative activity. People have reported that these therapies help address painful experiences without talking and help express their traumas in artistic ways.

Medication (Pharmaceutical Therapy)

Pharmaceutical interventions also manage trauma symptoms, including mood swings, panic attacks, and anxiety. Moreover, medication is often combined with talking therapies after your therapist discusses the treatment plan with your GP.

However, medication might not be helpful for some people. Hence, individuals must have a detailed and informed discussion with their therapist and GP. In most cases, psychological counseling works best for people recovering from trauma, and medication can be used as a secondary and additional course of treatment at any point during therapy.

Childhood Trauma Counselling

Young children and adolescents can also experience trauma leading to psychological problems in adulthood. Their reactions resemble adults; however, there are certain differences between adult and childhood trauma.

Young children usually act out their traumatic experiences in repetitive themes. Other ways in which young people express trauma include:

Hence, parents, caregivers, and counsellors must carefully listen to children and be mindful of their actions since they might be unable to express their feelings and difficulties in words. Creative therapies are quite useful since children often find it easier to express themselves through drawing or role-playing.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) means the stress experienced after a trauma. It is a term used to describe symptoms that develop after witnessing or experiencing trauma, such as a distressing, tragic, or stressful event.

There are miscellaneous physical and emotional responses to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The most PTSD symptoms include the following:

How Can Trauma Counselling Help with PTSD?

Trauma counselling offers a secure, calming, and private space for individuals to talk about and recognize their traumatic experience(s). It also initiates the opportunity to discover the physical/psychological effects of the trauma.

Suppose you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. In that case, the cognitive-behavioural counselling discussed in this article can offer practical guidance and management strategies for dealing with panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares. Moreover, individuals can also learn about the tools to help manage these reactions.

Naturally, most individuals try to banish the memories of their devastating or distressing event and avoid attending counselling because of the stress it would cause to recount the experience all over again. However, trauma counselling for PTSD gradually approaches symptoms and gently explores physical and emotional responses. This will help convert the trauma from a problem into a cathartic memory.

How Can Our Trauma Counselling Services Help You?

Trauma counselling involves various therapies to help people deal effectively and positively with grief, loss, fears, and anxieties.

Psychotherapists and trauma counselolrs are trained to listen to people and provide valuable insight into their trauma and how they can rebuild their lives. They understand that trauma significantly changes an individual’s life and that their usual ways of looking at things don’t make sense after the trauma. Hence, counsellors assist individuals in rethinking and re-evaluating how to live their lives and focus on improving and healing themselves from within.

Moreover, trauma counsellors teach individuals to modify their core values to enjoy life fully, appreciate their family and friends, feel wiser or mature, and emerge stronger due to traumatic experiences.

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of trauma, our online trauma counselling services offer a variety of options to help you improve your physical and mental health. Our team of qualified and experienced counsellors has worked with clients experiencing different types of traumas, including personal, professional, sexual, and domestic. Just call us; we’re here to help you through your difficult time!

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