I didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.


Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

I have been in a traumatic situation. Will I develop PTSD?

I see a lot of people who have been involved in traumatic situations. One of the biggest fears they express is that they will develop PTSD as a result of the trauma.

What does PTSD look like?

I am including this information to demonstrate how complex PTSD is. People are often afraid they have PTSD but are actually just experiencing a normal reaction to a really traumatic situation.

This information is not to be used to self diagnose. If you are concerned it is best to see a professional who is experienced with PTSD and can make a correct diagnosis.

Formal diagnosis of PTSD includes experiencing at least one of each category of the following symptoms for at least a month:

Re-experiencing the trauma – at least one of these:
• Flashbacks including reliving the event and experiencing physical symptoms of fear such as a rapid heart beat or sweating
• Recurring memories or dreams of the event
• Distressing thoughts about the event
• Experiencing a rapid heart beat, sweating or other physical symptom of stress

Avoiding reminders of the trauma – at least one of these:
• Avoiding places, events, objects or anything that reminds you of the trauma
• Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event.
• Changing routines to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma

Symptoms of arousal or reactivity that have arisen or worsened since the event– at least one of these:
• Easily startled
• Feeling tense or on guard
• Difficult concentrating
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Feeling irritable, even having angry outbursts
• Engaging in risky, reckless or destructive behaviour

Thoughts and mood symptoms – at least one of these:
• Having trouble remembering parts or all of the trauma
• Experiencing negative thoughts about yourself or the world
• Feelings of blame directed at you or others that are exaggerated
• Experiencing negative emotions that persist. These include fear, anger, guilt or shame.
• Losing interest in enjoyable activities
• Feeling socially isolated
• Finding it hard to feel positive emotions such as happiness.

How likely is it that you will develop PTSD after a traumatic event?

More people recover from trauma than get PTSD.

Research has shown that previous trauma, especially in childhood, increases your likelihood of developing PTSD. But even that does not mean you will develop PTSD.

The Normal processing of trauma

Many people will report some memories of traumatic events for some time after the event, but these memories fade over time.

People can become stuck in the traumatic event. Triggers that throw them back into the event time and time again are distressing and interfere with healthy daily functioning. Others will avoid talking about the event and situations, people or places they associate with the event.

Trauma processing is similar to Grief processing

There is another life event that can have a similar effect. That is the death of a loved one. For some people the only way to cope with the grief is to avoid all reminders of the loved one.

Another thing that researchers have found is that the more you avoid memories and reminders of traumatic events, the more likely it is that you will develop PTSD. Just as the more you avoid memories and reminders of a loved one, the more likely it is that you will develop Complex Grief Disorder.

Avoiding these memories and reminders is usually due to the extreme discomfort of experiencing these memories and reminders. The emotions associated with them can be extremely difficult to experience.

The importance of processing trauma

When a traumatic event happens it is essential you emotionally process what happened. Much as with grief, it is considered the best way to process this is to titrate your emotional exposure to the event. You allow yourself time to think about it, then allow yourself time to think about other things.

Debriefing after a traumatic event is very important. 30 years ago it was considered essential for everyone to talk about what happened. People were forced to take part in debriefing when they weren’t ready to talk. This caused extreme distress for some people. Not everyone is ready to dive into processing something immediately after it has happened. They need more time to titrate the emotional exposure.

Debriefing today is more an opportunity to talk if you want to and access to trauma counsellors who can help you debrief.

Having your story witnessed and acknowledged

Sometimes after a trauma the focus may be on certain people who are considered to be “worse affected” than others. This may mean that you are not given the chance to tell your story and have the impact of the trauma on you acknowledged. In can be helpful to talk to a trauma counsellor to allow you to share your story and have that story acknowledged. This allows for a better resolution of the trauma.

Some people process things by talking and talking. Others process by reflecting. That is why the debriefing I do, and the format that is recommended, involves letting you talk if you want to or allowing you space if you don’t want to talk.

Sometimes you will need to talk to a counsellor to help with processing the trauma, especially if you are avoiding the emotions and memories due to the pain they cause. A trauma counsellor can help you learn how to cope with those overwhelming emotions and how to titrate your exposure to them.

Unhelpful coping behaviours

In trying to cope with trauma, some people may adopt behaviours that are extremely unhelpful and keep them trapped in the trauma. Substance abuse and increased alcohol consumption are the most common behaviours that I see. They may provide temporary respite from troubling thoughts and emotions, but they are dangerous in the long term and actually keep you trapped in that place of trauma.

When to seek help

Traumatic events take time to recover from. Most people will recover in time. Recovery will usually involve talking about what happened, reflecting on the incident, being willing to cry or experience other emotions.

If you feel that you are stuck in these memories and emotions and don’t seem to be getting better, then it is helpful to seek counselling.

To summarise:

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Previous trauma exposure, especially in childhood
• Getting hurt or seeing others hurt or killed
• Feeling helpless, horror or extreme fear
• Thinking you are going to die
• Having little or no social support after the event
• Being exposed to extra stress after the traumatic event such as pain and injury, loss of job or home, loss of a loved one.

Things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Seek support from friends, family, support groups. Accept offers to engage in critical incident debriefing, either when the counsellors are present or at some point in the next few days.
• Allowing yourself to be upset and impacted by the traumatic event
• Allow yourself to process what has happened and learn from it
• Seek counselling if you need support with the impacts of the event and processing the feelings around the event.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with processing your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Breaking The Cycle Of Unhealthy Relationships

Many people come to see me reporting a history of failed relationships. Some find they keep choosing the wrong person, who treats them badly. Others report not understanding why their relationships fail. Others have a history of seeing many therapists, seeing each one for a period of time, then moving to another therapist with no resolution of their difficulties.

All report being dissatisfied with their relationship histories but don’t know what to do about it. They feel stuck and unable to change the way things are happening.

I Am Not Good Enough

A lot of the time, when I explore with them their feelings about themselves they will report feeling not good enough. Often they believe they are not worth anything better.

Often they are looking for the perfect parent to fill the void left by less than perfect parenting that left them traumatised. This happens especially with friendships and therapists.

Insecure Attachment And Poor Attunement

For these people, they have not formed a secure attachment relationship with their parents in childhood. They will also have had parents who were not attuned to them. This leaves the child feeling unsafe and invisible.

This may not seem like a big issue, but this happens at a time when the child’s brain is developing. When the child’s template of relationships, their view of the world, their view of themselves is developing.

Attachment Is

Research has shown that human babies have an inbuilt need for secure attachment. If a parent cannot meet a baby’s needs, then the baby will die. For that reason, it is vital a baby can trust that their parent will feed them, change them, hold them when they are scared or in pain. In short, the baby needs to trust that their parent will keep them safe and alive.

This continues as the baby grows into a child. A child still needs care and protection.

This is what is referred to as attachment.

If a child does not have a secure attachment with its parents, then it is not safe. That is terrifying for a child.

Attunement Is

Attunement is a measure of how well a caregiver understands the child and is able to meet their needs, especially emotional needs. It means the parent seeks to understand why the child is crying, or acting out.

Instead of judging the parent may seek to understand what is wrong with the child. Are they tired, hungry, upset about something, unwell?

To be understood, to be attuned to, is to be seen. If you are seen then you are more likely to have your survival needs met. If you are not seen you are invisible and then you are at risk of dying because you will not be cared for.

It is worth noting that the parent who spends their time on their mobile phone instead of looking at their child and interacting with them is at risk of exhibiting poor attunement with the child.

If You Can’t Spend Time Caring For Me or Seeing Me Then I Am Not Worthwhile

Lack of attunement is a terrifying situation.

Insecure attachment is a terrifying situation.

They leave the child with the message that they are not worth anything because their parents don’t take the time to attend to their needs, seek to understand them or notice them.

Physical, sexual and emotional abuse can also leave a child feeling they are not worthy of love, that they are not good enough, that they are not worth anything better. I will talk about those issues more in other blogs.

I Am Not Worth Anything And Counselling

This is the situation many people who come to see me find themselves in. They were not worth enough to be securely attached or attuned to their parents.

People come to see me because they want help to feel better in relationships with other people. They want to have successful relationships. They want to have relationships with people who they can feel safe with.

But when there is a history of insecure attachment and lack of attunement it can be hard to work with a counsellor. If all other relationships are unsatisfactory, how can you be sure the counsellor will be a safe person to work with?

The Therapeutic Relationship (Alliance)

Counselling is a relationship referred to as the Therapeutic Alliance. Research has shown that the relationship between you and your counsellor is responsible for the majority of healing that takes place.

When you come to see me, the relationship we have will be a model of a secure relationship. The difficulty is, can you trust that the relationship is secure? When all you have known is insecure relationships, can you be sure I will give you the secure relationship you crave?

The Therapeutic Alliance Must Be A Secure Relationship

I can give you that secure relationship, but will you allow me to?

Growing up in an insecure relationship is terrifying. Children know intrinsically what they need. They can’t name it, but they will seek what they need.

A child who cannot trust relationships will constantly look for evidence that the person they are relating to cannot be trusted. Often, to avoid the pain of failed relationships the child will end a relationship before the other person can end it. This happens even when the other person is committed to the relationship.

Bids For Attention

As humans, we make constant “bids for attention” from the people we are in relationship with. As adults those bids are usually fairly subtle, but if those bids are not met, they can become more obvious, even angry.

For a child, who lacks the skills of an adult, the bids for attention are more extreme. The child may misbehave, break things, yell at the adult. They will do whatever it takes to get attention. This is because it is only when they get attention that they can know they are seen.

You have no doubt heard the saying “any attention is better than no attention”. The ignored child doesn’t want the bad attention, but if that is all they can get they will seek it.

The trouble is, the bad attention doesn’t meet the child’s needs fully.

The Traumatised Child In An Adult Body

As the child grows up, the small traumatised child who was desperate to feel safe and get their needs met is still there.

Normally, as we grow into adulthood, we learn new behaviours to replace the old behaviours. Then we behave in ways that help us to form and maintain relationships.

But for the child whose childhood needs were never met, those behaviours that worked temporarily in childhood don’t get an opportunity to transform into adult behaviours.

I see this often in my work. The small child, desperate to feel safe and get their needs met, demanding attention, demanding control, unable to consider others or collaborate with them. That adult with the small child behaviours is often labelled narcissistic, selfish, even aggressive. Yet they are not a true narcissist. They are just a child who lacks the nuanced skills of an adult.

How I Work

In my work I seek to heal the child and allow the adult self to take control. That is the way for you to feel safe in life. For you to have those relationships you crave. The way for you to feel worthwhile, safe and seen.

But for you, working with me is dangerous and scary. How can you trust me?

Therapy Is No Quick Fix

Healing the pain of your childhood will take a long time. Additionally, I will work with areas of your life your traumatised child is desperate to protect. I need to work with those areas, because they are what is holding you trapped in unsuccessful relationships. And you need to be able to let me do that.

It takes a long time to work through childhood trauma.

I will use many different approaches to help you work through this.

You may want me to wave a magic wand and fix you instantly. You may want me to work the way you decide, even though it is not a way that will help you. You may get frightened and decide you don’t want to be healed. You may know that you don’t want healing, or you may convince yourself that you just want another approach, or another therapist will meet your needs better.

Communication Between You And Me Is Vital

It is important we both communicate well.

I will tell you how I envisage working with you and ask you if you are okay with that.

I will explain things to you and review often to see if you are happy with the direction therapy is taking and discuss different approaches we can take for each stage of treatment.

You can help by telling me about your feelings and concerns so I can hear you and meet your needs.

When we communicate well with each other, then we can plan your therapy to best help you heal.

Therapy Is Long Term

Don’t expect this to be quick.

It is quite likely we will work towards a goal and you will then stop therapy for a time while you learn to live with this new goal. Over time you may find another area that needs attending to. Then you will either come back to me or to another therapist to do more work.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your difficulties, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

7 Words of Advice When Seeking Trauma Healing

If you have trauma in your past. Trauma that is impacting how you are in the world today. You will likely at some stage seek counselling.

Maybe you already have been to counselling.

Maybe you found it helpful, but now feel you need more.

Maybe you thought your counselling was amazing then became scared because you felt useless and the counsellor seemed so capable in life. You may have then decided to stop going.

Maybe you became frightened they would treat you like everyone else had in the past so you ran away from counselling, frightened of imagined judgement.

Maybe later you searched for another counsellor, only to eventually decided to stop seeing them also.

Maybe you heard about or read about some different treatment and grabbed on to that as the miracle cure. When you pursued that cure, maybe you found it helped a little was certainly no miracle cure.

Maybe you have despaired of ever healing this past trauma.

Here are some words of advice for you.

1. First Word of Advice

You’ve got this. You can do it. Yes, your life may well be a mess, or you feel it is, but you can do it. The fact you are here, reading this, speaks volumes for how much you are capable of.

2. Make Sure The Counsellor You See Is Properly Trained

It is important to check out the credentials of the person you are seeing. Are they trauma trained? Blue Knot Foundation is the peak body for trauma treatment in Australia. Has this counsellor completed training through Blue Knot Foundation?

3. Do Your Research

Once you have established that this counsellor has completed this training, you may like to look at their website, social media page/s, or talk to them. Do you think the way they work will suit you?

4. Stick With The Therapy

So you decide to see this counsellor. The important thing to do now is to stick with the therapy. Yes it will be expensive. Yes, the initial session particularly will feel scary. After all, all new experiences are leaps into the unknown and therefore scary.

5. You Are There For The Long Haul

Don’t expect to see your counsellor for a few sessions then finish. Trauma therapy takes a long time.

6. Therapy Is No Walk In The Park. But It Shouldn’t Be A Trip To The House Of Terrors

Therapy will get hard at times. And you may feel you want to stop, but discuss this with your counsellor first, unless your traumatic memories are becoming overwhelming and your counsellor seems disinterested or unable to help you with this, stick with it.

7. You Will Build A Relationship With Your Counsellor

One of the really scary parts of therapy is the relationship you develop with your counsellor. This is known as the Therapeutic Alliance and it is the foundation of all counselling work.

What Childhood Has Taught You About Relationships

It is rare for someone who has experienced childhood trauma to have a secure attachment with their primary caregiver. Secure attachment is where you feel you are safe, secure and that your caregiver understands you and cares about what you are going through. You are confident that this person will always protect you and that you will always be safe. This relationship builds a template for future relationships, where you expect all people you meet to be safe and secure.

If your primary caregiver is not able to protect you, or is the one who is traumatising you, you are likely to develop an insecure attachment style. You don’t expect to be safe, to be secure or to be comforted by this person.

This also builds an expectation of future relationships. If the person who is supposed to love and care for you doesn’t, then you don’t expect others in life to do that same.

The Therapeutic Alliance

When you come to a counsellor, you are going to form a relationship with them. This is often referred to as the Therapeutic Alliance. It is the way you and the counsellor work together. It is your expectation of being believed, supported, accepted, safe and comforted.

Acceptance is a major part of the therapeutic alliance. It is often referred to as unconditional positive regard. It means that I, your therapist, accept you as you are. I don’t judge you. I don’t look at you and think you are defective or unacceptable. I look at you with acceptance. Whatever you do I seek to understand and accept.

If I don’t accept you, then it will be impossible for us to work together. How can you work with someone who doesn’t think you are acceptable?

What if I Expect All Relationships To Fail?

When your expectation of relationships is that they will fail you, it is hard to learn to trust your counsellor. You may work happily with me for a while. But then your past difficulties with relationships will start to niggle.

You will feel that all people have let you down and you will start to feel that I will let you down too.

It is important to discuss this with me. Because I will continue to accept you. I am very aware of the fears you have around relationships. I want you to learn that you can have safe, secure relationships and I want to model this for you.

You Can Learn How To Have A Secure Relationship

Did you know you can learn to have safe relationships. That you can learn to trust. That there are people in life with whom you can have safe relationships. That you can learn to find those people and believe you are worth a good relationship?

As you learn to love yourself more, to learn your worth, to be able to set healthy boundaries and say no, you will develop confidence in your ability to have healthy relationships with others, including your counsellor.

Of course, this learning goes hand in hand with the work on healing your trauma. But remember, trauma wounds impact many areas of your functioning. It is not just the actual trauma but your sense of self, boundaries, worth, trust and the ability to have relationships that is impacted.

Trauma Treatment Takes More Than Just A Few Sessions

Remember, trauma treatment is long term. You may see a counsellor for a while, complete some healing, then take time to consolidate and allow your brain to absorb the changes. Then you may go back to the same or another counsellor for more therapy. This is ongoing. But each time you engage with therapy you heal another area of trauma.

There are techniques that can help heal some areas, but there will be many areas to heal and your brain needs to grow new neural networks. You also need to learn how to be as a person with all the changes. As I have already mentioned, you need to learn to set boundaries, to see your true worth and more.

There Are No Miracle Cures

Remember, there are no miracle cures, but there are techniques that can help you along the way with your healing. Some of the techniques that I use that can give you relief fairly rapidly and assist you with your healing journey are EFT and EMDR. They are best combined with other methods to help you learn new ways of being.

You may feel that you don’t make much progress in sessions, but believe me, you do make progress. Slow and steady progress is how you will heal your trauma. You have to be able to replace the old trauma networks in your brain with new healthy networks. You cannot have a vacuum there where you have removed a trauma impact and have no new behaviours to replace it with. That is why slow and steady works better.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma healing, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

There is more to therapy than CBT – and the alternatives can work better

If you go to see a psychologist, it is likely you will encounter a form of therapy called CBT or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It has become the favoured approach with the medical model framework for mental health therapy. The reason for this is that it is easy to measure outcomes, so researchers can easily report on effectiveness so therefore there has been a lot of research about it.

According to CBT it is believed we develop Schemas, which are faulty patterns of belief. This in itself is not wrong. But I have observed CBT over the years, including visiting a psychologist to experience for myself CBT.

Personal experiences of CBT

What I experienced personally, and what people who come to see me report is that CBT is shaming. You have faulty thinking, therefore you are the one who is wrong. When CBT doesn’t work it is your failure.

My experience and that of people who come to see me is that there is never a focus on acknowledging a person’s pain. Instead the focus is on faulty thinking.

When I went to try CBT for myself, I had a fairly minor issue to deal with. By the time I walked out on the therapy after an experience where the psychologist failed to listen to me and made an incorrect and denigrating assumption, I was in a worse state than when I started. The psychologist was an extremely experienced psychologist so inexperience was not the reason she breached ethical standards and caused harm to a client.

Being left feeling defective because CBT doesn’t work for you

I have had numerous clients who came to me feeling very defective because CBT had failed to address their problems that had trauma at their root. They all reported the same thing – that they were given rigid exercises to repeat every day. It reminded me of joining a direct selling group when in my 20s. We were expected to attend weekly meetings and engage in online activities in between. All this to keep us in the mindset of what we were doing. As soon as I stopped going to meetings the impact of the meetings fell away.

Neuroscience has shown the problems of trauma are far deeper than CBT can address. CBT is a frontal lobe “top down” therapy.

However trauma is stored lower down in the brain and when activated the frontal lobe goes off line. Therapy that addresses the “bottom up” approach is more effective in these cases.

What is the bottom up approach?

Memories involve your entire body and all your senses. You don’t just have a narrative of a memory. You have vision of the memory. You have sound of the memory. You have smells of the memory. You have taste of the memory. You have sensations in your body of the memory. These aspects of memory are often overlooked but give vital clues to trauma memories where the narrative of the memory is not always accessible.

Your brain reacts to trauma memories in your subconscious. Your body sends signals to the brain that are contained in a trauma memory and you react without even being aware a trauma memory has been identified.

All of this is below your conscious control.

What does the bottom up approach involve?

The bottom up approach involves working with the memories in the body. It involves identifying body sensations and learning to be mindful (aware) of body sensations so that you can work with them. It involves a therapist being careful to only work with sensations in a safe way that does not send you into a terrifying reliving of the trauma memory.

The place of CBT in therapy

CBT has its place towards the end of therapy in helping people to restructure thought patterns once the bottom healing has taken place.

But CBT cannot replace the necessary healing of the subconscious.

I can teach you new ways of understanding your moods and give you exercises to achieve this, but when the triggers to past trauma happen, deep in the unconscious, the frontal lobe (your thinking brain) goes offline and all the exercises in the world are completely ineffective.

The need to develop and heal the subconscious brain

CBT cannot develop the subconscious parts of the brain. It works on the assumption that adult emotional problems are failures in thinking and reasoning. It works on the assumption that it is your misconceptions of events that is the key to your emotional upsets, not the emotional upset itself. But this is not true.

Most adult emotional problems have their roots in childhood trauma. And that does not respond to the rational approach of CBT. You cannot reason your way out of trauma. If you could you would not need counselling.

An example of a person’s needs not being recognised

One example I learned about when studying CBT at university was about a student who was depressed at failing a university exam. The therapist asked him why failing was so depressing, and he stated it was because he would never get into law school. This means he was not smart enough and could never be happy.

The therapist concluded that it was failing the test that made him unhappy. But that is not true. It was the belief he could never be happy that was the problem. However, the therapist concluded the student’s problem was an error in reasoning. It is after all illogical to think that failing to get into a course you wanted to do was cause for depression.
So therefore the student was expected to correct this faulty thinking.
There was no exploration of why the student believed not getting into the course he wanted was so important. There was just the assumption that the student was not thinking logically.

Being stuck in the idea mental health problems are due to faulty thinking

Although CBT has expanded to include mindfulness and acceptance of feelings in its treatments, it still has as its foundation the assumption that mental health disorders are problems of thinking and the answer is to teach people to think more rationally.

If only it were that easy!

No amount of work on your conscious thinking patterns will heal trauma and subconscious trauma responses.

When CBT fails to help the person they are perceived by themselves and their therapist as defective. In short they are shamed.

Why is CBT so popular?

CBT is popular with governments and insurers because it is “rapid” and can be completed in 5-12 sessions. Ideal for Mental Health Care Plans. The trouble is it only works in that time frame for minor issues. It does not work on trauma.

Any other form of therapy becomes expensive to do. Trauma informed therapy takes a long time and is irreplaceable by CBT.

But therapy costs so much.

To put trauma therapy cost into perspective, it is more cost effective to engage from the outset with a trauma trained therapist and not waste your time and money on CBT. It is very attractive to think you can just go to someone for 5 sessions and learn to say things by rote and all will be fixed but it is not reality.

Not all mental health problems are problems with thinking and they do not require cognitive restructuring to fix them. Trauma is not a problem of viewing reality in a faulty way. It is a problem of intrusive memories that won’t go away because they are stuck in your subconscious.

So think carefully about who you want to see. Find out what form of therapy they use. Do they use a bottom up approach? Are they trauma trained? Do they have experience working effectively with trauma? Are they prepared to listen to you with openness, rather than with the agenda of identifying your faulty thinking?

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz