Basically, trauma is something which tends to overwhelm a person and their normal coping mechanisms and results in that person feeling very anxious and distressed.
There are physical components of trauma reactions as well as psychological and the two go hand in hand. People can experience a trauma reaction from a single event, or from multiple events (complex trauma).
The stress from trauma is natural and normal and is not a disorder or deficiency within the person. However, it can be debilitating and it is something that can be addressed with counselling. Some people can go on to develop an Acute Stress Disorder that occurs immediately after an extremely traumatic event; others may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), particularly when the traumatic event is way outside of the person’s normal experiences, or when there has been complex or multiple trauma.
What is a Traumatic Event?
What constitutes a traumatic event can be very different for different people – it can be culturally based, and also very personal and individualised.
A key aspect of a traumatic event, is that the event is outside the normal experiences that a person, and others from that culture, country or society, may experience. For example, some refugees who are settled in Australia may come from a country that has been ravaged by war for many decades and have witnessed, along with their fellow countrymen and women, many atrocities and events since their childhood and into their adult lives.
While these events would definitely be out of the range of normal experiences for those of us brought up in the safety and security of countries like Australia, they are unfortunately a part of daily life for others. While we may define these events as traumatic, and may well suffer acute stress disorder or PTSD as a result, for people who have experienced such events throughout their lives, it is a normal event.
But the opposite is also true in that what we find normal and every day, may be a traumatic event for others who have never, or rarely experienced such events.
Treatment for Traumatic Stress
Psychological treatment for traumatic stress must therefore be contextually based, and take into consideration the range of variables that contribute to the unique individuals that we are. An experienced and skilled therapist will utilise a range of therapies that are appropriate for the unique individual and for their particular trauma.
If you are considering seeing somebody about traumatic stress, I have worked in the trauma field for the past 17 years, including with refugee survivors of torture and trauma; with asylum seekers who have fled war, genocide and detention; with those who experienced natural disasters; survivors of abuse and violence; and people involved in accidents, car-jacking and other events.
I draw on a range of evidence-based therapies including Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), CBT, Existential therapy, and Interpersonal therapy, to tailor a treatment plan to your individual needs.
Author: Greg Turner, B App Sc, Grad Dip App Sc (App Psych), Cert GMH, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner is a national leader in the field of transcultural mental health, after spending over a decade in senior positions at the Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre. He sees his role as a facilitator to enable clients to recover their psychological strength, grow as human beings, and become equipped with strategies to deal with life’s problems as they present into the future.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.