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What is trauma?

Trauma simply means 'wound'. In psychological therapy, the term trauma refers to an injury of the mind and, often, the body and spirit too.


Trauma is sometimes the result of a highly upsetting event or ongoing period of great distress.


Trauma happens because the mind and body are so overwhelmed by stress that their natural ability to cope in a healthy way is exceeded.

There are different kinds of trauma, some of which are more generally recognised and talked about than others.


Some trauma, such as developmental trauma, may have happened so subtly and at such a young age that there is no conscious memory of it now.


Other trauma, such as a recent accident or death of a loved-one, may be so loud in our consciousness that it feels impossible to escape their reminders.

Different responses to trauma

We all react differently under extreme circumstances. Some people who experience a certain event or who witness something frightening will become highly traumatised whereas others who experienced the same or a similar situation will not.


We are only now beginning to understand the many factors which can increase or decrease the risk of someone becoming traumatised. One of these is the level of care and support we receive from others.

A traumatic event need not be one involving violence or disaster. Any number of precipitating events can cause trauma.


What we know is that some people go on to develop acute or chronic stress reactions as a result of something happening that served to overwhelm their nervous system at the time.

If you are looking for trauma counselling or psychotherapy in Brighton and Hove click here for a free initial telephone consultation or click below  to email me.

what it PTSd?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an enduring consequence of any experience that caused intense fear, helplessness or horror.


Stressful events like war, unexpected death, abuse, violence, natural disaster, childbirth, car crashes and emergency surgery can all cause PTSD.


PTSD can occur both when someone is directly involved and also when someone witnesses an experience or were otherwise somehow exposed.


When the mind's ability to cope with what is happening becomes overwhelmed, traumatic stress can be the result.


PTSD may come on fairly soon or many years later. 


Typical symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding reminders of the trauma, emotional numbness, relationship problems, anger, alcohol and substance misuse, extreme anxiety and depression.


Living with what feels like intolerable feelings and thoughts such as these can lead to serious long-term negative consequences.


If you think you may be suffering from traumatic stress, it's important to get support as soon as possible.


At Pathways Psychotherapy and Counselling in Brighton & Hove I offer trauma-informed relational psychological therapy which helps you to feel safe, understood and able to see a way forward. 

Counselling and psychotherapy for traumatic stress

In counselling or psychotherapy the primary focus is on establishing a sense of safety. 


It can take a while for it to feel like the right time to begin talking about what may have happened to you. This is very normal.


An overall goal will be to find ways of helping you to integrate any traumatic experiences into your life so you can eventually learn to 'live around' your trauma, not completely eradicate it from your memory.

Moving carefully and securely, we would together explore which aspects of the trauma seem most difficult to manage.


We would talk about how this experience is impacting your life, relationships and perhaps your sense of self and identity.


At Pathways Psychotherapy and Counselling in Brighton & Hove you will be reconsidering what has happened to you, then and now, together with someone who is safely holding you. You can then gain familiarity with your body and mind's response and learn alternative, healthier ways of coping.


In time, you will notice yourself feeling less and less  'on alert' and having more energy to devote to other important needs.


There is a path towards recovery from trauma and its aftermath.

Click here to start a conversation with me about trauma and recovery
Developmental trauma

Developmental trauma is a term used to decribe the potentially devastating impact of early, repeated trauma, neglect or loss occurring during early childhood. It is also sometimes known as Attachment Disorder.


Though we cannot remember this time, our first year of life has a bigger impact on us than any other time in our lives.


This is the period when children learn, through secure and loving attachments to caregivers, how to self-regulate stress and anxiety and to build a functioning framework for body and mind that they then draw on for the rest of their lives.


A child's brain is highly vulnerable to distress and disconnection and requires, above all, safe and reliable bonds with others in order to develop properly.

A child, and later on an adult, who didn't feel safe or wasn't adequately attuned to lives as a slave to their survival-based 'fight, flight, freeze' responses in order to cope with any real or felt dangers they continue to face.


Common causes of developmental trauma can include abandonment, adoption, neglect, abuse, or the death or illness of a carer. The mental illness of a parent, including post-natal depression, alcohol or substance misuse is a leading cause of developmental trauma.


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The body remembers: complex relational trauma
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Early trauma comes

from things that shouldn’t have happened,

 and from things that didn’t happen

but which should have.

People are often surprised to learn that, although they can't remember events from early childhood, these first experiences of relationship are responsible for shaping much of their later development and adult life.


Scientific evidence tells us that even when our minds cannot remember, our bodies can.


Neglect, for example, is often invisible, because children whose parents were emotionally unavailable don't know anything different and therefore have no ‘incidents’ to disclose.

Signs of developmental trauma in adults include difficulty processing emotions, naming and expressing feelings, attention deficits, anger or violence, depression, anxiety, and emotion-regulation difficulties including those associated with Borderline Personality Disorder.


Dissociation is a child's attempt to shut down their mind to unbearable mental or physical pain. Dissociation often persists as a coping strategy into adulthood and can be indicated by problems such as forgetfulness, alcoholism, and sudden, unexpected shifts in mood.

Complex relational trauma is the result in adulthood of these earlier developmental wounds.


Signs of relational trauma can often be found in patterns of chaotic, intense, or conflict-laden relationships; distorted thinking; unexplained body pains and chronic fatigue, eating disorders, substance misuse, self-harm and difficulties progressing through life stages such as school and college, employment,  relationships and parenting.

Although we cannot turn back the clock... Counselling and psychotherapy provide an environment to heal the effects of trauma


All trauma is complex and multi-faceted. To recover from trauma takes time, energy, courage and compassion.  

Counselling and psychotherapy with me at Pathways can provide an attuned, caring, reparative experience for people who are suffering the effects of trauma.  

In therapy, we will focus on how trauma may have impacted your entire bodymind and social system.


Relational psychotherapy aims little by little, slowly yet surely, to calm down and repair your wounded nervous system by co-regulating your distress and anxiety and then, eventually, you can learn how to do this for yourself.  

When it feels safe enough to do so, I would encourage the recollection of experiences, both remembered and held in the body.


We can begin to mutually narrate some of these experiences and, in so doing, start to healthily process and make meaning around them together.


Over time, new and more adaptive feelings and beliefs about yourself and others will emerge.


Eventually, you will feel able to integrate your traumatic experiences into your self-view and can start to live your life without your past determining your future. 


If you'd like any further information on Pathways Psychotherapy and Counselling in Brighton & Hove or if you'd like
to arrange a telephone consultation or book an appointment please get in touch by using this form 
or call me directly on 07590 506567

Thank you, I'll be in touch

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