Trauma Counselling: What to Expect

Hope & Fear in Trauma Counselling

One of the best parts of this work is witnessing the healing that occurs when people reach out for trauma counselling.  It is not unusual for clients to express fear and anxiety about what they might discover as they open themselves up for a deeper healing experience.  But there is often a part that is hopeful that they will recover from their pain.

Many of us have survived by avoiding emotions connected to the painful parts of our life stories.  This is both protective and adaptive. It is what helped us cope with the most difficult times in our lives.  

Just the thought of having to sit and recall these memories can prevent people from even starting counselling.  Clients who present to counselling often report two very conflicting experiences at the same time.  A part of themselves that booked an appointment and is hopeful.  And another part that wants to cancel the appointment and leave it all alone.  

A Slow Start

One of the things I wish people knew about trauma counselling is that pulling up all the painful details and emotions is not the beginning.  We always start with building a relationship. Then we develop any strategies necessary to manage overwhelming emotions if they arise. The next step is building a treatment plan together.  Trauma counselling is very collaborative in it’s approach. It is the client’s system that reveals the appropriate plan and pacing of treatment. The therapist simply guides the process.

Trauma counselling is not like ripping off a band-aid. The anxiety related to not being able to cope with “too much too soon” is quite valid.  Many clients find that they prefer the flow of a trauma counselling session. Once the treatment plan is established there is a structure that is predictable and reassuring.  When you have lived through trauma, having consistency and predictability is often very stabilizing in itself.

Like A Surgeon

I often compare a trauma counselling sessions to having a surgical procedure.  Before the surgeon ever makes an incision, there is a plan.  The client is prepped before the surgery, which includes answering any questions, taking a history of previous experiences and noting any health conditions that might be present on the day of surgery. The surgeon is probably not going to begin operating if you are already suffering from pneumonia on the date of your scheduled procedure.

We follow a similar approach in trauma counselling as well, taking the time to get to know our client, their history and previous experiences in counselling.  On the day of the session, any current stressors are noted and addressed. We try to minimize the impact of any unnecessary pain by ensuring the client is prepared properly.

Closure & Restabilization

At the end of surgery, there is time for restabilizaiton and instructions on how to care for yourself as you continue to heal.   This is true in trauma counselling as well. Time is allotted at the end of a session to return to function before returning to your regular daily activities.  Trauma counselling should not be a shock to the system but rather a supportive, structured and predictable approach to resolving pain and trauma.