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Why You Need A Trauma Counsellor Even If You Don’t Have Trauma

Written by: Kylie Feller, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Have you tried counselling and found it didn’t really help? A lot of people experience this and it's not because counselling can’t help but more you just didn’t find the right counsellor for you that has the training necessary to help you. There are so many different forms of counselling out there and a lot of powerful healing interventions.


Not all counsellors are the same and many people are not aware of the differences. Unfortunately, the formal training counsellors receive in Universities often does not really teach them how to help people heal. It doesn’t teach counsellors specific models or interventions that are made to help people get to the root of the issue. It is often “talk therapy” which can be beneficial to talk things through or vent and can help with coping or problem-solving, but it’s not designed to heal. Many approaches also teach people how to cope with what is going on or to problem-solve issues which are all beneficial but again not designed to help you heal and connect to your authentic self.

A lot of people who seek counselling are struggling and often the source of that or the root of it is trauma or something that happened when they were younger that made the person feel unworthy, less than, unlovable, bad, or not enough.


It’s very easy when we are young to interpret how our caregivers respond to us or how they make us feel to mean there is something wrong with us. When children feel bad they often attach the belief that there is something wrong with them because they need their parents for survival, so it can not be their fault, there has to be something wrong with them or else it’s dangerous. If this belief system stays with you into adulthood, it stops you from being able to connect with others and creates a lot of anxiety and depression. Feeling not good enough or worthy is often at the heart of many struggles humans face.


When we feel this way when younger we often think it means there is something wrong with us and we develop a number of coping mechanisms or survival strategies to keep us safe such as perfectionism, caretaking, people-pleasing, anxiety, depression, avoidance, substance abuse, numbing out, procrastination, etc. Can you identify any of these in yourself?


What is Trauma?


Many people don’t identify with the word trauma as they think this means it must be really horrible like being sexually abused, living in a war zone, natural disasters, accidents etc. Trauma though is very subjective in how it impacts you and there has been a growing recognition and understanding of "small t traumas".


Common "small t traumas” include:

  • Being bullied

  • Having a difficult birth

  • Parents struggling with their mental health (eg. anxiety, depression, bipolar) or substance abuse

  • Lack of emotional intimacy modelled growing up,

  • Feeling like you had to earn love when younger

  • Having to walk on eggshells around one's caregivers

  • Caretaking one parent or siblings (parentification)

  • Divorce/ Separation

  • Moving a lot when younger new schools

  • Death of a sibling or parent leaving caregivers in grief

  • Parents who can attune emotionally to children

  • Generational trauma

As you can see there are many experiences, we can have that can result in us having to adjust who we are to fit in. These adjustments often cause problems when we grow up and stop us from being who we truly are. A lot of what we think our personality is, is really survival strategies. There is a way back to yourself through and it is trauma counsellors who often have the best path there.


Struggles that often come from experiencing some level of trauma:

  • Feeling not good enough (unworthy)

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Fear of rejection/ humiliation

  • Inner criticism

  • Lack of Motivation/ Procrastination

  • Disconnection/ dissociation

There are also a number of more serious disorders that can develop from small t and big T traumas when younger. The Book the Body Keeps The Score By Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about the misdiagnosis of a number of disorders that stem from trauma and include bipolar disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Schizophrenia. These disorders can be seen as symptoms of trauma, and normal responses to abnormal experiences.


If you sat someone down who struggled with these and ask the parts that were struggling what happened to create this response you would often find a very young part of them that is suffering from something they felt was traumatic which led to an extreme protective response.


What is Trauma Counselling?


There are a lot of approaches that claim to be able to heal trauma, but I feel like they are lying. I feel like they are designed to help people cope with trauma symptoms but not heal. When I worked for the Government in their mental health team, I was trained to basically tell people they can’t heal, that they just need to take their medication and learn to cope, I didn’t last long there. I believe we can all heal, that no matter what has happened to you, you are still there and you have the ability to come back home to yourself even if you don’t know. I can say this from my own personal experience and that of many other people and scientifically validated approaches that have shown this is possible.


I was disappointed when I put a search into google on trauma counselling and found the best treatment options to be listed as medication (there is no medication that can heal or even treat trauma well), CBT, and Exposure Therapy. Although these formats can help one cope they do not heal.


I was glad to find though that somatic therapies have been getting traction as they are an excellent way to heal trauma or any dysregulation or dis-ease in the body and mind. EDMR was also mentioned but this approach can be dangerous for people who have complex trauma. It is also very powerful and can cause re-traumatization easily if not done in a safe and artful manner.


Although I am still learning about how to heal trauma, I feel like the best approaches target not just the mind but the body and soul. They work to find ways back to safety and regulation, but they continue to help you also feel whole and connected to yourself. Trauma is stored in the body and in the subconscious parts of the brain, understanding it analytically and logically will not access it. I feel many approaches just stop at coping and safety but what about our body and soul? It needs a holistic approach.



For this article, I am going to mention a few approaches I have found very helpful when it comes to healing and getting back into alignment with ourselves. I feel like any disorder or challenge is due to not feeling like we are in alignment, like parts of us are stuck. To get unstuck we often need to get reconnected to ourselves and this often takes an intervention and the belief you can heal, and this is what trauma therapy offers. I am also sure there are many more but this is what I have just personally found helpful for myself and my clients.


Types of Trauma Counselling


1. Internal Family Systems:


This form of therapy was recently developed by Richard Schwartz in the 1980s and has taken a lot of traction lately. It understands the mind as being made up of multiple parts or sub-personalities that help us navigate our life, they make up who we are. There is also a central part in all of us called the True Self that is defined by the 8 C’s compassion, curiosity, connection, calm, creativity, courage, clarity, and confidence. It is a healing force within all of us, nothing you go through in life can take it away, but it does often get buried.


When we are younger our True Self cannot lead, we are dependent on our caregivers and thus when we go through incidents that make us feel bad or wrong parts of us will develop strategies to keep us safe, like an inner critic that says “I will tell you are bad so no one else tells you, you are bad.” So, it sees all our struggles as being adaptive at some point in our life, they kept us safe. When parts take on extreme roles to protect us when younger they give up their gifts to hold the burdens or protective roles.


IFS counsellors hold space for you to get to know these different parts of you from your True Self so they can see you are safe and release the burdens and protective roles they had to pick up. IFS therapy is like a guided exercise into your inner world where you can develop an intimate understanding of yourself and heal anything that has been stuck.


2. Somatic Therapies


A lot of people have a limited understanding of how our bodies work but they are what is interacting with the world, everything you like, or dislike starts with a sensation in the body. It is our nervous system and sense that are picking up things from the outside world and informing our brain. Wouldn’t it then make sense to work with the body and not just the mind?


This form of therapy was developed by Peter Levine. It worked with the nervous system. I experienced this form of therapy for about a year. It was very interesting to spend a full therapy system in your body with your sensations. It is amazing how much you can feel when you drop inside, even if you feel like you can’t feel anything, numbness has a lot of sensations in it. This form of therapy is a very safe way to heal trauma that is stuck in the body including anxiety or depression. You can work with the body to bring in regulation.


Sensorimotor Therapy

This form of therapy honours the body's role and impact when we experience trauma. During a traumatic event, our bodies react with a survival response, “fight, flight or freeze.” Often we cannot escape a trauma so our bodies get stuck in trying to fight it off and thus an individual will continue to experience the somatic (physical) sensations such as shaking, nervous ticks, and sweating even when they are safe. Sensorimotor therapy helps people go back to the event and helps them work through it in the body and mind so they can become unstuck.


Hakomi Therapy

This is another experiential body-centred form of therapy that was developed by Ron Kurtz. It is based on eastern philosophy, Taoism and Buddhism and combines a number of different approaches and concepts including mindfulness, empathy, and loving presence. A Hakomi therapist with help guides their clients to their inner world where they can explore and help heal limiting beliefs. The idea is when we become aware of core limiting beliefs there is a conscious desire to change them, Hakomi therapist can help clines explore how to do to this. This process leads to new insights, transformation, and change. This form of therapy also honours and relies on the client's internal wisdom and ability to heal. Internal family systems is also based on a number of Hakomi beliefs and interventions.


3. EMDR


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique that can help relieve psychological stress. When we experience trauma a lot of the experience is not processed which can lead to post-traumatic stress. The sights, words, sounds, and smells can trigger unprocessed trauma and then you re-experience the event either in the mind or body. This re-experiencing is related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR works to help change the memories that are stored in the brain. It does this through bilateral 9side to side) eye movements while recalling a piece of the trauma or triggering experience till they no longer cause distress. These bilateral movements are similar to when we sleep in REM which helps us process the events in our life.


There is growing research that supports the use of EMDR to treat trauma and other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and substance abuse. There can be a risk through of re-traumatization for some clients which can make things worse. It has been shown to be good at single trauma incidents rather than complex trauma. Since this is a powerful approach is better held by counsellors who have more trauma training and are more artful and safe when using it. It has also been shown to be very effective mixed with Internal family systems therapy, some counsellors have training in both.


I do love somatic approaches, but I feel they are even more powerful when you incorporate parts work such as IFS. There is a branch of IFS called Somatic IFS that was created by Susan McConnel that does just this.


Learning about your nervous system and how you can support your body better to access more calm and connection has huge benefits in all areas of your life, whether you have known trauma or not. Stephen Porges develop the Polyvagal Theory that can help one learn how to regulate the nervous system. We live in a culture that pushed us to achieve a lot with little rest, we run on adrenaline but this sets us up for burnout which is trauma of the body, learning to operate from a place of ease, rest and flow will have you accomplishing more and not hurting yourself.


If you have been struggling with your mental health or feeling stuck and regular therapy has not helped, I suggest looking into finding a trauma counsellor. Talk therapy and coaching are very beneficial but if parts of us are stuck in the past in pain it is often hard to move forward in life and to take care of ourselves. These approaches will benefit anyone who is struggling. It is nice to also experience these approaches working rather than just talking about healing, you can feel it with these models they are experiential.


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Kylie Feller, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kylie Feller, M.A., is a registered clinical counsellor and life coach. She specializes in helping people understand and heal trauma while connecting them to their own innate healing force, their True Self. She believes that there is nothing people cannot heal and that all individuals can thrive and flourish if given the right formula. She has also launched an online program to help individuals navigate dating in a way that promotes greater growth and healing called, Swipe Right into Loving Yourself. She is a trained Internal Family Systems therapist, Empowerment Coach, Akashic Record Coach, Reiki Healer, and Yoga Teacher. She works with individuals one-on-one online helping them to access inner transformation so they can truly succeed in all levels of life.

 

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