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Childhood Trauma: Causes, Signs & How You Can Move Beyond It

Childhood Trauma is an event, episode or environment that you experienced as a child that left you feeling vulnerable, unsafe, was emotionally painful, distressing and has caused lasting psychological, emotional and physiological dysregulation.

Was my experience in childhood so bad Helen, to be called traumatic?” It is one of the most common questions I am asked when women have started their therapeutic healing journey with me and we explore safely the experiences they have had in childhood.

It’s important to break any misconceptions that childhood trauma only involves physical danger and harm.

A normal part of child development is in experiencing difficult situations and learning to cope with them, this stands you in good stead for managing situations and relationships into adulthood. However an event, repeated events, episode or environment that left you as a child fearing for your safety, can result in childhood trauma.

23 years ago I began guiding children and young people who had experienced trauma and abuse in many different forms, on their healing journey. They were in foster care and/or transitioning to adoptive placements or being supported to return to their family. Exploring experiences with children and helping them find safe ways in which to tell their story, express their emotions, self regulate and feel safe in the developing relationship with foster carers/adoptive parents/parents was a huge but rewarding challenge. Those were the children who had found safety.

There are many many children who I have now met as adults who didn’t have a voice, their voice wasn’t heard, they had to adapt to ways of self regulation and create internal forms of ‘safety’ in order to survive. I see these women in the therapy space with me now as I guide them on their healing journey to rise above trauma and become woman embodying liberation from the pain of the past and patterns of survival.

Their question is often “was my experience as a child so bad as to be called trauma?” The answer is all too often, yes and with them I dispel the myth that childhood trauma only involves physical danger or harm.

What Are The Main Causes Of Childhood Trauma?

Experiences are traumatic because they are unwanted, unexpected and you are powerless to stop them. Anything that as a child left you feeling alone, vulnerable, overwhelmed or terrified, is traumatic. Psychological trauma occurs not over the ‘facts’ of ‘what really happened’, but because of an individual’s personal experience and perspective of what happened to them. This explains why different people, both children and adults, can experience the same event and have very different reactions and responses. Some may be ‘relatively’ unaffected while others can develop long term, debilitating trauma responses, PTSD and CPTSD

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) conducted during the mid 1990’s continues to inform research and therapy for childhood trauma to this day and identifies 10 of the most traumatic events or experiences a child can encounter:

  • Living with emotional neglect; parents failing to respond enough or appropriately to your needs as a child, consequently there is little to no emotional acknowledgement, support or validation
  • Living with/growing up with physical neglect; not clothed or fed adequately, or kept warm.
  • The loss of your parent or primary caregiver due to death, divorce or abandonment
  • Experiencing sexual abuse as a child; from parents, family, adults, other children or any one in a position of authority or power over you as a child.
  • Emotional Abuse; your parents being emotionally unavailable to you as a child or you being continuously demeaned or verbally abused as a child.
  • Experiencing physical abuse either in your home or outside of your home by someone in an authority figure
  • Witnessing domestic abuse or violence between your parents as a child. Children are now also considered victims of domestic abuse or violence in their own right if they witness the abuse or violence in any way.
  • Growing up in a home with a parent who has a significant mental health condition such as schizophrenia
  • Growing up in a home in which the main parent or caregiver goes to prison
  • Growing up with a parent or caregiver who is an addict or who is a chronic abuser of alcohol or drugs.

The list actually isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t include

The Less ‘Obvious’ Causes of Childhood Trauma

There are other less obvious or talked about experiences in childhood that can be just as traumatic, debilitating and have long standing emotional, psychological and physiological effects into adulthood.

  • Being bullied or humiliated at school
  • Being constantly shamed by a parent or caregiver
  • Being a carer for your parent
  • Being a carer for your younger siblings
  • Going through an operation
  • The loss of a sibling
  • A sibling being ill over a long period of time
  • living in poverty

I’ve already mentioned sexual abuse, however there are many forms of sexual abuse that are often overlooked but any form of inappropriate sexualised behaviour can have long lasting negative effects; constant inappropriate sexualised observations, comments or gestures about your body by a parent or adult for example. 

We also mustn’t leave out children who have lived through natural disasters or war. 

There are a great deal of circumstances where there is crossover of these traumatic experiences i.e. as a child you may have experienced more than one of these events/experiences/episodes over a sustained period of time.

I have heard statements from people over the years that ‘children are resilient’ they will ‘bounce back’ or they won’t have understood what was happening because they were “too young to be affected by it”. Firstly, resilience isn’t about bouncing back (but that’s a separate blog coming up!) and as children we understand danger and discord and it is those two things which cause trauma. Your brain as a child is more vulnerable than that of an adults. Trauma affects the growth of the brain cortex which then affects learning, behaviour and health including memory, attention and your capacity to regulate emotions and stress responses.

In fact you can be more affected by trauma as a child than adults as you can sense danger but  are not  able to ‘explain’ it to yourself like an adult, meaning you feel more terrified and vulnerable. 

I have had so many women tell me that they have been stuck in not being able to find the words to express what they’ve experienced as a child or how it has been affecting them in multifaceted ways throughout their adult life. One of the most beautiful ways I have worked with children to be able to express themselves is through puppet play accompanied by a playful, accepting, curious and empathic approach which I continue to integrate into my relationships with women who’ve experienced childhood trauma and have found the safety in the relationship with me to begin to express it. The puppets are also available to the adults with me too!

Even with all that said you may be asking yourself

Did I really suffer from Childhood Trauma and what ‘symptoms’ would I have?

I’ll ask you first to get rid of the notion of ‘symptoms’ and I’d invite you to think about it them as signs & signals, of how those experiences have shown up for you in your mind, body and emotions and how they are affecting your day to day life. Symptoms sounds as though there’s a tick box but trauma is unique to you and how it has affected you is unique to you. I have worked with many women and children over the years who have experienced the same/similar traumatic event but have vastly different ways of how this has affected them, even in sibling groups where here has been neglect & abuse.

Because not everyone reacts to trauma in the same way.

Some people remember all details of what happened, many blank everything entirely from their mind and lose all memory of the experience. Some people develop many signs from childhood onwards, and others have no signs of trauma but then suddenly, as an adult, something triggers them (this doesn’t mean the trauma has been dormant but that the expression of it has been delayed).

There are some general signs to be mindful of in the context of your experiences, they’re not exhaustive and not limited to

  • Difficulties managing stress & regulating your stress response
  • high and low mood swings
  • responses to situations that seem out of proportion or context to the situation itself
  • a deep sense of danger and the world being an unsafe place
  • feeling disconnected from yourself and the relationships around you
  • mistrust of other people, even those you feel closest to
  • unable to sustain relationships
  • a sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Feeling numb and like you are watching yourself rather than living as yourself – a going through the motions experience with no satisfaction
  • Difficulties with attention and concentration
  • Being on edge all the time and easily startled
  • high levels of fear and anxiety
  • Illnesses such a chronic fatigue, IBS and unexplained aches and pains
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares with repetitive themes
  • Flashbacks or flashing memories
  • A deep sense of loss
  • Addictive behaviours
  • Repressed anger
  • Disordered eating
  • Low self esteem
  • Poor self image
  • Difficulties in self expression
  • Passive or subservient behaviours
  • Neglecting ones own needs
  • suicidal thoughts/actions (If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts/actions, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK can be reached on 0800 689 5652 or if there is an immediate risk Dial 999).

Reading about the effects of childhood trauma into adulthood can be quite unsettling as an adult. However, if you’ve experienced childhood trauma do not be discouraged or lose hope. The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence. There is always room for healing and recovery, you are not defined by those experiences and you have the capacity to be able to both create a safer for you and discover a you that is calm, confident, courageous, compassionate, self accepting and empowered.

Where Do You Begin To Move Through Childhood Trauma and Recover?

Know that it was not your fault. What happened to you was outside of your control. Remember that.

Don’t try to rationalise your trauma. It’s not uncommon to try and make sense of the trauma inflicted throughout your childhood. However, there is absolutely nothing that can justify child abuse/neglect/trauma so don’t strain yourself trying to rationalise it. Instead, focus on healing and the wish to create a safer relationship with yourself and your future.

Avoid Self Blame & Respond to Shame. Recognising you experienced a trauma can cause many emotions to rise up, especially shame which underpins self blame and anger at recognising what has happened to you. It can be tempting in that anger to contact family members or anyone involved in what you’ve experienced. I would advise against doing this until you have been able to process your experiences, develop internal boundaries and make a decision in your best interests. In shame we can go into ‘avoidance’ and internalise the experience wanting to make it go away. It is at this time I would say Reach out and connect. 


You are in control of the here and now and how you move forward. What is in your control now is the ability to take steps to help yourself and move forward.

Childhood Trauma does not dissolve or magically disappear with time or age. Nor does it disappear through professional achievements or success. However the effects of childhood trauma do respond to focussed attention and support. This comes from you and the guidance through therapy of responding to yourself, your needs; your wounded inner child, with love, dignity, respect and compassion.

Self education can be hugely empowering in brining a sense of relief that you’re not alone in your experiences. There are lots of books available in helping you begin to explore your experience. Here are some I can recommend for you today.

The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk

The Deepest Well by Dr Nadine Burke Harris one of the best books about adverse childhood experiences for people who have gone through these experiences and want to understand how it is affecting their present.

Complex PTSD FRom Surviving to Thriving By Pete Walker.  is a “practical guide to recovering from lingering childhood trauma”. It shares stories from both the author and his clients about their journeys to recovery and leading a full life.

Trauma Psychotherapy with a clinically qualified trained professional can guide you in a safe relationship to explore the effects of your experiences on your mind, emotions and body. Through that relationship you develop alternative responses that bring you emotional and psychological security and regulation, and liberate you from the pain of the past so you define and embody your SELF for the future. It can be hard to know what you need in a therapist versus a trauma informed coach so I’ve created more information on this for you to read hereTrauma Therapist Versus Trauma Informed Coach: What’s the Difference

Whatever your experiences know that there is hope and you can recover. Childhood trauma can negatively impact the rest of your life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can heal. As an adult, you now hold the power to change your life. Take the first step

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hey I’m Helen and as a Trauma Psychotherapist I have been guiding women and children on their recovery and healing journey from Childhood, Complex Trauma/ C-PTSD and sexual abuse for 23 years. Along with my clinically qualified Psychotherapy expertise, I have a range of clinical expertise & training in the Neuroscience of Childhood Trauma, Attachment therapy, Internal Family Systems, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, CBT & Solution Focused Therapy, Sexual Abuse Recovery, Inner Child Healing, Bio-Energetic Therapy, Narrative Story Stem Assessment. I am also an embodiment of my own recovery from trauma and love to share my calm, compassionate, courageous, self accepting self in the therapeutic relationships with women on their healing journey as a source of hope and inspiration.

Sign up for my Newsletter in which I share information, education, advice and other interesting facts and sources of information relating to trauma, complex PTSD, recovery and healing.

You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram

I’d love to know what information has really struck you in this article so please feel free to send me a note on Facebook or Instagram or if you sign up to my newsletter you can always hit ‘reply’.

With love & compassion 

Helen

 

 

 

 

What is CPTSD?

What is CPTSD?

Most people are familiar with the term PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and understand it as a condition that emerges as a result of a single traumatic event such as war, a car accident, singular medical crisis, isolated acts of abuse or birth trauma for example, but Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often referred to as CPTSD or Complex PTSD has gained more attention over the last 30 or so years, as the more intense sibling of PTSD and the way in which clinical trauma and mental health professionals create the distinction between the effects of a singular, isolated traumatic event and the complexity of the emotional, psychological, physiological response to a frequency of trauma that has been enduring and long standing.

Another way to think about that ‘C’ is that it comes from a chronic experience; with C-PTSD we’re usually referring to the fact that the trauma experienced has been repetitive & severe and most typically has happened in childhood.

Where does C-PTSD Come From?

C-PTSD is in response to chronic traumatisation which you are unable to believe or foresee will ever end. The list is not exhaustive in what these experiences are, but typically

  • Child abuse – sexual, physical, emotional and psychological
  • Child neglect – physical, emotional and psychological
  • Long term domestic violence
  • Children who have been in homes where domestic violence has been experienced. (Children have only in 2022 been recognised as being victims of domestic violence in their own right).
  • Being held in captivity
  • Living in crisis conditions
  • Living in war zones
  • Child and adult human trafficking
  • Child exploitation

While there are exceptional circumstances where adults can develop C-PTSD, it’s predominantly seen in those whose trauma occurred in childhood. For people who are older, being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level. However, children experiencing this are still developing neurologically and just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, making sense of the world around them, and building their first relationships. Severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychological, neurological and physiological development.

The trauma to a child that results in C-PTSD and dissociative disorders is often intrinsically linked with a child’s caregiving, emotional bonding  and attachment relationship. Completely separate from the traumatic events/experienced themselves

On the surface it may look like PTSD and C-PTSD are similar because they both come from something extremely traumatic, they cause flashbacks, insomnia & nightmares/night terrors and the fact that they can both make you live in fear even when you are safe.

But at the very core of C-PTSD – it’s causes, it’s internal manifestation, the lifelong emotional, psychological, physical & medical effects, and it’s ability to compromise your perception on life, is what makes it dramatically different.

What does C-PTSD Look Like?

The primary difficulty people have when they are experiencing C-PTSD is emotional regulation, but what does that mean?

Complex PTSD impacts significantly on emotions; understanding emotions, expressing emotions, experiencing emotions and for so many this can be as simple as being able to comprehend what they are feeling.

There can be overwhelming unmanageable feelings of sadness, explosive and ‘irrational’ anger outbursts and suicidal thoughts. There can be a feeling of numbness; not being able to regulate emotions to certain situations or people where there is a high emotional experience, and often the emotional reaction to this is disproportionate to the current event/episode.

Re-experiencing emotions originally felt during the traumatic episodes/period is particularly common when there are situations that have ‘activated’ these……more commonly referred to as ‘triggers’….and are an emotional flashback to what was needed at the time of trauma.

The perception of the self is a deep struggle for anyone who is a survivor of complex trauma. The perception of  being bad; embodying nothing but shame, helplessness, guilt and being completely different from anyone else is common for all survivors of complex trauma. This skewed perception develops at a time when identity growth was severely disrupted and interrupted by the the traumatic events and the chronic traumatisation. I’ve met many women and children throughout my 23 years in clinical trauma practice who have:

  • developed a sense of helplessness because they were let down by so many around them that could have helped or supported them but didn’t, so they feel it must just be them and this leads on to
  • feeling responsible for what others have subjected them to and what has happened to them and therefore consider themselves unworthy of compassion, love, kindness & dignity
  • consider that their trauma defines who they are as a person, what they do in life and fear that they are a burden, that nothing will ever change for them, and that they are completely different to everyone else around them.

You would be surprised to know that these are women who you would probably look at and think how competent, confident, strong, ‘put together’ and compassionate they are.

Trust coupled with a negative self perception impacts on the persons ability to feel safe in relationships leading to   difficulties in relationships; relationship avoidance, ambivalence in relationships , abandoning relationships or developing unhealthy relationships that are based in what they knew of the past. It is even in the not knowing how to be in relationships. Many people with C-PTSD have an outright refusal to trust anyone and not actually know why they ever should. It is one of the greatest challenges for C-PTSD sufferers in developing a psychotherapeutic relationship with me, but when worked through it is also the relationship that can re-establish a sense of what trust is and could be. In many instances people with C-PTSD become overly trusting even when the relationship is dangerous, this usually happens as a result of a diminished internal alarm sensor. There are others who have the need to feel rescued and be taken care of; the fear of being alone and powerless becomes the overriding sensation due to underlying loss and abandonment experienced during the traumatisation.

Disconnecting from thoughts, memories & identity is an often scary reality in Complex PTSD and is a range of symptoms described under a spectrum of dissociation. People who have experienced trauma will often have some degree of dissociation during the event itself or in the following hours, days or weeks but those who have experienced chronic trauma and trauma in childhood can experience dissociative symptoms into adulthood. These range from forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, recalling traumatic events in a different chronological order, memory gaps, poor memory recall, flashbacks, intrusive images and body memories. The lower end of the spectrum of dissociation is relatively harmless with daydreaming for example, but becomes more intrusive as it moves up the spectrum where people can shift between self (alter) states as in Dissociative Identity Disorder. I cannot stress hard enough that seeking the correct information and clinical expert advice if you are experiencing any of these is crucial and if you are reading this and thinking this is something you are experiencing now, please do contact me directly.

Loss of a system of meanings is one of the most difficult and well observed disruptions that people with C-PTSD face. Meaning making is the process of how we construe, understand, or make sense of life events and the self. Trauma is one of the most injurious events you will face in your life and the chronic traumatising or childhood trauma in C-PTSD affects how you then navigate a life contorted by trauma; losing one’s core beliefs, values, faith & hope in the world and other people. These are unique to each individual based entirely on the individual and the meaning you give to the trauma, the interpretation you have of it’s affects on you and the perception you then have of the world around you, but there are similarities I see in the therapy space; hopelessness and despair, chronic doubt that there isn’t kindness in the world that doesn’t come from a place of selfishness, never finding forgiveness and that you are always going to be hurt because you only came into the world to be hurt.  It is the loss of this ‘system of meaning’ in the women I work with that is often the hardest to guide through in therapy because of the meaning, or the outlook on life, that has been contorted by trauma but it is never too late to create a new healthier one i.e. to rewrite the story you tell yourself about what happened.

Symptoms of complex PTSD can vary and change over time so it is important to note that people with C-PTSD may also experience symptoms other than the ones I’ve described here.

In my qualified clinical experience as a Trauma Psychotherapist people with PTSD & Complex PTSD may need personalised therapy and treatment. Trauma is unique to each individual, the impact on you is unique to you and therefore your therapy and treatment needs to be equally so. There is no ‘one size fits all’ therapy or trauma informed coaching program for C-PTSD. Your history of trauma needs to be listened to, heard, & understood first and foremost.

Recovery and outlook in C-PTSD

Recovery takes time and only happens in a safe and trusting relationship with a qualified and experienced trauma therapist. The first goal of that therapeutic relationship is to develop or recapture feelings of trust in others and the world around you. This takes times with each and every woman (and child) that has  engaged in their recovery journey with me.

With the right therapy, lifestyle changes, and in some cases medication, there is recovery from Complex Trauma and a way of living life as the confident, compassionate, vibrant, energetic person you want to be and I know you can be.

Meet Helen:

As a Trauma Psychotherapist I have been guiding women and children on their recovery and healing journey from Childhood, Complex Trauma & C-PTSD for 23 years. Along with my clinically qualified Psychotherapy expertise, I have a range of clinical expertise & training in the Neuroscience of Childhood Trauma, Attachment therapy, Internal Family Systems, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, CBT & Solution Focused Therapy, Sexual Abuse Recovery, Inner Child Healing, Bio-Energetic Therapy, Narrative Story Stem Assessment

 

Sign up for my Newsletter in which I share information, education, advice and other interesting facts and sources of information relating to trauma, complex PTSD, recovery and healing.

You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram

I’d love to know what information has really struck you in this article so please feel free to send me a note on Facebook or Instagram or if you sign up to my newsletter you can always hit ‘reply’.

Helen 

NB: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), a handbook often used by psychiatrists & psychologists, does not currently acknowledge C-PTSD as a separate conditions/diagnosis. However, the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision (ICD-11) does acknowledge the condition and I along with many of my colleagues are distinguishing between PTSD and C-PTSD despite the lack of guidance from DSM-5 as there is a significant amount of research which supports the validity of Complex PTSD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trauma Therapist vs Trauma-Informed Coach: Why you need to know the difference.

Trauma is unique to you and your treatment needs to reflect that.

Trauma is a truly sensory experience. It’s unique in itself and the trauma response is unique to you. Therefore the expertise you seek to support you in your healing journey is equally unique to you; it should be clinically understood & managed in a healing process and in my professional opinion you should be fully aware & informed of what you’re looking for, what specialist trauma expertise you’re going to receive and how you will receive it. You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without making sure they were the right size for you and weren’t going to cause you pain, would you?

You see, as a Specialist Trauma Therapist I have had many clients come to me having received therapy or trauma-informed coaching previously which hasn’t been helpful for their experiences. They have continued to feel stuck and in some cases have been re-traumatised in the process. I often find I have to help heal the recent re-traumatising before I can guide women to the emotional & psychological safety from their historical trauma. In the first instance my therapeutic task is to create a safe & secure relationship. It’s what I had to do for Michelle, a business woman & entrepreneur who came to me this year. Initially connecting with me because of the worries she had for her daughter, it became deeply apparent that the healing needed to be for Michelle, but she explained that she was already in therapy and had been for two years. I asked her how she felt that was progressing for her and heard from her that she felt she was in a dark pit, trying to scramble her way out whilst the therapist held a ladder out of reach at the top. This was alarming to say the least. My opinion is that ANY therapy should be an empowering, autonomous, liberating process. I agreed with Michelle that the therapy relationship she had had was one that felt comforting for her on a weekly appointment basis, like an anchor, but something had to change. Trauma therapy isn’t holding a ladder whilst someone is in a pit breaking their nails on the walls as they try to climb out on their own. It said to me that the therapist she had been seeing wasn’t trauma trained & didn’t appear to have the skills to provide that empowering guidance through Michelle’s childhood trauma. I explained what trauma therapy is and the choices she had. She chose to work with me and three months later was emotionally & psychologically liberated, free and shining in the confidence of having discovered her real self. She needed no other therapy and is doing fabulously well.

Why am I sharing Michelle’s story? It’s because

Not all therapy & trauma-informed coaching is created equal!

 

I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not here to bash anyone’s skills, their training, the knowledge that they’ve added to their business. I think it’s great that there is a growing interest in trauma informed practice. I think it’s wonderful that ‘trauma’  is coming out of the shadows and we are educating people and de-stigmatising the effects and experiences of trauma so that people find their voices. I have been a part of that movement in my 22 years trauma therapy provision, in the teaching & training I provide to professionals, my choice of psycho-education posts on my social media, my own story of trauma healing & recovery and my live podcast ‘Conversations with Compassion’ which you can watch here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv8EcX4NLAbLITf_J_-aFUQ

It is, however, hugely important to distinguish between the differences of focus, training, skills and expertise so that you make the right decision for you because there are lots of therapists & coaches out there that say they work with and/or treat trauma but the qualifications & clinical experience may not match the statement. If you are really wanting help in your inner healing & recovery, it is important to distinguish between the profiles claiming to work with trauma and those clinicians who, putting it bluntly, actually know what they are doing. Simply having an interest in working with trauma does not make a therapist or coach a trauma specialist. Anyone can listen while you share the details of a traumatic event that you experienced, but knowing what to do with those experiences and how to help you heal from the things that have happened requires specific qualifications, training, supervision, and in many cases, certification. In my experience I have had great relationships with accredited trauma-informed coaches who have understood clearly that their expertise doesn’t fall into the realms of providing specialist clinical healing, and we have worked alongside each other with the same client in order to support them in their goals, hopes, & desires.

What is Specialist Trauma Therapy?

Trauma therapy by a qualified, trained, clinically experienced specialist trauma therapist ensures that the therapist has a true understanding of trauma; it’s impact on the body, brain, emotion and behaviour. How the brain becomes hard-wired and associations are formed that cause you to respond in an automatic, survival-driven manner, rather than how you want to respond. A specialist trauma therapist is willing and capable of attending to the fire and pain that are driving the emotions and behaviours and work though these in a structured and safe way that ensures an externalising, containment, meaning making and integration of the experiences. Trauma is co-morbid with so many other factors and having a core awareness of those and their impact and differential diagnosis is crucial in a specialist trauma area of expertise so that there is a solid understanding and creation of an efficacious treatment

Trauma therapy has it’s focus not on avoiding unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions but on building your awareness and tolerance to hold these emotions through compassion. Therapeutic strategies focus on regulating the nervous system, emotional agility and body & brain regulation.

There are of course trauma therapists who specialise in different areas of trauma, so it is important that you have an understanding of what type of trauma therapist you’re looking for, but equally that the trauma therapist is clear about what they don’t work with. As a Specialist Trauma Therapist working with Childhood trauma, C-Ptsd, Attachment & Developmental Trauma, Relational Trauma & Sexual Abuse, there are areas of trauma that I don’t work with but I will always help people find the right clinical expert for them for the trauma they have experienced. I am clear on my therapeutic approaches and  boundaries and would never take a client who I felt needed a different approach to the skills and expertise I have. Sadly, there are some therapists and coaches who don’t have the same values and the impact of that is far reaching and in all honesty heartbreaking.

So, how does trauma-informed coaching differ?

 

Trauma informed coaches understand the presence of trauma in the coach-client relationship and how it should be used as guidance for resilience and solution-focused resolution. They will work in the same way as regular coaches but have the knowledge to understand when trauma injuries may be holding back their clients progress; for example you may be working with a trauma-informed business coach focusing on your business strategy, visibility and marketing with a clear focus in mind, but you have a narrative of trauma responses which influence your capacity to move forward, uplevel and feel confident in your abilities and self worth. A trauma-informed coach will be able to recognise these trauma responses and hold the space for a deeper coaching experience, they will have training in client regulation, the brain-body connection, the causes of trauma and trauma responses and the subsequent symptoms. What is hugely important is that a trauma-informed coach will also have the understanding in the need for referring to a specialist trauma therapist and clinical professionals and working in collaboration in the best interests of their client.

Trauma-informed coaching isn’t:

  • Practising as a faux-therapist or entering the therapy domain
  • Working with clients who would be better helped by a therapist
  • Working only with those with visible signs of trauma.

Trauma-informed coaches have a working understanding of trauma, not as deep as a therapist needs, but enough to define and describe what it is. They also understand the situations which produce the lasting neuro-physiological trauma response, from conception onwards and will have learned methods to ground your nervous system, shed shame through appropriate questioning and promote your wellness.

Such coaches will be able to listen out for the signs and symptoms that may be part of an internal trauma system  They have creative approaches for accessing autobiographical information without any aim to be diagnosticians or therapists  They will be skilled at inviting you to explore possible links between the ‘there and then’ and the ‘here and now’, and to reflect on what action in the present is healthy for your wellbeing. They should also feel confident about when and how to raise the issue of trauma, and how it might be presenting you, whilst staying firmly in the coaching relationship and approach and advising and guiding you to specialist trauma therapy for what you are experiencing.

Be informed in what you need.

It is important that you feel equipped to acknowledge the type of approach you need and whether you are in a therapeutic relationship that isn’t meeting your needs or a trauma-informed coaching relationship in which you feel your trauma requires more specialist therapeutic healing, you have the knowledge & voice to be able to state your needs clearly.

Your trauma experiences do not have to hold you back from living your life as the real you, building the fabulous professional/business/entrepreneurial life, or having the relationships you richly deserve.

Just make sure that you make the right choice for you in the support you receive. I don’t ever want you to feel like Michelle did, helpless and broken at the bottom of a pit.

About me:

I’m Helen Ferguson and I’ve been a Psychotherapist specialising in Childhood & Complex (CPTSD) Trauma & Sexual Abuse for 23 years. I guide women and children in healing from their past and create their safer future..

My qualifications, knowledge and expertise are embedded in Mental Health, Developmental Psychotherapy, Attachment Therapy, Narrative Story Stem Assessment (children) Somatic Attachment Therapy & Healing, Polyvagal Therapy, Sexual Abuse Recovery, Bio-energetic Therapy, Abuse and Trauma Recovery, Neuroscience of Trauma and it’s impact on brain development, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy,  Self Compassion Therapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy and Family Therapy.

I’m an empath and deeply compassionate woman who sits with you and your pain, listening with my heart ears giving you time to open up your inner world to me without fear of being judged. I hold you safely and never let you fall.

My ‘Heart Of Healing Trauma’ Therapy program is my signature three month therapeutic healing program in which I guide you to heal from the past, and create your safer future. You can get to know me more and feel supported by me in these different ways

Join the community https://www.facebook.com/groups/childhoodcomplexcptsdtraumahealingforwomen

Want to connect with me to discuss your healing journey? https://calendly.com/helenferguson-therapist/free-connect-call

You can also follow me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/helenfergusontherapy

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Let’s talk

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Helen Ferguson Psychotherapist

Childhood, Complex, CPTSD Trauma Healing & Sexual Abuse Recovery

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