When I began my private practice, I didn’t expect to become a trauma therapist. Like other clinicians I had known, I didn’t feel adequately trained and prepared to support individuals, families and communities impacted by a traumatic event. As a counsellor, I knew I had empathy and understanding to share but I wasn’t confident that I had the skills to help those who had been impacted directed or indirectly by terrible tragedy or injury.
Fortunately, I quickly realized that many of my clients were carrying their traumas around with them but it was disguised by other names – like grief, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. Once I began to recognize that trauma was often at the root of these conditions, I became more focused on learning everything I could about treating trauma. I was struck by the realization that perhaps I could provide relief to so many who suffer if I could help them understand the impact trauma can have on their day-to-day functioning and behaviours.
Today, there is much more literature and research in the field of trauma than when I first entered the field over twenty years ago. Our definition of trauma has extended beyond what most of us would recognize as “Big T” trauma – images of war, death, serious accidents and physical abuse. The acknowledgement of “little t” trauma has enhanced our ability to understand that we are also impacted by more subtle experiences that can impact our sense of self or safety – like having unresponsive caregivers, bullying or harassment and non-life threatening illness.
Some of us may be more naturally adaptive and have supports or resources already in place that support our recovery through both “Big T’ and “little t” traumas. But when that trauma is unresolved, it can continue to live in our nervous system where we may become stuck in patterns of “fight, flight or freeze”. We may feel it in our bodies, in our relationships and in our physical and mental health. When therapy is targeted towards those stuck experiences of trauma, there can be healing.
I have recently been trained in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a therapeutic approach originally discovered by Francine Shapiro to treat symptoms of PTSD in veterans of war. The practice has continued to grow and evolve since it was first discovered in the late 1990s and has been proven to provide relief in symptoms related to trauma, anxiety and depression amongst other conditions. If you are interested in learning more about EMDR, please visit our EMDR webpage.