It is a big step to come to a counsellor to talk about your traumatic past. Sometimes, having plucked up the courage to take that step, you just want to tell the counsellor the whole story. But that is not the best approach. Before you can tell me about those events when you felt out of control and unsafe, you need to be able to trust me. Trust can only be built by spending time with another person and getting to know them. And that is what you need to do in the counselling session. You need to get to know me and know you can trust me to maintain a safe place for you to talk about those events. So I always say, you can give me the headings, but not the content.
As well as giving you the chance to feel comfortable with me and decide that I can be trusted, you also need to learn some other techniques. Children depend on their caregivers to help them feel safe and learn how to cope with strong emotions. This is known as regulation. If a child does not have that support, or is in a situation where there is no one there to help them regulate the strong emotions, the child does not learn how to regulate on their own. Talking about the traumatic experiences can be very frightening for an adult who has never learned to regulate. So I will teach you techniques to ground yourself in the present before any in depth discussion of your past experiences. These techniques are helpful outside as well as inside the counselling session.
Of course, you do not have to share every event that happened to you, or any for that matter. You share only what you feel is important to share.
Sharing will not happen in the first session. It may take 2 or 3 sessions before you are ready to talk about your past experiences.
Working on your childhood trauma is not a quick process. It can not be attended to in just a few sessions. Anyone who comes to me, thinking they can attend for 3 or 4 sessions, will not be able to attend to their trauma. I will instead focus on teaching you some techniques to help you to self regulate.
Some people work on their trauma for one to two years. Then later they come back to work on more. That is quite normal.
When I work with trauma I always collaborate with you, the client. In trauma you never had any power or control in the situation. Now in therapy you have equal power and you have control of the situation. This is an important part of your recovery. I always teach you about how the trauma has affected you and will answer any questions you may have. I always encourage my clients to ask me about things, no matter how silly they think the questions are. You need to be informed about your therapy.