Always practicing from a trauma-informed model, our greatest priority is to ensure clients’ safety in the therapeutic process. We employ evidence-based practices in a collaborative, client-centred manner, meaning clients always have the freedom to choose which therapeutic approaches fit best. We often adopt a three-phased (or “triphasic”) model, which has been considered the standard of trauma therapy, **although it’s important to know that detailed discussion of past traumas is not required or necessarily recommended in some cases. Newer evidence-based neurobiologically-informed therapies have demonstrated that it’s possible to do effective treatment in a gentler manner.
To give you an idea of what the traditional three-phased approach might look like:
1. The first phase of trauma therapy involves developing safety and stabilization skills. This includes developing grounding and relaxation practices such as deep breathing exercises, as well as mindfulness techniques to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. These practices are geared towards calming the nervous system in response to trauma “triggers” or reminders, fostering a greater sense of control over such symptoms.
2. Once clients feel better equipped to manage post-traumatic symptoms and ready to go deeper, we may enter the second phase of trauma therapy. This may involve processing further details of the traumatic experience(s). Our approaches draw upon Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, neurobiologically-informed therapy, and attachment-informed practices to achieve this.**
While trauma-informed care is essential, we also teach clients how to be trauma-informed in their own lives.
We often recommend Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in trauma work, which is a specialized approach developed by renowned psychologist Dr. Pat Ogden based on leading research on the neurophysiology of stress and trauma. It involves working with clients’ nervous systems to understand and regulate their natural stress and attachment responses. Research has shown that trauma impacts the most primitive parts of the brain which activate our survival defences –the fight, flight, freeze, and submission responses. Because of this, the emotional and thinking centres in the brain are less immediately activated during traumatic events, making it crucial to address the physical impact of trauma first and foremost.
Since the body remembers a traumatic experience and can get stuck in a trauma response mode, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy helps to process the trauma responses using mindfulness practices to affect a shift in the physical, emotional, and thinking levels of experience.
3. The third phase of trauma therapy involves integrating the learning and healing a client has gained through therapy. This phase promotes adjustment into one’s life, maintaining self-care and resiliency, and helping clients cultivate healthier relationships with themselves, loved ones, and their communities.
Of course this is all tailored to meet each client where they’re at, working at the their nervous systems’ pace to maintain safety within a strengths-based, compassionate framework.
“Trauma therapies try to create a dynamic interaction between the more diffuse implicit bodily feelings and the more explicit memories with a goal of shifting the client’s personal narrative to one of greater self-understanding and self-compassion.” –Stephen Porges, PhD, Interviewd by GOOP
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