What Is Trauma-Informed Therapy and Why You Need it (Even if you Don’t Think You Have Trauma)
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
These days, people are becoming aware of the importance of trauma-informed therapy. The term “trauma” has become widely used in our society, and more and more people are realizing the impact that the events in their lives have had on them. By and large, this is a positive shift and a welcome one that moves away from the “stiff upper lip” mentality that many have grown up with.
Trauma, broadly put, is any experience that leaves you feeling highly distressed, unable to cope positively, and has unpleasant emotional and physical consequences after the event has passed. Almost everyone will experience a traumatic event in their lives, this is an unfortunate reality of being human.
Some folks are born into families or situations where there is no safety and stability, and thus their exposure to trauma begins at birth. Other people experience trauma as they grow. For some people, their traumatic event has altered their ability to in control and safe in their own life. All forms of trauma are valid, and no one can tell you whether you do or do not have trauma.
What is Trauma-Informed Therapy?
Trauma-informed therapy is critical for anyone looking to heal from the impacts of trauma. A therapist trained in trauma understands the profound emotional, psychological and physical consequences that trauma leaves on the individual. A trauma-informed therapist works with their client to ensure first and foremost that there is a great degree of safety, stability and compassion in the room.
Your safety is the top priority when it comes to trauma-informed care. A trauma therapist weaves trauma-informed skills into each aspect of treatment. This means that the pace of treatment might be slower than at other agencies, as it takes time to really lay the groundwork of developing the important relationship between client and therapist to ensure that trust and safety are being created and continue to do so.
A trauma-informed agency must demonstrate these principles at the first moment of client contact and follow that through to discharge.
Trauma-informed therapy understands that everyone likely has some effect of trauma, and it further understands that many people who are in fact trauma survivors do not consider themselves this way. Indeed, one of the symptoms of trauma is a denial that the event or events have had a lasting change on the person.
Why is Trauma-Informed Therapy Important?
Trauma leaves some challenging impacts on survivors. At its worst, post-traumatic stress can lead to extreme avoidance, a pattern of isolation and cutting off from friends and family, an inability to tolerate emotions, continual relationship turmoil and breakdown, feelings of shame and self-hatred, disturbing intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, substance use disorders and suicidal ideation or attempts. People who have been through traumatic events, especially when those events have been caused by other people, often have difficulty trusting another person. This can make accessing help overwhelming and frightening.
A trauma-informed therapist understands this and as a result works with the client in a way that supports and nurtures caring, healing and compassionate relationships. Trauma-informed therapists understand the deep reserves of resilience that clients have while also respecting that some of these coping mechanisms have harmed their clients.
A trauma-informed therapist will not push you further than you are ready to go, and in fact will typically hold the pace of therapy at a slower rate, allowing you to fully express and become aware of your emotional patterns and how they are triggered.
Trauma-informed therapists also help you to understand not only your triggers, but also how to cope with them. Trauma therapists help you to gain new skills, and work closely with you to replace old, “wired in” habits with more adaptive and useful ones that move you towards your goals and not away from them.
Trauma-Informed care is holistic
There are many therapists or school of therapy that claim to heal trauma in a short amount of sessions by doing a certain set of steps or processes. This might work for some folks, and that is a wonderful thing (whatever sets you free, do that, we say!). However, for others, they become frustrated and disillusioned with the process of therapy when the promised claims of “heal your childhood trauma in one 90-minute session!” do not come true.
At the London Centre for Trauma Therapy, we believe that trauma is best treated in a holistic view. This means that we recognize that there are many moving parts in a client’s life and all need to be in balance for optimum healing. Many times in session, our clients make monumental shifts (some quickly, some slowly) but this takes a set of skills and approaches rather that one.
For example, EMDR trauma therapy might be truly life-changing, but if you are living in an abusive situation, are in a toxic workplace or struggling with significant financial stress, it can become more difficult to reap the benefits. Therefore trauma-informed care takes into consideration the whole-person view.
There are many factors to consider in your healing, and your therapist will work diligently with you to explore all areas so that you can truly experience a life of ease.
How can trauma-informed therapy help me?
It is our belief that everyone should have access to therapists who are trauma-informed. By working with a therapist who is trauma-informed, you will be able to create the greatest predictor of therapeutic success which is the client-therapist relationship.
Having a gentle, understanding and compassionate therapist who respects how your past has impacted and influenced your present can help you to make incredible changes for your future. You will learn about the neurobiology of trauma, what your own personal “window of tolerance” is, and how to manage triggers. You will be able to heal deep shame that often goes with trauma, and you will understand yourself in a way that fosters self-compassion and self-love.
There is a saying in the therapy world: “what fires together wires together”. This means that the more emotional a life event is (be those pleasant or unpleasant emotions) the stronger the memory network will be and the more impact it will have on your life. If you have experienced trauma (whether you know it or not) those events will have a significant impact on your ability to live a life that you love. Working with a trauma-informed therapist can help you identify those events so that you can truly make lasting, positive change.
What to look for in a trauma-informed therapist?
- Your therapist talks about safety: emotional, psychological and physical. It is obvious to you that your therapist wants to create a safe environment for you.
- There is a gentle but thorough assessment period. Your therapist wants to understand you not only in the context of the issue you came in for, but who you are in the landscape of your life and what has shaped you.
- Your therapist teaches you about grounding, breathing and stabilization.
- Your therapist points out your resilience, how you have coped and how you have adapted.
- You move at a pace that respects the therapeutic relationship, your therapist quickly moves through any relational repairs with you and provides a corrective experience for you.
You deserve the best. Period.
Making the decision to access therapy is often a big one for people and can truly be life-transforming. Too often, well-meaning therapists inadvertently do harm to new clients because they do not truly understand the various and complex ways that trauma manifests in the folks that they treat.
They might push for “new beliefs” or “personal responsibility” before they understand what the client has lived through and what they truly need to begin to take important steps to changing their lives. This is why at The London Centre for Trauma Therapy, we provide both in-office and online therapy sessions designed to meet you where you are at and help to walk with you through your challenges. Your successes are our triumphs.
No matter what you choose or where you go, look for a therapist that is committed to understanding the whole of who you are, and who has ample training in trauma-informed care. Look for a clinic that has trauma-informed care at the very core of its existence. The moment you connect with the clinic, you want to feel valued and supported. You are brave and wonderful and deserve to live the fullest expression of your life and meet all the potential inside of you. Do not settle for anything less.
Where to go from here?
If you're ready to feel free, happy and heal yourself, it's a great idea to book with our therapists now. We offer free, no obligation consultations, and provide trauma-informed therapy at our London, Ontario office. We also provide trauma-informed therapy virtually throughout Ontario. Our in-person office is located at 111 Waterloo Street, Suite 508 (at the corner of Wellington Street and Hill Street in London, Ontario.