“If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is inside you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Gospel of St. Thomas
I offer assessment and treatment for people who have experienced trauma – either through recent events or earlier in life – and are struggling with its impact.
Traumatic incidents are defined as:
incidents that are – or are perceived as – threatening to one’s own life or bodily integrity. This can range from natural disasters and war to abuse (physical, sexual, verbal), rape, assault. terrorism, accident, medical mal-treatment or sudden loss of a close person. Witnessing acts of violence towards others is also classified as a traumatic event. Generally, we can say that any incident in which a person experiences danger to their life or their sanity and feels helpless to protect themselves is a traumatic incident. These incidents can have an impact on one’s life many years after they initially took place. It is also common for people to suppress any memory of the incident itself and to struggle with un-explainable physical and/or emotional symptoms which they do not connect with the trauma, but can be understood as trauma reactions. All of us experience in our life moments of immense fear, sadness or distress. Naturally, we may feel shocked, numb or acutely scared. Our system is mostly equipped to deal with this, and normally – by using our own resources and support from others – we can recover. But if the event is too distressing and our resources are not sufficient to help us make sense of it and integrate it into our mental framework, we can stay locked and stuck in what might feel like an ongoing trauma. We then develop what is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal event. The symptoms make perfect sense because what happened has overwhelmed the normal coping responses. People who suffer from PTSD often report feeling: depressed, suicidal, anxious, irritable; they suffer from insomnia, nightmares, outbursts of anger and somatic imbalances. They find it hard to concentrate or hold down a job. They report difficulties in leaving their house, having intimate relationships, trusting people, feeling enthusiastic about their future, utilising their skills. Often people feel that they are “going crazy” and find it very hard to explain their reality even to their loved ones. As a result, they feel isolated, lonely and hopeless.
Trauma Therapy can help
In a safe, confidential, therapeutic space, you will be supported in your journey towards healing. As your therapist, I am committed to carefully paying attention to your own pace, and to respecting both your strengths and vulnerabilities. The journey may not be an easy one, but my experience and expertise combined with your life force and wish to heal will make it possible for you to work through your trauma and to feel alive again.
My approach and methods:
I use an individually tailored approach to meet each person’s unique story. Therefore, the methods I use will be explained and discussed, and together we will formulate the goals of your treatment as well as the ways of approaching those goals. My approach is integrative and I offer a flexible integration of the following methods:
I believe that creating a safe and solid space is the basis to trauma work, as the essence of trauma is fear and mistrust. I therefore help my clients to find and build a sense of safety within themselves and in the therapeutic space before inviting any processing of painful experiences.
Somatic, body-based approach:
I believe that the body has a central role in trauma work. Traumatic experience is constituted first and foremost through its sensory impact: physical sensations, paralysing fear, cold sweat, increased heartbeat. Both the trauma and the reaction to trauma are experienced mainly through the body. It is in the body that we feel the pain, terror, rage, shame, disgust or acceptance of the wound. Many survivors of trauma had to disconnect from their body in order to survive with some integrity, but by doing so they involuntarily sentence themselves to a split-off dissociated existence, that can not draw on their own life force resources and cannot allow any intimate contact with others. Because the body has such an essential role both in experiencing the traumatic event and in responding to it, I believe that integrating the body into the healing process is necessary and crucial. I bring to my trauma work my professional training as a body-centred psychotherapist as well as my training in Somatic Trauma Therapy. I have over 18 years of experience as a Body Psychotherapist and as a trainer and supervisor of Body Psychotherapy students in several countries. This supports my own embodied presence during the process and enables me to offer you a way to use your body as a resource in your journey towards recovery.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR):
EMDR is a therapeutic method, developed by clinical psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 80’s which is now recommended as a treatment of choice for trauma by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government body which assesses and lays down guidelines for all medical treatment. In using this method, the therapist helps the client recall the memory of the trauma, starting off with fragments which the client can recall readily: images, physical sensations and cognitions. Whilst the client is concentrating on those fragments of experience, they are asked to move their eyes from side to side, following the therapist’s hand. What happens then is a process of free association. The client enters a dream-like state, in which images, memories and thoughts are spontaneously welling up. The therapist does not interpret or invite cognitive discussion of what comes up, but rather encourages the client to stay with the experience and to allow it to happen. When all the dissociated parts of the traumatic experience emerge, usually something happens which helps to re-integrate the experience. Unfortunately there is as yet no comprehensive scientific explanation of this phenomenon, but nevertheless the crucial result is what matters: the client comes to feel that the trauma is over rather than always living with the subliminal experience of it continuing. The traumatic experience and memories are being processed through the eye movements. The client can now differentiate between what happened in the past and their life at present. Therefore, the event does not have such an impact any more – it is now stored in the brain in a different way which allows the person to carry on with their life. EMDR has been developed further since Shapiro made her first discovery of that natural healing process of the mind and the brain through what is called bi-lateral stimulation. A lot of research has been carried out which has confirmed the usefulness of EMDR as one of the major treatments essential for treating PTSD, leading to repeated endorsements by NICE. I am an EMDR Europe Approved Practitioner and a member of the EMDR UK & Ireland Association.
Integrative Psychotherapy background and experience:
In addition to the trauma-focused principles mentioned above, I also bring my general depth-therapeutic background to trauma work. At times a recent trauma can evoke and re-stimulate earlier trauma in which case we may need to use a wider range of therapeutic tools and methods. In this, I draw from my training and experience in the following therapeutic approaches: from the humanistic end of the spectrum Gestalt, person-centred, Transactional Analysis, body work, guided imagery, dreamweaving, family constellations, mindfulness and others; and from the psychodynamic end, a variety of psychoanalytic perspectives: object relations, intersubjective and relational.
The next step
If you would like to explore the possibility of trauma therapy with me, please send me an email or phone me on 07779 593 546 to arrange an assessment session. In this session we will discuss your issues and expectations of therapy and you will have the chance to ask any questions you may have and to form an impression of me. We will then decide whether we would like to continue working together. The fee for that assessment session is £80.
Sessions are 60 minutes long, and take place in my consulting room in Oxford. I usually arrange sessions on a weekly basis, but occasionally offer sessions twice or three times a week.
I charge on a sliding scale between £70-£100 per session; reduced fee arrangements are occasionally possible.