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As it was International Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January 2017) I felt it was a good time to reflect on Trauma. In our modern life, we can only watch the television news or read the newspaper to witness the trauma that is happening every minute of every day, across the world.
As a counsellor, I do worry about the psychological impact on us as we get drip fed these stories, that someone somewhere has been abused, killed, tortured or faced a natural disaster. I get concerned about the stories that the mass media do not feel are juicy enough to get reported. Then those of us on social media, change our pictures or write something, to let a stranger know they are not alone and we are thinking of them (I am as guilty of this as everyone else).
Let’s begin with some definitions of trauma. A key definition I’ve taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology reads: “Trauma: A physical injury or wound, or a powerful psychological shock that has damaging effects” (2009).
I find this definition all-encompassing having learnt about the various areas of trauma and the myriad ways in which people and communities experience trauma.
Caroline Garland takes this one step further in her text Understanding Trauma: A Psychoanalytic Approach. In her own contribution, she makes a point which challenges conceptions of trauma which concentrate on the external impact. Her central point is that what makes it not possible to get over the impact is that its psychical meaning homes in on early object relations. Garland refers to “adhesions that develop individual’s early history, particularly when the trauma is felt to provide confirmation of early phantasies”. Garland also stresses that these links can be “hard to shift because of the damage done by the traumatic event to the survivor’s capacity to symbolise, leading to an impoverishment of understanding and communication” (Garland, 1998, p. 7).
Having successfully completed a Postgraduate Trauma Diploma at NAOS Institute last year. I feel it is very important to treat Trauma experiences with tender loving care (TLC). For over a decade, I feel honoured to have worked with clients who over time have trusted me with their trauma narrative. Trauma therapy provides a place where the client can slowly explore how the trauma has affected their identity, themselves physically, how it affects the important relationships they hold around them and their general sense of well-being.
The work of Babette Rothschilds and Bessel Van Der Kolk, amongst many others, have really shaped my work with trauma clients. Whilst the client reveals their story, it is very important that they can control the pace of telling their experience. I ensure measures are put in place at the beginning of my work with clients, where we can pause and reflect on how telling the story is going for them.
Trauma therapy won’t take the experience of trauma away, no one can, but it will help the client lead a healthier life, understand their triggers better and lead a life where they can take charge of the impact of the trauma and most of all hopefully have happier relationships going into the future.