Therapeutic Approach

The Impacts of Stress and Trauma

Research shows that a number of mental health presentations including PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, dissociative disorders, and addiction stem from stressful and traumatic experiences in our past. These experiences get dysfunctionally stored in the brain as "reliving experiences" rather than as regular memories. This means that when the memory is triggered, it feels like the stressful event is happening all over again. The body and nervous system remember, even if we aren't thinking about those past events.

 

Symptoms are not an indication that something is wrong with you but are rather your brain and body's attempt to adapt, survive, and cope. In other words, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms are happening for a good reason.

Our brains have an innate self-healing system, but this system can become overwhelmed resulting in chronic symptoms. Research shows that EMDR therapy unblocks this self-healing system, transforms traumatic memories into regular memories, and helps reach an adaptive resolution of symptoms. 

Stressful and traumatic experiences may include: 

  • Childhood physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect 

  • Bullying by siblings or peers

  • Events resulting in feelings of humiliation, shame, worthlessness, or hopelessness  

  • Abandonment by a parent or loved one

  • Physical or sexual assault/non-consensual sex 

  • Car accidents or other accidents resulting in injury to your brain or body

  • Sudden loss of a loved one or other losses

  • Miscarriage or abortion

  • Experiences of racism or discrimination 

 

These experiences can result in a variety of symptoms such as emotional numbness, anxiety, panic, rage, critical voices in your head, fears of failure, substance use, people-pleasing, flashbacks, fears of sexual or emotional intimacy, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, feeling disconnected from your body, feelings of unworthiness or shame, and structural dissociation of the personality.

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More than Just Talk Therapy

Feeling seen, heard, and believed is an important part of healing, but talk therapy alone is not effective in resolving trauma. While it is important for your therapist to understand your history, telling and re-telling the details of traumatic experiences is not required for healing and may be counterproductive. This is why we use approaches that go beyond talk therapy and work with the brain, body, and nervous system to treat the underlying issues at their root.

 

What to Expect

During the initial stage of therapy, your history of symptoms, significant life events, and your childhood relationships with your caregivers/family will be discussed. You will be asked to complete assessment questionnaires depending on your presenting symptoms. Together we will develop a treatment plan to meet your unique goals. You will learn self-regulation skills to manage stress, anxiety, and big emotions. You will be invited to bring mindful awareness to your sensations, thoughts, feelings, and breath. In the treatment phase, specific therapeutic interventions will be selected for your unique needs. 

 

Therapeutic Approaches

We strive to work from a trauma-informed, feminist, LGBTQ+ affirmative, anti-racist lens and to create a brave therapeutic space where all people feel welcome, respected and seen. Our therapists employ a variety of therapeutic approaches and interventions to support your unique needs, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Mindfulness-based interventions. Learn more about the specific approaches each of our therapists use. 

 

All of our therapists are trained in EMDR. This form of therapy uses bilateral stimulation through eye movements, tapping, tones/drumming sounds, or holding hand buzzers to stimulate your brain's innate ability to process traumatic memories and connect with positive/adaptive information. EMDR techniques can be used to develop inner resources, to desensitize fears of emotions or memories, to treat chronic pain, to treat addictive behaviours, to work through avoidance or resistance, to reduce conflict between parts of self, and to treat depression. 

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