I believe trauma survivors have symptoms instead of memories. Trauma survivors are victims, and they are never to blamed. Trauma survivor lives are impaired due to the repeated exposure to traumatic events. The events often relate to early childhood attachment figures: physical, sexual abuse, neglect and insecure attachment. Trauma survivors often believe that no one can be trusted and the world is unsafe. They may have thoughts that say: don't trust, don't feel, and don't get too close.
Core Roots of Trauma
- It happened unexpectedly
- You could not prepare for it
- You were powerless to keep it from happening
- It happened over and over
Ongoing abuse, neglect and emotional abandonment leave children and adolescents at risk for developing symptoms of the unresolved trauma. Family, or relational violence in adulthood that is repeated and ongoing can lead to symptoms of complex trauma. The symptoms experienced may have been adaptive attempts to cope, but over time become restrictive and keep survivors stuck or stagnant. Trauma survivors are at an increased risk of feeling isolated and disconnected in relationships. Symptoms trauma survivors may experience:
- Generalized anxiety
- Substance use/ eating disorders
- Overwhelming shame and worthlessness
- Feeling disconnected from your body
- Self-destructive behaviour
- Sleep disorders
- Hypervigilance/ mistrust
- Little or no Memories
- Angry outburts
I use the three-tiered approach to trauma work. I work to create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe, predictable and provides opportunities to explore painful life events.
Safety and Stabilization
The first phase of care is always to establish safety, to stabilize and help client's regulate emotions. I will not hurry through the first phase but work with the intention to create a foundation of trust and attunement. I will help clients discover the adequate safety and support in their personal lives before processing trauma. Client's need places of safety both inside and outside of our offices while working through traumatic experiences.
Exploring and Mourning
The next steps involve remembering the trauma and mourning what was lost. I will move back to stabilizing interventions with the client when the emotions become dysregulating. Together, we will process the emotions to help the clients make sense of their experience.
Integrating and Making Meaning
The third stage involves integrating the trauma story and redefining oneself within meaningful, safe relationships. The trauma is no longer the only story that defines the individual, clients recognize the significance of the victimization but can move to feel empowered, resilient and live life with more vitality
See also Individual Counselling.