Trauma doesn’t just happen to a few unlucky people: it’s an indivisible part of human experience. Pain, overwhelm, loneliness, fear, loss - all of us face these kinds of traumas at some point in life. Especially when these experiences happen to us in our early years and we don’t have a safe relational way to process them, it often precipitates developmental or relational trauma, which is what we experience when emotional pain cannot find a safe relational home to hold it and help it be processed.
Whether it’s a one-time event that knocks us off our feet, or an ongoing longer period in which our needs for safety, connection, and a relational way to process painful experiences may either have not been met or were violated - overwhelming distress leaves an impact on our minds, brains, nervous systems and bodies. Some of the most common fallouts of unhealed trauma is dissociation: a part of the self gets compartmentalized in order to flee the pain, and the mind splits from the body. Or it can be a state of dysregulation: we are unable to manage intense or unbearable emotions, resulting in symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, addictive behaviours, disrupted sleep or eating patterns.
Trauma-informed counselling creates a safe relational container to process emotions and pain so that they don’t remain unresolved. It emphasizes somatic mindfulness - supporting, containing, and deepening emotional states in the body and allowing them to complete - while integrating parts of the mind or self that may be isolated and releasing them from potential negative identifications, e.g., “I’m a burden,” “I’m too needy,” or “I’m unlovable,” and so on. Through this process, we shift from unhealthy patterns of self-regulation and coping mechanisms, towards learning how to re-regulate our nervous systems through healing connections (co-regulation) with others and with our core selves and bodies.
Trauma informed counselling also recognizes that we are all impacted by oppressive forces in this world that are beyond our control to differing degrees, and helps us identify these forces so that we have a balanced view of the right timing and amount of responsibility we have in responding to challenging situations.