Trauma may be complex, repeated incidents of abuse and horrific events in childhood, in relationships, or in war zones. PTSD is the traumatic response, usually to a single or several discrete shocking events that may overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope with fear, horror and pain and effort to avoid any reminders or memories of the event/s but suffer from some or all of the following symptoms: nightmares; flashbacks; hypervigilance; angry outbursts; substance abuse; anxiety; depression; dissociative symptoms.
The initial session involves getting to know the client’s history and establishing a comfortable environment where she/he feels a sense of safety. For badly traumatized clients this may take several sessions. The psychologist can then move on to some psychoeducation about trauma and a simple explanation of the effects on the mind, in neurological terms, using visuals. This is followed about how the brain can change through therapy and reduce, even eliminate, eventually, the disturbing symptoms. It is then a matter of the psychologist learning more about the personality, interests and intensity of trauma symptoms to determine to design the therapy plan best suited to each client. Initially, self-calming strategies based on a neurological understanding of the stress response are taught. Listening to the client is of paramount importance as well as the continuous incorporation of physiological techniques to down-regulate the stress response while cognitive (thought patterns, core beliefs and memories) work progresses. This work may include Trauma Focused CBT, Acceptance and Commitment therapy, Schema Therapy, Emotion Freedom Techniques ( incorporating eye movement and acupressure points), depending on the client’s values, lifestyle and preferred mode of learning and then practicing the recommended behaviours. The client is encouraged to deepen their understanding with recommended readings or electronic resources according to their preference.
SUSANNE GILMOUR, BA (University of British Columbia) Grad. Dip Soc.Science, Post Grad Dip. Psych (University of New England), MAPS