Welcome to our Trauma Clinic page. If you are here, it is probably because you have been through a distressing life experience which is impacting on your mental health.
Psychology Brighton Ltd offers a specialist trauma service for people who have experience traumatic events. We work with people who experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), or people who might not meet criteria for a formal PTSD / C-PTSD diagnosis but are noticing that their quality of life has been severely impacted by their distressing experiences.
We hope that this page will provide you with helpful information to decide whether you would like to proceed with an assessment and psychological therapy to support you to process these experiences and achieve a better quality of life.
Healing Trauma (EMDRIA)
Trauma and the brain (Anna Freud NCCF)
Defining trauma can be a challenging task as what we class as a traumatic or distressing experience can be personal and subjective. Everyone is affected by life events in different ways and therefore an experience which is traumatic for one person might not be for someone else.
Generally speaking, trauma is an emotional response to an event (or a series of events) that is deeply distressing or disturbing. This can include events that hurt us physically (e.g. a car crash, physical abuse) or emotionally (e.g. neglect, emotional/psychological abuse). Trauma can happen when we are directly harmed, when we witness harm to someone else, when we live in a traumatic atmosphere (e.g. growing up in a country where there is conflict) or when we are affected by trauma happening in a family or a community.
Examples of traumatic events can include:
The death of a friend of family member
Physical pain or injury (e.g. car crash, illness)
War and conflict
Emotional abuse and neglect
Witnessing a death
Parental / caregiver abandonment
What these events have in common is that they can create a sense of threat for our physical or emotional safety, leaving us feeling scared, guilty, humiliated, rejected, abandoned, ashamed, powerless. Ultimately, unsafe.
Traumatic experiences are more common than we think and it is estimated that the majority of the population will have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. The percentage of people who experience traumatic events is significantly higher in minority groups where stigma and discrimination can play a significant part in a person's experience.
Traumatic events can happen suddenly and can leave us feeling frightened, ashamed and change the way we relate to ourselves, others and the world around us. Accidents, illnesses, emotional, sexual and physical abuse; trauma can take different forms and impact on us in different ways.
Following a traumatic event, you are likely to experience unwanted physical, emotional and psychological responses that can be difficult to manage. You may find it difficult to process and make sense of what happened. Feelings of anger, shame, guilt and fear can be very strong after a traumatic event and, at times, can make it difficult for us to talk about what has happened with people who are close to us. Or sometimes, we might work up the courage to talk but people in our lives can have a negative reaction, leading to further feelings of anger, shame and guilt that can be difficult to process.
Most people who experience a traumatic event (or multiple events) will be impacted by this in some way. In the first few hours or days after a traumatic event you may feel shocked, confused, distressed and frightened. It is important to remember that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to react to a traumatic event. Everyone will be impacted and react differently. It is also important to mention that, whilst most people involved in a traumatic event will be somewhat impacted, the majority of people adjust well and will recover within three to six months from the traumatic event.
There are times when traumatic events have a long-lasting effect on our lives and impact on our ability to function and live a fulfilling life. Trauma-informed and trauma-focused therapy can help us reconceptualise what has happened in our past so that we can begin to feel less frightened and defined by our experiences and more able to move on.
Working within a trauma-informed therapy framework means being aware of the complex impact trauma can have on our lives and how trauma can shape a person's belief system and ways of coping with life. A trauma-informed approach integrates this knowledge into all aspects of the therapeutic process but doesn't directly target the "symptoms" of trauma (e.g. in the case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD).
Trauma-focused therapy differs from trauma-informed therapy in that it directly targets the symptoms resulting from a traumatic event by using different therapeutic techniques to help the brain process what has happened in a different way. There are different approaches utilised in Trauma-Focused therapy. I primarily practice using Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy which is designed to help people recover from the impact traumatic events can have on our lives. EMDR is recognised by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be an effective trauma-focussed therapy.
EMDR was initially developed by Dr Francine Shapiro in the 1980s as an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, over time there has been increased research published into its effectiveness in the treatment of a range of mental health difficulties, including phobias, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality.
When a person experiences a traumatic or distressing event, the brain can become overwhelmed and its information processing system is not able to work effectively to process and deal with the traumatic event. As a consequence, trauma memories can become "locked" in the brain and can leave people experiencing a range of difficulties including poor sleep, negative intrusive thoughts about the event, nightmares, flashbacks, low mood and anxiety. EMDR uses the brain's natural ability to process information to work through distressing memories of the traumatic event with the aim to reduce the emotional intensity of these memories. This is usually achieved by linking the traumatic memories and images with fast sets of eye movements or other types of bilateral stimulation (these can include tapping, sounds).
If you would like to find out more about EMDR, please visit the following websites:
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment recommended to support people overcome the negative impact of traumatic experiences. TF-CBT has been proven to be an effective treatment after multiple traumas or a single traumatic event.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focuses on identifying the relationships between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and on exploring how a change in any one of these domains can lead to changes in the other domains.
TF-CBT helps people to identify negative thinking patterns and generate more helpful alternatives to enable the person reconceptualise their understanding of the traumatic experience, its consequences and their understanding of themselves and their ability to cope.
Techniques like exposure to the trauma narrative as well as reminders of the traumatic event are used to help people reduce avoidance behaviour and reprocess the traumatic event by integrating more adaptive responses. The exposure work is done in a controlled way during the therapy sessions to enable the person to engage with the thoughts and feelings linked to the traumatic experience in a safe and gradual way. It is a process that is agreed collaboratively between the client and the therapist so that an informed decision can be made about what to do. The aim is to reduce symptoms and help the person feel more in control and reduce escape and avoidance behaviour.