Learn About Trauma
Trauma-informed counselling provides spaces to learn about natural responses to trauma and specifically how a traumatic event has impacted your life. This type of discovery and learning helps you to digest why certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviours might occur, gives names and explanations to your experiences, and reminds you that you are not alone in your experience.
A traumatic experience by definition results in a violation of your sense of safety. This includes violations of physical, emotional, psychological, and relational safety. A benefit of trauma-informed counselling is to assist you to re-develop internal (emotional, psychological, relational) and physical (sensory, the environment) senses of safety, through activities and discussions that target these fundamental domains of existence.
Participating in trauma-informed counselling can help you learn to identify, understand, explore, and express memories and feelings related to your trauma. You may experience reactions that appear to “come out of nowhere” or are out of proportion to the experience. These experiences are often signs that your body is reminding you of the trauma. Another benefit of trauma-informed counselling is learning to recognize what experiences or feelings may be associated with traumatic reminders (also known as triggers). Over time you will work on being able to more appropriately adapt your reactions over time.
Develop Healthy Coping Skills
Trauma-informed counselling aims to help you discover skills and improve coping strategies that will help you better respond to reminders and emotions associated with the traumatic event. Some of these skills include anxiety management and relaxation strategies. Developing new coping skills, in response to trauma, supports resiliency so you can “bouncing back” from your traumatic experience.
Decrease Traumatic Stress Symptoms
Engaging in trauma-informed counselling and working closely with your counsellor can help you practice skills that decrease traumatic stress symptoms and other mental health issues associated with the trauma. You may experience reductions in depression, anxiety, dissociation, trauma-related shame or guilt, and intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks or nightmares.
Practice Trauma Processing or Integration
One goal of a trauma-informed therapy is to help you to regain power and control over past experiences by sensitively assisting you to re-narrate your story. Over time you will have the opportunity to “process” or organize these unique experiences into your everyday life and create meaning from the events.
There are many activities or strategies applied in the trauma-informed treatment process. Trauma counselling applies creative strategies and activities to address memories, emotions, or unsettled behaviours associated with traumatic experiences. Trauma-informed healing activities are always conducted in a way that is sensitive and empathetic to the unique needs and experiences of each client in a safe healing environment.
Research shows that most people who receive counselling experience symptom relief and are better able to function in their lives. About 75 percent of people who enter counselling show some benefit from it (American Psychological Association (2016). Counselling has been shown to improve emotions and behaviours and to be linked with positive changes in the brain and body. The benefits also include fewer sick days, less disability, fewer medical problems, and increased work satisfaction.
With the use of brain imaging techniques, researchers have been able to see changes in the brain after a person has undergone counselling. Numerous studies have identified brain changes in people with mental illness (including depression, panic disorder, trauma, PTSD, and other conditions) as a result of undergoing counselling. In most cases, the brain changes resulting from counselling were similar to changes resulting from medication (Karlsson, 2011).
To help get the most out of counselling, approach the process as a collaborative effort, be open and honest, and follow your agreed-upon recovery plan. The more the client engages in the counselling process, the more likely there will be positive outcomes.
Work through addiction issues and reduce or eliminate drugs, tobacco and alcohol use.
Reduce impulses and actions of self-harm or aggression.
Plan for crises to ensure safety and reduce risk of harm.
Learn effective coping skills to manage difficult situations.
Improve sleep, nutrition and physical activity patterns.
Establish new healthy and supportive behaviors and habits.
Have more satisfying relationships at home, school or work by understanding yourself better.
Learn to be more mindful, less stressed and more relaxed.
Become more confident and at ease in social situations.
Understand personal values and how to live in accord with them.
Learn about self-help and community resources and supports.
Become an empathetic and supportive caregiver or advocate for others.
Improve overall physical and mental health and wellness.
Work on areas of yourself and your life that you don't find satisfying.
Move beyond remembering and understanding to applying learnings in a safe space.
Practice what you learn through counselling and change at a deeper level.
Develop skills for improving relationships.
Counselling is a safe space to work through sensitive issues that help you gain perspective.
Once you are comfortable with your new abilities, you can begin to use them in your life to achieve lasting positive change in your life.
Work with your counsellor to change in the ways you believe are best for you.
Your growing self-awareness will boost your confidence and set you up for future success.
Become aware of your blind spots and mental health issues.
The process of building personal awareness will empower you to make powerful and lasting positive life changes.
Counselling gives you unique and insightful one-on-one feedback, along with lots of support and encouragement.
Gain a clearer understanding of yourself, your goals, and your values.
Create a new way of looking at challenging issues and move towards effective solutions.
Counselling can assist you with a wide variety of mental health and emotional challenges.
Counselling can help eliminate or manage troubling symptoms so you can function better, increase your well-being, feel better, and recover.
Problems helped by counsellor include difficulties in coping with daily life, the impact of trauma, medical illness, or loss, like the death of a loved one; and specific mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. I apply a variety different types of counselling approaches, and some may work better with specific problems or issues.
Counselling can be conducted with individuals, families, couples, or groups, and can help both children and adults. Sessions are typically held once a week for about 60 minutes.
Both the client and counsellor need to be actively involved in the counselling process for the best outcomes. The trust and working relationship between a client and their therapist are essential for counselling to be effective and beneficial.
Counselling can be short-term (a few sessions), dealing with immediate issues, or long-term (months), dealing with longstanding and complex issues. The goals of treatment and how often they meet is planned jointly by both the client and therapist.
Confidentiality is a fundamental requirement of counselling. Clients share personal feelings and thoughts in a safe environment.
Counselling addresses challenges such as difficulties in coping with daily life, the impact of trauma, medical illness, or loss, like the death of a loved one; and specific mental disorders, like depression or anxiety. There are several different types of counselling, and some types may work better with particular problems or issues. Counselling may be combined with medication prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist.
Below are six key findings from over ninety psychotherapy and counselling studies. These findings showcase the importance of the qualities of the helping professional:
American Psychological Association (2016). Understanding psychotherapy and how it works.
Karlsson, H. (2011). How Psychotherapy changes the Brain. Psychiatric Times.
Wiswede D, et al. (2014). Tracking Functional Brain Changes in Patients with Depression under Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Using Individualized Stimuli. PLoS ONE.