Trauma Informed Care
Around 70% of us have experienced one or more traumatic incidents in our lives. Events such as a car accident, war, first-responder work, sexual assault or violence are perhaps more commonly understood as 'traumatic'.
Increasingly 'complex' or chronic developmental trauma has been identified as a leading cause of psychological and physical health problems. Complex trauma may involve 'adverse experiences' such as abuse, neglect or mistreatment as a child or later in our lives, often in the context of a relationship. This form of trauma is repetitive, and its effects are cumulative over time.
While many of us have a natural resilience that helps us heal following a traumatic experience, some people are unable to process or recover from their experience, and develop symptoms of trauma. It is our experience and reaction, rather than the nature of the event itself, that defines trauma.
Trauma can show up as depression, anxiety, nightmares, pain, panic, relationship or sexual problems, dissociation, and addictions. For this reason trauma is often mis-diagnosed or not recognised.
Neuroscience has shown that trauma can affect our nervous system and the way we respond to stress. Trauma can also disrupt our capacity to calm ourselves, soothe our emotions (emotion regulation), feel safe in our bodies, or to trust ourselves or others. Complex trauma can impair our ability to form nourishing relationships, and has been linked to chronic feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness and despair, and with a range of medical or somatic problems.
Trauma can also interfere with cognitive processes, including the way memories are stored. Some or all elements of a traumatic experience are encoded in implicit neural networks that lie outside of our conscious awareness. It is possible for a traumatic memory to surface months or even years after the event(s) occurred.
Working with trauma requires respect for the complexity of the mind and body. In particular it is important to;
- Create safety - it is crucial that a trusting connection exists between the client and therapist.
- Go slow - ample time is required for gentle and careful reflection.
- Collaborate - the client is the expert on their experience, and should guide the pace of therapy.
- Be sensitive - trauma memories may be beyond our conscious awareness. Reminders (or 'triggers') may occur spontaneously or unexpectedly, can be prompted in a myriad of different ways, and can evoke surprising, strong and sometimes difficult reactions.
- Listen to the body - trauma is an experience that occurs and is stored within the body. It cannot be healed by 'talking therapies' alone. There is strong evidence that somatic and body-inclusive therapies are profoundly important in the treatment of trauma and other mental and emotional problems.
- Trust the process - healing from trauma is an organic process. It may not be possible to move ‘forward’ at a particular time (as much as we, or those close to us, would like that to occur). This requires us to cultivate patience and compassion for ourselves as we move through the process of healing.
Trauma-sensitive care requires us to understand and anticipate these issues, and respond with care and sensitivity.
At Botanic Psychology, these principles form the foundation of our approach.