The role of adversity in shaping human existence and experiences has been questioned by philosophers for centuries, since well before Shakespeare wrote a wretched soul, bruised with adversity. Yet it is only in recent decades that research has given us some powerful insights into the topic. One of them is the study conducted by the World Health Organization that found that at least 70% of adults experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. Trauma, by definition, is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, and diminishes their sense of self, and their ability to feel a full range of emotional experiences. Due to the pervasive nature of trauma, it can bring about a slew of physical, emotional, psychological, and social issues for a person. Be it a one-time event, a recurring incident, or an ongoing situation, trauma can affect a person at the deepest of levels and can cause great discomfort and pain to a person long after the traumatic incident has passed.
As mammals who exist in complex social hierarchies in a large and increasingly complicated world, we all have experiences that overwhelm us and cause us great suffering or discomfort. Due to the nuanced and tricky nature of trauma, dealing with such experiences can become especially difficult. This is where trauma-informed counselors can help people in resolving their issues. A trauma informed psychologist is someone aware of these very human experiences of feeling overwhelmed or being unable to come to terms with such experiences and knowledgeably and sensitively explores the impact of these experiences in a safe and collaborative environment. Trauma-informed counseling as a therapeutic practice is based on the crucial belief that people are so much more than their trauma and that all individuals have the capacity to recover. It is an empathetic therapy practice that asks the important question of ‘what happened to this person’ instead of ‘what is wrong with this person’. Therapists trained to recognize and treat the signs of trauma create better outcomes for clients presenting problems that on the surface level seem to be unrelated to trauma. This is one of the main reasons why it is said that trauma-informed therapy is for everyone and not just people who have undergone major life-threatening events. Here are a few ways a trauma informed psychologist has a positive impact on the therapist-client relationship.
1. Less risk of re-traumatization
When a person has suffered trauma, they are more likely to experience harm again through any experience that in some way repeats or triggers the feelings of that trauma. It is unlikely a therapist or healthcare provider would cause such harm on purpose, but an ignorance of the signs or the impact of trauma on a person’s life can lead an uninformed counselor to minimize or clumsily probe the traumatic experience leading to re-traumatization and can do more harm than good. A trauma-informed therapist will treat the client with expert care and gentleness to avoid causing further harm.
2. Seeing beyond the diagnoses
According to the research of Dr. Judith Herman regarding Borderline Personality Disorder, clients diagnosed with this stigmatized condition are treated poorly by care providers, and the underlying trauma that creates their symptoms is disastrously overlooked. This is one of the many examples of a common diagnosis that is often confused with the effects of sexual, emotional, or physical trauma. Oftentimes, diagnoses such as depression and anxiety are ways trauma manifests itself in a person. While many healthcare providers offer treatment based on their client's diagnosis, a trauma informed psychologist stays vigilant to the signs of trauma within each client and creates the possibility of adequate healing and care.
3. Holistic care
Trauma-informed therapists understand that healing from trauma requires a holistic approach that involves body movement along with traditional talk therapy. Many body-focused therapists are beneficial for clients who have suffered trauma such as trauma-informed yoga and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Since trauma has both physical and mental repercussions, treating both the mind and body facilitates a holistic healing journey for a client.
4. Depth of Compassion
Clients with trauma often feel isolated and misunderstood and find it difficult to talk about their experiences without fear of judgment. Many times, they seem to feel the same isolation when attempting to talk about traumatic events in the therapy offices. Trauma-informed counselors understand the depth of what the client has experienced and seek to create an open and collaborative environment where the client is met with compassion and understanding.
5. Sense of safety
Trauma-focused therapies aim to create a safe environment for the client and empower them to live life with a sense of personal safety. A trauma-informed psychologist doesn't push their clients to do or say too much or too quickly, but rather they respect the client's own pace and provide them the autonomy to work towards their healing in ways that are most comfortable to them.
Another Light Counselling, a mental health organization that specializes in trauma, gender, sexuality, addiction, and kink-affirmative therapy, is one such organization that understands the grave effects trauma has on people. Instead of relying on mere diagnoses, counselors here focus on behavior, beliefs, and desired relief of their clients so they can do repair work at the deepest level to make a long-lasting positive change in the client’s life. Another Light Counselling fully integrates knowledge about trauma into all aspects of mental health services and trains staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma to facilitate holistic healing for their clients through unrelenting support and compassion.