Have You Experienced A Traumatic Event That Has Shattered Your Life?
Have you been through a difficult time following a car accident, an experience of violence or crime, or traumatic events within your working environment? Or, have you been involved in a natural or community disaster, like a flood, an earthquake or a fire? Are you struggling to get the images of this experience out of your mind? You may be spending hours recollecting what happened. If so, you may feel as if parts of the traumatic events are happening all over again. Recurring nightmares – which seem so real that you wake up feeling as if you are at the scene of the trauma again – may be making it even harder for you to move on with your life.
In addition to feeling tired and depleted, which is most likely related to your sleeping difficulties, are you also feeling restless, anxious, irritable, depressed or ashamed? You may alternate between “pangs of emotions” which make you feel upset and tearful and periods during which you feel numb and empty.
Do you sometimes feel as if the trauma has become a permanent part of your life, even though months and maybe years have passed since it happened? Are you avoiding people and situations that remind you of the traumatic event? If so, you may be feeling alone with this inner turmoil, which feels so hard to talk about. Does your life seem different from how it was before? It may feel as if all your previously held beliefs have been shattered and that the sense of safety that once underpinned your life has gone. If you have been diagnosed with – or suspect that you may have – symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD counselling with a clinical psychologist or trauma specialist can guide you through your recovery process. In time, this will help you to better understand, manage and gradually heal your trauma symptoms, leaving you with a greater sense of peace, safety and emotional stability.
If You Are In the Grip Of Trauma, You Are Not Alone!
You may feel like your post-traumatic stress reactions have taken control of your life. If so, you are not alone. People’s responses after trauma can be very strong and overwhelming, therefore, it is not uncommon to feel as if you are going mad or losing control over your life. Sometimes those thoughts and feelings can be so overwhelming and difficult to manage that people tend to increasingly isolate themselves.
You may be surprised and relieved to learn that you are not unique in experiencing this – that you are not going mad but simply experiencing a common and understandable response to trauma. It may also be comforting to realise that you can be helped to heal and recover.
Traumatic experiences can shatter our lives and profoundly unsettle and disturb our sense of identity, safety and balance. Traumas hurt! They not only cause physical injuries but emotional injuries as well. Being traumatised by a life event, in which intense feelings of fear, horror and helplessness are evoked, can lead to a pattern of reactions which is constantly repeated in your mind. This can result in flashbacks, nightmares or a repetitive recollection of and ruminating about the event. This can be very disruptive to day-to-day life.
Being in the grip of trauma is a terrible state to be in. Fortunately, it is possible to get trauma help. PTSD treatment with an experienced psychologist can help you manage your symptoms and restore a sense of inner balance.
Loosening The Grip Of Trauma And Starting Your Recovery With CBT
With professional help, you will have the opportunity to begin your recovery process. This will take time and is an individual process that is unique to you. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an effective therapeutic framework for healing.
Research by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy indicates that one of the most effective treatments for PTSD is trauma-focused CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy). CBT is aimed at helping you to work through, process and make sense of your experience. In my clinical work with clients who developed post-traumatic stress symptoms, I have found that the therapeutic process tends to involve three stages.
The initial stage of CBT for trauma is about preparing your path to recovery. Here we focus on emotional stabilisation. This might involve supporting you to create an inner and outer environment that facilitates your recovery process. It involves cultivating an attitude that is mindful, accepting and responsive to your post-traumatic stress symptoms. For example, we might explore together aspects of your self-care, what supports you and what might be in the way of your recovery. At this stage, I may introduce you to some mindfulness exercises, which can be a good way of beginning to manage your heightened emotional arousal reactions (i.e. feeling restless/anxious/irritable or being unable to sleep, settle or concentrate). Also, in this initial phase, we will focus on facilitating a better understanding of your post-traumatic stress symptoms. Acquiring a new perspective about your post-traumatic stress experience will help you understand that your symptoms are continuing reactions to the overwhelming stress you have experienced during the traumatic event/s. Understanding and making sense of your trauma reactions can help you feel less isolated and confused and is the first step in containing your emotions and hopefully feeling more in control.
When you have reached a point at which you feel more emotionally stabilised, we will move into the second stage of the therapeutic process. It involves gradually revisiting traumatic images, scenes and memories. This phase is challenging, yet vital to your recovery.
In this phase, you are likely to experience strong feeling states and even some physical reactions that you experienced during the trauma. This is a normal and necessary part of the healing process. Why? Because in order to resolve and heal post-traumatic stress symptoms, it is vital that all aspects of the traumatic events are psychologically processed.
During this processing phase of the PTSD treatment, the psychological work will support you in developing skills to help you manage strong and uncomfortable feeling states pertaining to the traumatic event. Also, you will be invited to become increasingly aware of ways you may have developed to avoid strong and intense feelings similar to those you experienced during the traumatic event.
Avoidance reactions are a common response to trauma. It is a way of trying to control your strong and overwhelming feelings. Whilst it may make sense on one level to avoid emotional pain and physical discomfort, in the long run, it is not helpful. The avoidance patterns significantly limit your life, including your capacity to freely talk and think. It also undermines your freedom to do things that you previously enjoyed. In your therapy sessions, we will observe and identify underlying – and often unhelpful – avoidance patterns that may be keeping you stuck in your recovery process. Whilst this phase of the PTSD treatment can be challenging, it also is the time in which many of my clients have made significant improvements in learning how to manage PTSD. It is definitely worth the effort!
The third and final phase of the therapeutic work is concerned with the consolidation and maintenance of the therapeutic gains achieved. At this stage of the PTSD treatment we will look at relapse prevention, which is an important aspect of the overall recovery process.
Meet Kirsten. . .
I am a Chartered Clinical Psychologist with many years of experience in providing trauma-focused CBT counselling. During my professional career, which involved more than 25 years of study and clinical work, I have helped many people who have suffered from PTSD. Remember: You are not alone. With support, patience, some courage and a commitment to your recovery journey, you can find relief from the often-overwhelming experience of PTSD. In my experience working with individuals affected by PTSD, most clients gradually make progress and over time achieve recovery. One of my clients put it like this: ‘I have no doubt that without the work Kirsten and I did together, I would not have made the progress I’ve made. But my time spent with Kirsten was more than achieving recovery. It was about building resilience, learning skills to better face trauma in the future. Kirsten has given me the gift of inner awareness and emotional maturity. The ability to not only accept my emotional vulnerabilities but to embrace them and not be afraid to allow those close to me to see them’.
What makes for a good outcome?
PTSD Counselling is most successful when there is a strong commitment to the recovery process and the psychological work. Your readiness and motivation for change are very important factors in achieving a good outcome.
The overall aim of the psychological work we will embark on together can be described as a maturation and development in your capacity to accept, process, reflect and integrate painful and deeply uncomfortable emotional states that occur in the aftermath of trauma. In my experience, once you have come to understand and accept what is involved, the outcome is likely to be rewarding and satisfying.
What if PTSD counselling makes me feel worse?
CBT for PTSD can feel unsettling and destabilising at times. Talking about unprocessed traumatic life experiences naturally triggers uncomfortable and painful feelings and memories. PTSD therapy offers an opportunity to identify, process and manage these emotional states. I will support and guide you in developing inner resources aimed at helping you with this.
Get relief with PTSD counselling
Please contact me via my website if you are looking for PTSD support and would like to begin the process of overcoming PTSD.