Trauma healing is possible. Even if you have been dealing with the symptoms of trauma for decades, there is always hope and possibility for change. Struggling with the impact of trauma and deciding to seek out counselling support is a huge step in and of itself. Once you begin looking, many people are overwhelmed by the plethora of providers and types of therapies available. In this blog post, we are happy to provide an overview of some of the most common treatments out there right now to help you make a decision about the next steps.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People minimize the extent and severity of their symptoms and wonder if they are even eligible for trauma counselling. The Mayo Clinic provides a great overview of PTSD symptoms:
“PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
- Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always being on guard for danger
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour
- Overwhelming guilt or shame”
If you are struggling with any or multiple of these symptoms and/or feel that your traumatic experiences, whether overt (e.g., physical or sexual abuse) or covert (e.g., neglect), have been holding you back in your functioning then, guess what? You are more than eligible to pursue trauma counselling in Airdrie or a community local to you. All that is required for anyone to seek out counselling is a willingness for change and a recognition that life is being impacted for them.
Once you have decided to seek out counselling, let us explore some of the most common trauma counselling approaches:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
EMDR was born in 1987 when the founder, Francine Shapiro, was walking in a park and realized that moving her eyes back and forth seemed to help decrease the negative and upsetting emotions connected with some memories and thoughts. From there, a new therapeutic modality was born. Francine Shapiro created a protocol for EMDR that has been empirically tested and validated over the years and currently stands as one of the main treatments supported for the treatment of trauma, as well as other conditions like OCD, anxiety, addiction, chronic pain, and depression.
EMDR employs the use of bilateral stimulation which means engaging both sides of your brain at the same time. This can be done using sound, tapping/touch, and/or vision. Typically EMDR practitioners will use visual stimulation to activate both sides of the brain, such as by having the client follow a finger or light, but it is possible to use other stimulation, if needed. The idea is that while accessing the upsetting memories and engaging in bilateral stimulation, that this helps the brain reprocess things so that, in future, when that same memory is accessed it will not bring with it the same associative feelings and thoughts. This reduces distress and empowers the individual to find freedom from their trauma.
To learn more about EMDR and watch a video explaining it, click here.
Pros of EMDR:
- Does not involve spending too much time reliving the upsetting memories and events
- Is empirically validated
- Can be used for issues beyond EMDR
- Many therapists are trained in EMDR
- Can be done virtually
Cons of EMDR:
- Is a longer-term therapy with most people doing 8-12+ sessions (though this varies by case and practitioner, of course)
- Associated cost of higher number of sessions
- Needing a practitioner specialized in this area
- May not work for everybody
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) for Trauma Counselling Airdrie
Developed in 2008 by Laney Rosenzweig, ART combines elements of EMDR (such as the bilateral stimulation and eye movement components) but with increased speed to mimic what happens when people are dreaming, mixed with other therapeutic modalities that focus on changing thought patterns (like CBT), decreasing anxiety around certain stimuli (like exposure therapy) along with imagery and mindfulness.
While ART is a newer technique, it is showing promising research and empirical validation to help with trauma, along with other mental health symptoms like depression, grief, addiction, phobias, and anxiety. ART is a brief technique where individuals will know if it is having benefit after just 1 or 2 sessions so the time commitment is low. The idea is that by picking a memory/situation target that is causing distress and engaging in the ART techniques using rapid eye movement that people will notice a quick decrease in their associated feelings and have different associative feelings in the future when the memory comes up. Jennifer Turner who provides trauma counselling in Airdrie for Sana Psychological, is extremely passionate about ART and finds it has been invaluable for many of her clients dealing with everything from trauma to grief to addiction challenges.
To watch a video of Laney explaining ART and demonstrating it in action, click here.
Pros of ART:
- Brief intervention
- Does not require the individual to relive upsetting memories
- Will know if it’s working after just 1 or 2 sessions, so the investment is low
- Effective for many other issues beyond trauma
Cons of ART:
- Not as well-established technique as others
- May not work for everybody
- Not as many practitioners offering this technique
- Due to less availability, there may be more challenging finding a provider who is covered within your insurance or health system
Somatic Healing in Trauma Counselling Airdrie
Somatic experiencing therapy developed out of Wilhelm Reich’s work in the 1930’s where he posited that trauma could extend beyond memories and feelings into the body. Since then, somatic therapy has had multiple decades to grow and solidify as a technique. The idea behind somatic therapy is that we can use our body as a guide to feelings and also use connection with these bodily sensations to heal ourselves and trauma. The somatic therapist will work with you to help you identify where trauma is stored in your body, what messages your body is communicating with you, and how to support yourself in change and healing. Sessions are gentle, supported, and non-touch.
For more description of somatic therapy and exercises, click here.
Pros of Somatic Healing:
- May be helpful for those who struggle to connect with thoughts, feelings, and distinct memories
- Is helpful for those who are aware of their body and sensations
- Can be done alongside other therapeutic techniques or as a standalone
Cons of Somatic Healing:
- May be challenging for those who struggle to connect with their body
- May be difficult to find a practitioner who specializes in this area
There are other approaches to trauma that practitioners may be trained in and use as standalone or in conjunction with the approaches mentioned above. While EMDR, ART, and Somatic Experiencing are the Big 3 when it comes to current trauma counselling approaches, there are others out there too.
Some other more common approaches to trauma counselling include:
- Emotion-Focused Therapy. Learn more here.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is an empirically validated approach for dealing with trauma and involves supporting the individual in changing their thoughts about the events which impacts feelings and behaviour. Standard CBT can be used for trauma and there is also Trauma-Focused CBT for young adults and children.
- Dialectic Behaviour Therapy. DBT is an empirically validated approach for supporting individuals in navigating strong emotions.
Which Approach is Best?
As with anything, people engaging with trauma counselling in Airdrie want to know which approach is best. Objectively, neither of these techniques is a cut above the other. They all have their own pros and cons, as listed, and require the individual and their therapist to make an informed decision on what approach is most suitable for the individual’s needs. It is also common that people may have experience with multiple techniques depending on the types of challenges they are experiencing. Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach and what works very well for one person may not for another. Feeling comfortable to be honest and have a connection with your therapist is one of the most important factors in therapeutic success so make sure that you have this with your provider. If you do, the technique will be of secondary value.
We wish you all the best in your trauma counselling exploration and healing.
Looking for some free resources on everything related to addiction and mental health, including trauma? Visit our webpage here.
Trauma Counselling Airdrie and Calgary. Visit us for trauma counselling in Airdrie where we offer trauma counselling and other services for addiction and mental health care. Airdrie locals and surrounding communities can access ART therapy and can access EMDR and Somatic healing virtually if that is more convenient. Appointments can be booked online anytime. Trauma counselling Airdrie & Calgary are in person using EMDR, ART, Somatic Healing, DBT, and CBT and we also offer virtual services throughout Alberta, New Brunswick, and the Yukon.
About the Author
Paige Abbott is a Registered Psychologist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Paige is the Owner and Founder of Sana Psychological, a small private practice that offers trauma counselling Airdrie & Calgary, along with support for addiction and other mental health issues.