By Ellie Mackay, UKCP registered Psychotherapist at Dynamo Psychotherapy, Counselling and Psychology.

Kingston upon Hull HU3 2SJ

Have you been diagnosed with any of the following?

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Etc?

Have you been given antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication and put on a waiting list to see a therapist or counsellor? Or have you had a few sessions with a therapist or counsellor and it hasn’t even touched the surface?

Psychotherapy is changing. Psychotherapy is becoming trauma-informed and moving away from diagnoses and the medical model, described above.

Modern psychotherapy is looking at the effect of childhood trauma on people’s adult experience and lives.

Trauma can come from abuse, neglect or tragic accidents or events in people’s lives. It can also be a result of difficult aspects of childhood like isolation, bullying, living in poverty and dysfunctionality. The effects of experiencing racial discrimination, addiction and alcoholism in the family, witnessing domestic violence or loss of loved ones etc can also be traumatic.

The medical model suggests that trauma is irrelevant and there is a bias towards the individual having something ‘wrong’ with them or that their mental disorders are hereditary, almost as though the disorder has appeared spontaneously. Human ill-ease is framed by the medical model as having a defining label and criteria, symptoms and a clear-cut treatment, which is often heavily reliant on medication alone. This model states that there is a cure, whereas the trauma-informed approach takes a more compassionate, developmental and nuanced view to recovery and has the expectation that healing takes time. Healing takes time but if done by a skilled and trained professional, can be transformative and can avoid what the medical model would call ‘relapses’. I believe that the medical model can be intrinsically traumatizing in itself because it ignores what the person has been through and survived.

Trauma-informed therapy includes an exploration of the following aspects of people’s lived experience:

  • Difficult dynamics in childhood involving the people who were supposed to care for them but couldn’t (often because of their own trauma).
  • Difficult societal moments people’s upbringings were contextualized within.

Trauma-informed psychotherapy also examines:

  • How early trauma impacts people in their day-to-day life, for example causing disruptions to their sleep, eating and health. How trauma results in physical illness, pain and often living in fear.
  • People’s coping mechanisms that attempt to soothe dysregulation. Dysregulation means feeling out of control on a bodily and nervous-system level and can include fight, flight or freeze responses. These attempts at self-regulation can involve addiction, self-harm, dissociation, compulsions and obsessions.
  • How early splitting mentally from parts of ourselves in order to survive trauma as a child can continue into adulthood. Therapy can help with re-integrating these parts and achieving peace.This can help us stay in the present and not be stuck in the repeated re-experiencing of the trauma-sensations that are activated by triggers.
  • How getting closure on past unresolved traumas can free up mental space in our busy minds, make room for hope and add vitality to our bodies.

Working with me allows you to feel held in your distress, I can offer containment for your panic, sadness, grief, despair, I can be with you every step of the way. It’s not about delving deep into the trauma and unravelling it so that it overwhelms and re-traumatizes you. It’s about looking at the impact of trauma in your current relationships, your work, health, body, etc in the here and now. I work carefully to explore, at your pace, how to grow, through awareness and support, into a healthy person who can thrive.