Fiona Rogerson – Perinatal and Trauma Counselling

trauma counselling

Trauma counselling Perth and online

What is Trauma?

A traumatic event is an event that poses a threat of injury or death to oneself or others, and elicits feelings of intense fear, helplessness or hopelessness.  This even does not have to be directly experienced by the person; they may witness it happening to someone else, or learn about it occurring to someone close to them.

Trauma is the psychological, physiological emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing.  It is a state of high arousal in which normal coping mechanisms are overwhelmed in response to the perception of threat.

PERCEPTION is the key word to take away here. If an individual perceives that they are under threat – that their emotional or physical safety is challenged – they may experience trauma from that event.  Trauma is personal and subjective… it’s not up to anyone else to decide whether an individual has experienced trauma from an event… whether that be caregivers, professionals, or others that were witness to that same experience.  If there was perceived threat, trauma is possible.

What are the types of trauma?

Acute trauma (sometimes referred to Simple trauma) results from a single distressing event, such as an accident, rape, assault, or natural disaster. In the perinatal population birth trauma may fall in to this category.  The event threatens the person’s emotional or physical safety and creates a lasting impact in the mind and body, affecting the way the person thinks, feels and behaves.

Chronic trauma can occur when a person is exposed to multiple, long-term, and/or prolonged distressing, traumatic events over an extended period. These may be events of the same type, or events of different types. Chronic trauma may result from a long-term serious illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and exposure to extreme situations, such as a war. Several events of acute trauma as well as untreated acute trauma may progress into chronic trauma. The symptoms of chronic trauma may not emerge until years after the event.  Its for this reason that birth trauma can be a catalyst for some individuals that have experienced previous trauma to then endure the symptoms of complex trauma.

Complex trauma is similar to complex trauma as it is a result of exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events or experiences. The difference here is that these events are generally within the context of an interpersonal (between people) relationship with a trusted individual, often in childhood. It may give the person a feeling of betrayal, being trapped, and distrust. Complex trauma often has a severe impact on the person’s mind. It may be seen in individuals who have been victims of childhood abuse, emotional neglect, domestic violence, and family disputes. It affects the person’s overall health, relationships, performance at work or school, as it intrinsically affects the way they view themselves and their place in the world.

Who does trauma affect, what can it feel like, and for how long?

Trauma can affect anyone.  In fact, while there is limited data on the prevalence of trauma in Australia, two studies suggest that 57–75% of Australians will experience a potentially traumatic event at some point in their lives (Mills et al. 2011; Rosenman 2002). The way an individual reacts to a traumatic event depends on many things, including the type of traumatic event, the support available, other current stressors, previous traumatic experiences, as well as characteristics specific to that person, such as age. 

Common reactions include a range of emotional (eg fear, anxiety, panic, numbness, overwhelm), physical (eg. fatigue, headaches, sweating, increased heart rate), mental (eg. rumination, intrusive thoughts) and behavioural responses (eg, avoidance of people or places, not wanting to be alone, overly protective of others, inability to do daily tasks).  These reactions name only a few, and it’s important to note that reactions will vary from person to person in severity and the impact that they have on daily life.  For some, these reactions remain for a short period of time after the event.  For others, the body remains in ’emergency mode’ well after the event.  It’s when these reactions don’t subside and the trauma continues to be relived, with ongoing impact on behaviours, emotions and thoughts, that support may be needed to resolve the trauma. 

There is no set time-frame for trauma recovery because each person and their experience is unique. For some, with trauma counselling from a single event may resolve in weeks, for others it can take months or years.   

How can trauma be resolved?

There are many different types of trauma therapy treatments available, however in order to release trauma, specific modalities are needed.  As trauma is rooted within the body it’s important that we attend to this in counselling.  

It’s important to not only talk about what is happening or has happened for you, but to also process the bodily response, the emotions, the beliefs that ensue and how these are impacting your daily life. EMDR therapy is one well-supported and documented therapy that does this, put past traumatic events in the past so they no longer intrude upon your daily life – physically, psychologically or emotionally.

What happens in trauma counselling?

Working through trauma can be scary, confronting, and heavy.  It can also be potentially re-traumatising. Because of the risk of re-traumatisation, this work is best done with the support of a trauma specialist. Finding the right counsellor may take some time, but the quality of the relationship you form with your counsellor is equally important. so there should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your trauma counsellor.

Trauma counselling is unique to each person and their experience.  It may involve ‘talk therapy’, allowing you the space to gain clarity and understanding of your experience, your reactions and your emotions, while your counsellor works to gain a deeper understanding of your experience, it’s ongoing impact in your life, awareness of current triggers and coping mechanisms. Or it may involve ‘resourcing’ you with strategies for calming your mind and body from the emergency mode so that you can feel safe to talk. It often involves a holistic integration of well-supported therapeutic approaches to support your recovery, such as EMDR Therapy.  

Either way, the priority will be to create a deep sense of safety and trust so that the work can unfold as it should.

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