trauma/ptsd

Counselling Services for Waterloo Region

 
In the culture people talk about trauma as an event that happened a long time ago. But what trauma is, is the imprints that event has left on your mind and in your sensations... the discomfort you feel and the agitation you feel and the rage and the helplessness you feel right now.
— Bessel A. van der Kolk

I often hear people express shame, embarrassment, or frustration that something from their past continues to impact them to this day. Tricked by the old adage that "time heals all wounds," we can really beat ourselves up for continuing to feel the effects of unresolved trauma. 

Trauma describes a situation in which a person experienced or witnessed an incident that threatened (or seemed to threaten) their personal safety. It can include experiences such as a car accident, abuse, childhood neglect, sexual assault, war, or even in the witnessing role of a first responder

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a diagnosis given to individuals who experience the following four clusters of symptoms for over a month:  

  • Intrusive memories (flashbacks as if you were reliving the events; nightmares or night terrors; strong emotional or physical reactions to reminders/triggers)
  • Avoidance (trying not to think about the incident; avoiding reminders such as people or places)
  • Negative changes in thought and mood (difficulty recalling the incident; negative beliefs about yourself or the world; feelings of guilt, shame, or fear)
  • Negative changes in reactivity (irritability; self-destructive behaviour; hyper vigilance; trouble sleeping; high startle response; difficulty concentrating)

(For further information on diagnostic criteria, you can look at this site.)

For many people these symptoms have existed for years, maybe even decades, making it difficult to connect it to a trauma that happened long ago. Judith Lewis Herman, an author on trauma,  describes it in the following way: "After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment."   

To live in this hyper-alert state can be exhausting and debilitating. Fortunately, counselling has been proven to be effective in addressing trauma and PTSD symptoms. I am additionally trained in EMDR, an evidence-based therapy that is particularly powerful in working with trauma. 

To undergo trauma therapy is a big step and it requires a strong and safe relationship with your therapist. If you would like to see if we could work on your trauma together, feel free to set up an appointment or free 30-minute consultation.