Trauma Counselling Melbourne
Trauma is something that can touch every corner of our lives in unique ways.
Most of us feel that there are things that have happened throughout our lives which have impacted us in ways we can’t control.
Sometimes we reach a point where these events need to be explored, either directly or indirectly, in order to for us to move forward with our lives.
What is trauma?
In the last several years, the word trauma has become a much more commonly used work. Historically, it was primarily considered a clinical diagnosis. So that begs the question; what is trauma?
Put simply, trauma is a psychological and physiological response to difficult and sometimes horrific life events. The key word is ‘response’ – the trauma is how our brains, bodies and behaviours respond to what happens in our lives.
It is as if something has left an imprint on our nervous system. In the same way a muscular injury may cause us to change the way we walk to protect further injury, trauma may cause us to think, feel and behave differently.
Everyone responds to challenging events in a unique way, but there are certain risk factors that make a trauma response more likely:
- The severity of a trauma
- Lack of social support
- Life stress after the traumatic event
How can trauma counselling help me?
Counselling and therapy can be helpful for trauma in a number of ways.
Emotional expression: Intense and overwhelming emotions – such as anger, fear and sadness – may not always be easy to express in our day to day life. Trauma counselling offers a way to express our emotions effectively.
Understanding and validation: Therapy can help to understand the impact of trauma on thoughts, emotions, behaviours and relationships. In doing so we can recognise our triggers, normalise painful experiences and reduce self-blame.
Develop Healthy coping strategies: Most of us will develop coping mechanisms to deal with the uncomfortable feelings that arise as a result of trauma. This may include addictions, distractions, and unhealthy ways of relating to the world. In trauma therapy we identify these mechanisms and look to develop more healthy and strategic ways of responding to our situation.
Improved Relationships: Trauma and traumatic events can put a massive strain on relationships, particularly when both partners have their own personal history. Therapy can help address communication issues, build compassionate understanding and help partners to be there for one another a trauma-informed way.
Re-establish a sense of safety: At a fundamental level, trauma leaves us feeling unsafe. This leads to a habitual fight-or-flight response. Trauma counselling can give us the space and tools to develop a sense of safety in our body and mind again.
What is the difference between trauma and PTSD?
Trauma (also known as psychological trauma) is a broad concept that can refer to our response to any overwhelming life event. These events put stress on the nervous system to the point where it leaves an influences on the way we think, feel and behave. These can be one-time events, such as a car crash, or recurring events (known as complex trauma), such as being humiliated in an abusive relationship.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a formal diagnosis under the DSM-5 criteria for PTSD, that must be given by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. These symptoms, which include flashbacks, hyperarousal, and a negative impact in day to day functioning, must be persistent for more than one month.
What are the signs and symptoms of trauma?
It’s important to note that while many of us do not meet the full criteria for PTSD we still experiencing some of the symptoms and would benefit from trauma-informed counselling.
- A sense of reliving the traumatic event: This can vary from flashbacks to nightmares and emotional triggers.
- Negative thoughts and mood: Negative thoughts relate to self-image and/or the traumatic event.
- Feeling wound-up: Trouble sleeping, muscular tension and headaches, chronic anxiety.
- Emotional numbness or dissociation: Some people may feel a sense of emotional numbness or disconnection from their life or reality.
- Changes in eating or sleeping behaviours: Some people may sleep more or less than usual or eat more or less than usual.
- Inability to concentrate: A traumatic experience can leave us with difficulties in focusing. This may be referred to as “brain fog.”
What kinds of things lead to trauma?
This may be different for different people, but any overwhelming event that an individual experiences or witnesses can be traumatic. Here are some that may be common in trauma survivors:
- Sexual or physical assault
- Natural disasters
- Childhood abuse (physical, emotional or sexual)
- Accidents (e.g. workplace accidents, falls, car crashes)
- Medical trauma (e.g. major surgeries, chronic pain or illness)
- Toxic or abusive relationships
- Sudden loss of relationships
- Break ups, separations and divorces
- Bullying and Harassment (work, school, family, cyberbullying etc.)
Is Post-Traumatic Growth Possible?
Trauma isn’t always a “bad” thing. Some of the most successful and compassionate people in our world are those who have gone through deeply traumatic events. When trauma is processed and integrated, this can lead to increased resilience, greater empathy, more alignment with our values, gratitude and personal strength. This phenomenon is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG).