Do you need Trauma Therapy?
- Have you experienced a frightening, life-threatening event?
- Have you ever been in an abusive relationship, either as a child or as an adult?
- Are you afraid to sleep, knowing that the nightmares will wake you?
- Do you find yourself withdrawing from others or avoiding certain places?
Trauma is the experience of an event in which you felt helpless to stop the threat or actuality of death or physical harm of yourself or a loved one. A traumatic experience isn't something that you "just get over." It changes your life. If you do not know how to handle it or have the necessary resources to help you through it, it can be incapacitating. Common responses include difficulty sleeping, intrusive memories of the event, tendency to jump when startled and to take a long time to calm down afterwards, and difficulty concentrating. Avoidance is very common, as well, although it is more difficult to recognize. The more obvious indications that you are avoiding include staying home, when you used to go out, losing yourself in tv or social media so you don't have to think about things, and withdrawing from family and friends. If you find yourself avoiding, or if people are commenting that you isolate yourself, you need therapy. In my experience, avoidance is the biggest indicator for PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and should never be underestimated.
If you have experienced trauma, you might be questioning your beliefs about the basic nature of people, your own abilities to protect yourself and your loved ones, and wonder if your prior spiritual beliefs were all wrong. Your body is tense all the time and you jump at the slightest surprise. You have trouble breathing and you have headaches all the time. Your friends are drifting away, as you continue to avoid social gatherings. You might find yourself drinking more, or using drugs to numb the pain and drown the memories. No matter what you do, however, the memories keep coming back, sometimes at inconvenient times such as the middle of a presentation at work. Your work is suffering because you cannot concentrate. Part of you doesn't even care anymore. You might even wish you could just die, since there's nothing to look forward to in your life. Alternately, you might feel as if you won't live much longer, anyway, so what's the point in trying? All you want is to escape the memories that keep haunting you. You get images of what might happen in any given situation, taking the people you love away from you. Trauma hits you at a deep level of the basic meaning of life, making you wonder about the purpose of it all.
Of course you can't "just get over it"
When faced with an unusually painful event that leads to or threatens death, injury, or loss of physical integrity (like sexual assault) in yourself or someone you care about, these responses are completely understandable. People who have not experienced a trauma sometimes wonder why you can't just "get over it." You might wonder the same thing. Trauma is life-altering. When your entire life has been turned upside down, it can take time-and help!- to figure it out and move on with your life. You came face-to-face with death and/or annihilation and survived it; that is not an everyday event.
Some statistics from www.statcan.gc.ca:
- 2012: 2,309 people were killed in vehicular accidents
- 2012: 136,595 collisions were recorded on Alberta roadways.
- 2014: 760,000 reports of spousal abuse, with 7% of those reporting sexual assault (keep in mind that the number reporting is substantially lower than the actual number)
- 26% of victims of violent crimes reported to the police were victimized by a family member
- 2014: 53,647 of the victims of violent crimes reported to the police were children, with those aged 12-17 at highest risk of sexual offenses
- 2012: After health-related diseases, accidental deaths were the #5 cause of death in Canada
- An estimated 4.27 million Canadians aged 12 or older suffered an injury severe enough to limit their usual activities in 2009–2010. This represents 15% of the population
Though trauma isn't something that happens to everyone, it happens enough that you are not alone. It isn't something that people tend to talk about (remember the avoidance?), but chances are very good that you know someone who has experienced a traumatic event. Everyone responds to trauma in his or her unique way, which means that you will respond to trauma in your own way. Getting help and support increases the possibilty that you can get through this and grow from it, rather than feeling destroyed by it.
Trauma therapy offers hope
If you can get past the urge to avoid thinking about the trauma long enough to get started in trauma therapy, you can get through this and move on with your life. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is the most commonly used treatment for overcoming trauma responses like PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). When you come in for trauma counseling, you can expect to learn about increasing your awareness of triggers for the symptoms you experience. Once we know what they are, I can show you how to respond effectively so that it does not interfere as much in your current life. Learning and practicing these skills will help you feel better. Once you feel better, we can begin the work of processing the trauma through the use of systematic desensitization. Right now, your brain gets "stuck" on the scariest part of the trauma. The purpose of systematic desensitization is to get past that part and on to the part where you are still alive. Systematic desensitization is basically the process of taking something scary and intense and making it manageable. We start by learning how to relax your body and get yourself calm, knowing you are safe right here, right now. Once you are adept at this, we start talking about parts of the trauma that make you anxious, but not overwhelmingly panicky. You use your skills to get through this successfully. In this way, you are proving to yourself that you can handle it and you are practicing skills that help you manage the stress that comes with thinking about the trauma. Once you are able to talk about less upsetting parts, we work our way up to the worst part about the trauma. This process is completed over the course of some time. Each person responds to trauma in his or her own way, so the length of time for trauma therapy is dependent on the individual. Be prepared for it to take some time, however; trauma treatment is not short-term therapy.
So far, I've described the CBT approach to trauma counseling. I have training in several different modalities of treatment and practice something called Wholistic Psychotherapy, which includes the CBT techniques, but takes into account the meaning of the event for you. Not only will you learn about how to respond to symptoms and practice skills that will help you decrease the distress around the trauma, but we will discuss and explore what it means for you, in terms of your beliefs about humanity, yourself, the world, and sprituality. This is the part of trauma treatment that can change it from a disaster to a catalyst for greater wisdom and compassion.
During the course of almost 20 years as a trauma therapist, I have noticed that people who stick with the treatment earn profound insights about themselves and the world. Not only do your symptoms subside, but you gain wisdom beyond any that people normally gain from a trauma-free life. You realize what truly matters in your life. You learn patience and compassion for yourself and for others. I would never wish trauma on anyone, but the benefits from trauma therapy are beyond anything you would expect from a mere decrease in symptoms. They are life-changing. Like a samurai sword that must go through incredibly high heat repeatedly, but comes out nearly unbreakable and incredibly beautiful and effective, you have been through something intensely painful and frightening. You, too, can come out of the fire a work of human art with the capability to make a real difference in your life.
Why you should consider me as your trauma therapist
My style is best described as compassionate, balanced action. Understanding why your life is as it is helps to satisfy the mind, but it does not create lasting change because it addresses only the mind and partially satisfies the heart. In order to make lasting change, you must engage the body and develop actions that fit with your new understanding. Finally, engaging your spirit strengthens your conviction and gives you the additional support you need to follow through. Wholistic psychotherapy is about engaging all of who you are in order to overcome trauma and be the best possible version of you.
My clients tell me that they feel safe with me. This opens up communication so that we can work with even the most difficult, private issues as they arise. When you need a listening, caring ear, I am here. A good therapist will do more than listen, however, once you have expressed yourself. I will ask questions that lead you to deeper understanding, then push you to act on your insights so that your own actions prove to you that you are more capable and stronger than you ever imagined. My purpose is to support you and guide you through the process of walking through the fire- and coming out the other side a stronger, more confident version of yourself!
With my guidance, you can discover your own power and take action to live your life fully and mindfully, with Purpose. You will learn how to overcome your fears of the past and turn them into the ingredients for a better future.
I have always had a knack for helping people find their power. All my life, people have been sharing their stories with me, including the traumas they experienced. I can hear the most frightening and heart-breaking experiences and provide the strength you feel you lack. With time, I can help you see your own strength. When I was in high school, I gave a speech on child abuse. It filled me with a passion to help people who have been hurt so badly by those they expected to protect them. I was 15. That was when I decided to earn a PhD so that I could follow this calling. Part of that calling is providing trauma therapy and part of it is teaching people to recognize their power by learning to defend themselves. In 1995, I started teaching self-defense classes. I have continued to train in a martial art and to teach these effective self-defense techniques. My formal psychological training began in 1997, when I started graduate school. My focus was on helping people overcome and learn from traumatic experiences.
As a woman living in a society that favors wealthy, white men, I have had to discover my own power many times over. It is not a one-time experience; find your power and - poof!- forever successful. It's more like finding your power, practicing it, giving it away, rediscovering it, practicing it, then discovering that there is yet more to find! I was born with a natural ability to speak up for myself that was enhanced by my mentors as I grew. Even with that, however, I had to learn to raise my voice, which is naturally soft and childlike. I had to learn not to be "nice" to people who were disrespectful to me. I had to learn that I could accomplish my dreams. I had to learn to walk through my fears. I continue to learn these, and other, empowering lessons. Everything I ask of my clients I have either already tried, or I am in process of learning. We are in this together.
Therapy is too expensive.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to sleep again, without the nightmares? How well are you functioning, right now? It will not get better on it's own. Trauma is one thing that does not tend to naturally improve. When you take the time and spend the money to take care of yourself, everything in your life prospers, often including finances. As you develop your sense of self-worth, you find yourself spending less time and money on things that harm you (like junk food or alcohol and cigarettes) and asking for more from people who want your time and effort (pay raise, anyone?). When you put it into perspective, therapy is not as expensive as ignoring your own needs.
Sometimes, the reality is that your finances simply will not allow for regular, long-term therapy. That's okay because you have options.
- Health insurance often covers at least some of the cost. You simply pay me, then submit the receipts I give you for reimbursement from your insurance company.
- Free! 20-minute consultation. It is important that you find a therapist that fits you, but it can get expensive to pay full price to meet someone while you are shopping for the right therapist. I will gladly meet with you for a free 20 minute consultation so you can get an idea of how I work before paying anything.
- If we work together for a few sessions and you find it is helping, but cannot afford to continue paying the full fee, let me know and we can work together to find a solution that works for both of us.
- You can choose less frequent sessions. This usually means slower progress, but it can still be effective- and easier on your pocketbook.
- If you would like to pay for 10 sessions up front, I can give you a discount. Please note that your insurance will likely still want receipts for each session. They don't like paying a lump sum for a service that has not been utilized, yet.
How can I be sure that it will work?
Research finds that almost all clients feel better after 3-4 sessions. Long-lasting and solid change requires more time, based on these two factors:
- The fit between client and therapist. This is the #1 most important factor in therapy effectiveness. I offer a free 20 minute consultation in order to help you get a sense of how well we would fit.
- You must be prepared to do the work. If you are not willing to change your perceptions and do things differently, then nothing in your life will change. The best therapist in the world cannot fix your life without your efforts. I offer specfic suggestions and options to guide you in the actions you need to take in order to make lasting change. If you are not ready to do the work and take the risks necessary to develop your psychological muscles, now is probably not the right time for you to engage in therapy. But if you are ready to get moving to the next phase in your life, you cannot help but succeed!
I'm not crazy
You don't have to have a diagnosis in order to benefit from therapy. Everyone has times in their lives when they can use some extra guidance. Trauma can feel overwhelming when you try to get through it alone and friends can only do so much to help. Even if it is not currently debilitating, trauma is best handled before the symptoms become entrenched. At these times, it helps to have an expert on your team.
Sometimes, life makes you feel crazy, even if you are still functioning. You might find that it's getting more difficult to enjoy your life the way you want to, even though you are managing to survive. The question is, do you really want to live your life just getting by? Therapy can help you find your purpose, so that you can thrive in a life full of Joy.
It's your life. Are you ready to love it?