Applied Psychology

Healing through Trauma Counselling

Aug 18, 2020
Healing through Trauma Counselling

It is estimated that at least 5 million South Africans (10% of the population) have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a level that can be recognised and ideally should be treated by a psychologist.

Anyone who has lived through a violent crime, hijacking, rape, family abuse, a serious car accident or even a chronic illness, could suffer longer term consequences from their experience.

“Trauma has an economic impact beyond an individual or community.”

The aftershocks of trauma go far beyond the victim, negatively impacting families and even communities. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the unseen cost to the country’s economy as a result of the many medical and behavioural problems that accompany PTSD is approximately R40 billion a year.

What is the Difference between a Crisis and Trauma?

A crisis is the actual point in time when a critical decision needs to be made in relation to an event. A decision taken at a crisis point is likely to have a lasting impact that will affect an individual, group of people (eg: family unit), community or society at large.  The result of a decision made at a crisis point is almost always a marked improvement or a noticeable deterioration of the situation from that point onwards. Therefore, a crisis can be seen as a turning point.

“A crisis is an event decision point. Trauma is the experience of going through an event.”

Trauma is the experience of going through an event. It often has a lingering negative impact on an individual, group of people (eg: family unit), community or society at large.

What is Trauma?

In essence, trauma can be defined as a deep psychological wound, one that has a profound impact on the emotional wellbeing and everyday functioning of the sufferer. Often, thoughts become consumed by the traumatic incident, making concentration near impossible, decision-making unclear and coping abilities frail. Reactions, which may include shock, confusion, numbness, depression and anxiety, can range from mild to severe and can persist for weeks, months, or even years following the initial event.

What is the Result of Trauma?

One of the most common results of Trauma is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common result of trauma.”

PTSD is a particular set of reactions that can develop in those who have endured trauma. Sufferers often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to those felt during the event itself. It is not unusual for people with PTSD to suffer other mental-health difficulties at the same time. Problems such as depression, anxiety disorder or addiction, can develop directly in response to the traumatic event or PTSD.

What is the Impact of Trauma (and PTSD)?

PTSD does not distinguish between race, age, gender, wealth or social standing. It’s effects are not only confined to those who are directly exposed to a traumatic event. Research shows that trauma and PTSD have a range of consequences:

  1. Parents: A parent could be unavailable because he or she is struggling with PTSD. In turn, the parent may neglect the needs of his or her children.
  2. Relationships: When stress becomes too overwhelming, partners might have problems communicating and managing emotions and intimacy, increasing the chances of separation.
  3. Family: Traumatic circumstances often drain families of resources, such as time, money and energy, interfering with growing, learning and working. As a consequence, family members have even greater difficulty carrying out the daily routines and sustaining the important traditions that once bound them together.
  4. Communities: Trauma reverberates across communities. Eroding the very fabric of a functional society. It can even cross generations, creating a legacy of seemingly unending despair. If unresolved, the devastating trauma of genocide, loss of culture, and forcible removal of families and communities becomes a sort of “psychological baggage”, continuously being acted out and recreated from one generation to the next.

“Trauma has a far reaching and long-lasting impact beyond those who live through the actual traumatic event.”

What is Trauma Counselling

Dealing with the emotional fallout that so often accompanies trauma is very difficult without professional help. Indeed, the role of the qualified counsellor is even more important when one considers that, if not dealt with, the after-effects of trauma can go on indefinitely. Progressing to the point here they seriously impact not just the lives of sufferers but also of those around them.

How does Trauma Counselling work?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to trauma therapy, counsellors effectively work to assist clients, families and even whole communities learn healthy ways of coping with the feelings that have developed as a consequence of trauma. This may include helping them to regulate strong emotions and to develop the ability to trust again.

“Trauma Counselling can contain the reach of trauma and better prevent an intergenerational impact.”

Trauma counselling provides an outlet where people can discuss their experiences. It also allows people to develop strategies for dealing with the ongoing difficulties they face as a result. Trauma counsellors provide effective and empathetic support to their patients without becoming too emotionally involved or invested in their cases.

Trauma Counselling in South Africa

Researchers, activists and healthcare practitioners repeatedly (and with ever-increasing urgency) call on government policymakers to address the severe levels of psychological trauma from which a large percentage of our country’s population suffers. The desperate need for more trauma counsellors in South Africa cannot be overstated. Without the crucial service these trained professionals provide, there is little hope of ever turning the tide on our nation’s inherited pain and staunching its persistent damage.

“Trauma Counselling is tailored to each situation.”

As there is no precedent to the COVID-19 lockdown, the full emotional, physical and mental impact of lockdown remains unknown. However, the sudden and highly distressing events can invoke a traumatic response within individuals and communities at large. Therefore, the extended experience of lockdown on adults and children in South Africa is likely to further increase the need for trauma counsellors across the country.

Where can I study Trauma Counselling?

Do you think you have what it takes to be a trauma counsellor? If so, why not consider studying at SACAP? SACAP offers a range of accredited counselling courses. Graduates of SACAP’s Bachelor of Psychology Degree are able to register with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor. They will then be able to provide selected professional-counselling services. These graduates will also have the option of articulating into a Master’s programme with a view to becoming a Psychologist. For more information, enquire today.

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