PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an anxiety disorder due to experiencing frightening or distressing events. The mind and body are unable to process these events due to their overwhelming and shocking nature. Following trauma it is usual to experience post traumatic symptoms. However, if they persist and last for more than three months this is termed as post traumatic stress disorder.
Typical symptoms might are:
Being hyper alert to danger, difficulty in sleeping and concentrating, easily startled, irritable, angry, agitated, panicky, self destructive or reckless behaviour.
Hypoarousal / numbing
Feeling robotic, disconnected from feelings, lack of vitality, disconnected from others, difficulty expressing affection, avoiding reminders of the trauma, alcohol drug use to avoid memories.
Nightmares, flashbacks, intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma, re-experiencing physical symptoms when the body ‘remembers’.
Other symptoms such as addiction, anxiety, depression, dissociative disorders, phobia’s, self harm and suicidal ideation may also be present.
Causes of PTSD could be:
Serious road accidents, physical assault, taken hostage, being mugged, rape or sexual assault, childhood abuse, severe neglect, witnessing violent assault or death, an event where you feared for your life, loosing someone close to you in a disturbing way, military combat.
With regard to the latter, I have experienced a theatre of war as a former soldier during the first gulf war.
Professions more likely to experience trauma at work
- The military
- Medical profession
- Fire service
- Police service
PTSD trauma counselling
My approach to PTSD trauma counselling is a progressive one. Firstly, a safe and trusting relationship needs to be established, this is of fundamental importance. When work begins I prefer to explore some current or historic life situations away from the trauma. This supports building relational rapport and also strengthens emotional intelligence and resilience for the client, which helps the work to come.
My initial preferred approach when edging closer to the trauma is a non-clinical CBT style. This way of working becomes less about feelings and more about the correlation between thinking and actions. A progressive and incremental process can lead from working around the peripheral edges of the event, to integrating expression of emotion whilst staying within a window of tolerance of these feelings, away from becoming overwhelmed or re-traumatised. This is best done by good communication of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses in the body. During this process, an emphasis is on the client having an appropriate level of control over the pace and intensity of the work. There is also a collaboration, I’m vigilant that the client doesn’t underestimate the power of rushing into traumatic events.
At times I may invite the use of psychodrama technique into the work. For example, the use of miniature’s that can illustrate and scale down a past scene, making it less imposing and daunting.
Working through trauma effectively and thoroughly, allows trauma to become processed and integrated into the psyche as other memories do. Recovery allows the person to re-engage in life in a more meaningful way.
It is important to find the right therapist and approach when working in PTSD trauma counselling. For this reason I’m happy to offer a 40 minute meeting free of charge, giving opportunity to ask questions about my approach.