• Paula Newman

Counselling for Trauma




We can be traumatised by experiencing danger to ourselves and by witnessing danger to others. Just hearing about a life threatening incident such as a plane crash can be traumatising. Psychological trauma is a reaction to a traumatic event. That is any incident which is perceived as being dangerous or life threatening. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder begins after the event, sometimes immediately and sometimes days, weeks or months later. Certain traumatic events are obvious threats to our well being for example being attacked in the street, whilst others are less memorable, for example the time when a child was frightened by a dog barking. What matters is how the event is experienced by the individual concerned. Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Being told that you have a life threatening illness Being in an earthquake Being sexually abused Being raped Being tortured Being injured at war and seeing others injured and killed Being taken hostage Almost drowning Being in an aeroplane during turbulent weather and believing that your life is in danger. Experiencing PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After the event has occurred the PTSD sufferer may feel numb and experience a sense of unreality, perhaps a feeling of walking around in a dream. This is a natural way of coping with trauma. It reduces the immediacy of whatever has happened, giving time to come to terms with it more gradually. Commonly the sufferer has flashbacks, remembering the event and experiencing it again as if it were happening now. There may be nightmares and fears of falling asleep in case the nightmares reoccur. There might be a sense of needing to be continuously on guard, even although the immediate danger has passed. This can be mentally tiring, making it difficult to relax and to fall asleep. Some people feel guilty. Perhaps because they survived and others perished, perhaps because they have a sense of responsibility for whatever happened or maybe in retrospect they believe that there is something that they could have done to change the situation. Sufferers might find themselves reliving their trauma and they can be disturbed by intrusive thoughts. As a result trauma sufferers may be preoccupied and unable to concentrate upon anything or anyone else. They may lose interest in others and in everyday life. Sufferers who are not sleeping well can be tired and irritable. The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress can affect work, study and relationships. Physical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include stomach upsets, aches and pains, headaches and the effects of not having sufficient sleep. Counselling for PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Talking about what happened can bring some relief and clients may need to do this over and over again. Professional counsellors are prepared to listen as many times as is necessary. Counsellors and psychotherapists in Britain are required to have professional supervision which enables them to deal with their own reactions to hearing about traumatic incidents. During counselling clients can work with any uncomfortable feelings which are now affecting them including guilt and anger. They can begin to make some sense of what happened and how they might come to terms with it. Bereavement counselling might be needed. For example victims of torture may have also witnessed the death of family members and friends. Clients who have experienced trauma are often more aware of their own mortality and may want to work with associated feelings and fears. Trauma can affect the sufferer’s sense of safety. Some people find that they have become nervous and jumpy. Depending upon the incident sufferers may now be wary or frightened of strangers and afraid of everyday activities such as using public transport and crossing a road. This can be experienced as a loss of self or a change in personality the client is no longer the person who used to freely go about their daily life. Counselling can support the client in regaining a sense of self and in becoming more trusting and confident. Further Information

National Center for PTSD www.ptsd.va.gov Books I Can’t Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors by A Matsakis (1996)2nd Ed. New Harbinger Publications Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by P.A Levine (1997) California: North Atlantic Books


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