Trauma & Trauma Therapy

What is trauma?


 Trauma refers to any experiences that are emotionally painful or distressing, that overwhelm a person's ability to cope. Often traumatic experiences are considered those that are outside of a normal human experience or a threat to life or safety. However trauma can also be more subtle and may be more frequent for some people. Some examples of trauma include witnessing or experiencing violence or assault as well as other life circumstances such as child maltreatment, oppression, poverty or crime. Trauma may be the result of a single one-time event or be cumulative from ongoing stressful life situations.


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What are the effects of trauma?


 Any form of trauma may have serious short-term or long-term effects on mental and physical health. This may take the form of fear, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, withdrawal, irritability, sleep disturbance, nightmares, re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive thoughts or flashbacks (feeling that the traumatic event/s are reoccurring), hyper-vigilance (always feeling on alert for danger) and physical symptoms.

Not everybody experiences trauma in the same way, nor do all individuals experience the same effects.

It is important to remember that your experiences following a traumatic event or situation are NORMAL reactions to an ABNORMAL event.


The following are examples of some common symptoms of trauma.

Emotional/ psychological symptoms

  • Shock, disbelief, denial
  • Anger, irritability or mood changes
  • Guilt, self blame, shame
  • Sadness, hopelessness
  • Anxiety, fear
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling numb or disconnected
  • Withdrawing from other people

 Physical symptoms

  • Insomnia, nightmares
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Easily startled
  • Unexplained pain
  • Muscle aches/tension
  • Agitation, edginess

Compassion Fatigue

People who work with traumatized clients or experience trauma thorough their jobs (ie nurse, police, paramedic) may experience a similar impact of trauma to their clients. Whether by direct trauma experiences or secondary experiences (hearing or witnessing client's trauma), the process of caring for traumatized clients may have a profound effect on the provider. Compassion fatigue may also be referred to as Vicarious Trauma (negative changes in world view as a result of witnessing or hearing clients' trauma over time) or Burnout (physical and emotional exhaustion). Any of these experiences may require support or intervention. These experiences typically cumulate over time and may impact our personal lives. Although often called an occupational hazard of working in the field, there is help for frontline workers, counsellors and therapists. 

What is trauma therapy?


Trauma therapy refers to any counselling that aims to help people overcome traumatic experiences and relieve the effects of trauma. There are several approaches to trauma therapy. The most common approach is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT. CBT focuses on changing the way we think (cognitive) in order to change the way we act (behaviour) with the understanding that our thoughts and feelings affect how we behave. The main goals of trauma therapy are to process traumatic memories, regulate strong emotions, learn new skills to cope with stress. 
We see trauma therapy with an environmental framework, meaning that we recognize that individuals are affected not just by traumatic events but that stress can also come from the environment, such as social, political and economic and family structures. 

Who can benefit from trauma therapy?

Trauma therapy can help people who are experiencing post traumatic stress from a specific traumaticevent or who have a history of an early trauma or a cumulation of stress. 

How will trauma therapy work for me?

Trauma therapy typically follows three phases; stabilizing and managing symptoms, processing traumatic memories, reconnecting and rebuilding relationships and lives. These phases may overlap and the process may be different for everyone. Trauma therapists are specially trained to recognize the effects of trauma on the brain and it's function and how trauma symptoms develop. We will use specific interventions to deal with those symptoms. We see clients as the experts in their own lives and work together as partners in the healing process. 

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