Trauma Services

Trauma can have a profoundly devastating effect on a person’s life in ways that are often difficult to recover from in the absence of professional help. We can offer specialist trauma services to support children, young people and adults who have been exposed to frightening experiences or traumatic life events and are suffering from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a ‘normal’ reaction to frightening events. It can be caused by witnessing or experiencing extremely distressing or potentially life-threatening events. The kind of events that may trigger symptoms of PTSD often includes; road traffic accidents, natural disasters and violent assaults.

Some commonly described symptoms of PTSD:

  • Frightening vivid flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive images and body sensations (tingling, trembling, shaking, tightening in the stomach leading to nausea and/or fluctuations in body temperature)
  • Emotional numbing and avoidance of any reminders of the traumatic event/experience
  • Hyper-arousal symptoms (including intense feelings of anger, irritability, sleep disturbance and difficulties in concentrating)

These symptoms are often difficult to understand, but they are the body’s solution to dealing with traumatic experiences.

Different forms of PTSD:

There is often a distinction made between ‘Simple’ PTSD and ‘Complex’ PTSD. The symptoms of ‘Simple’ PTSD tend to be caused by a traumatic incident(s) in which a person may fear for their life or that of another. Some other examples include:

  • Combat trauma
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Traumatic childbirth
  • Traumatic grief, such as sudden death of a child or partner
  • Trauma following a medical diagnosis of life-limiting illness
  • Trauma following violence, including physical/sexual assault

Such events are usually of a time-limited duration and recommended treatments, such as EMDR or trauma-focused CBT, are usually very effective. These treatments can also be combined with other body-based interventions such as Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to facilitate recovery.

Complex PTSD

In ‘Complex’ PTSD, exposure to trauma often occurs over a much longer period of time, several months or years even, which can have a devastating impact on a person’s capacity to function in everyday life and their sense of self. Examples of the kind of traumatic experiences that may lead to the development of Complex Trauma may include:

  • Chronic neglect
  • Human trafficking
  • Organised sexual exploitation
  • Prolonged exposure to and experience of domestic violence
  • Physical and/or sexual violence in childhood
  • Torture arising from war and political conflict
  • Trauma arising from the on-going displacement of refugees

Complex Trauma in children is often described as ‘Developmental Trauma’ or ‘Developmental Trauma Disorder’. Prolonged and repeated trauma has a profound impact on the lives of children and adults, but early traumatic experience can shape how the brain develops and how the nervous system functions. Some common difficulties both children and adults struggle with include:

  • Problems in managing strong emotions, which may trigger overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and sometimes rage.
  • Problems in managing relationships with others and feeling frightened or mistrustful of those close to us.
  • Feeling overly responsible or deeply pained by guilt, shame and self-blame.
  • Loss of sense of identity and a fractured sense of self, leading to feelings of disconnection and detachment.
  • Struggling to form and sustain meaningful relationships leading to feeling painfully isolated and alone.
  • Disruptions in memory and struggling to remember and make sense of what happened.
  • Struggling to deal with the unbearable pain of trauma through different forms of self-injury such as binge drinking, using drugs or cutting.

Working therapeutically with complex trauma often requires delicate pacing and skilful weaving of interventions from different therapies. For healing to happen it is important to ensure:

  • Interventions are developmentally sensitive and relationally relevant so we are working with the age of the child’s nervous system.
  • We create healing environments at home and school so that every adult can help in some way whether parent/carer, aunt or uncle, teacher, mentor, lunchtime supervisor, grandparents and so on.
  • Therapeutic work is relationally rewarding, genuinely respectful and full of repetitive fun experiences.

More information on Developmental Trauma