Trauma

“No matter what modality we use, the goal of trauma treatment is finally to be ‘here’ and not ‘there.'”                  ~ Bessel van der Kolk

Trauma is a normal response by our body and mind to an event that overwhelms us by threatening physical harm, our life, or the safety of someone else.

Examples of traumatic incidents include:

  • Witnessing/experiencing wartime atrocities or terrorism
  • Combat
  • Being a victim/witness of crime
  • Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Physical and sexual assault/rape
  • Childhood abuse including: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect
  • Motor vehicle accidents, airplane accidents
  • Other traumatic events such as childbirth complications, sudden infant loss, the death of a child, infertility
  • House fires
  • Health-related trauma, life changing physical conditions, surgery or other invasive medical procedures

It’s common to feel reluctant to want to come in and talk about trauma.  In fact, many people avoid it, only coming to counselling when life seems unbearable.  Trauma makes us feel vulnerable and dysregulates nervous systems; that’s why creating a safe, respectful and supportive environment is the foundation of my approach to helping with trauma.

Many people worry that trauma therapy must involve remembering the horror of the traumatic incident, going on a “fact finding” mission, confronting perpetrators, and succumbing to the directives of the therapist.  I disagree. Some people feel that remembering, when they are ready to work through such memories, is critical to their healing, while others feel it is damaging. This choice, as well as other aspects of your trauma healing, is personal. There is no “one size fits all” approach here.   Another common worry is that one has to become “unraveled” in order to heal. I also disagree and strongly recommend that trauma therapy should first work towards ensuring that you are currently safe and are coping well in your day to day life. 

Open, Closed or Somewhere In-Between? Self-Disclosure in Counselling

Psychiatrist Judith Herman, in addressing survivors of childhood abuse writes, “It is bad enough that you were robbed of your childhood–it is unacceptable to also lose your opportunity to live in the present.”

While individuals are unique in the ways that trauma has left its mark and in the path of healing that works for each person, at my downtown Vancouver office you can expect:

  • A safe and respectful therapeutic space
  • Recognition that you survived the trauma that you experienced
  • A customized approach to working with your trauma
  • Careful attention to the here and now, ensuring that you are coping well in your day to day life and if not, supporting you to make this happen
  • Choice of what aspects of your trauma you want to work on
  • Learning what ways for healing your trauma work best for you, including offering the choice of different tools and therapeutic methods
  • The message that you can recover from trauma

If you are looking for a trauma therapist, I welcome your call or email message and am pleased to set up a 15-minute phone or in-person consultation to help you make this decision for yourself.

Whatever your route to healing, it is important to not lose hope.  People can and do overcome trauma.  Recovery is expected!

Related Articles

Counselling Homework: Shame Magnet or Road to Success?

March 2015 In Therapy & You

Deciding which option works best for you–whether it be homework or homeworklessness–can spark self-reflection around what you want out of counselling.

Recommended Books

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk (2014).

Seminal text on the neurobiology of trauma.

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take-Charge Strategies to Empower Your Healing by Babette Rothschild (2010)

A gentle approach to trauma resolution, emphasizing the importance of choosing strategies that work well for you personally.

Resources

Crime Victims Assistance Program

Assists victims, immediate family members and some witnesses in coping with the effects of violent crime by providing qualifying individuals with financial benefits to help offset financial losses and assist in recovery.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Residential Historical Abuse Program (RHAP)

604-875-4255 (collect calls accepted)
If you were sexually abused when you were a child living in a BC provincial government foster home, group home, or residential facility, you may be eligible to have RHAP pay for your counselling.

BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

604-682-6482
Individual and group counselling on a sliding scale.

Vancouver Incest and Sexual Abuse Centre, (VISAC) Family Services of Greater Vancouver

604-874-2938
Counselling for children, youth, families and adults who have experienced sexual abuse or trauma.

Victim Link

1-800-565-0808
24-7 assistance for people who have been victims of family and sexual violence and all other crimes.

Battered Women’s Support Services

Crisis number: 604-687-1867
Support, advocacy, counselling, info/referral.

Healthy Connections: You and Your Baby

Family Services of Greater Vancouver
604-874-2938

Individual counselling and therapy for pregnant women who have experienced past trauma that can interfere with their ability to parent their children.  A free service.