Trauma Informed Counselling: Introduction through Personal Experiences
I was always drawn to making connections and gaining a deeper understanding of the world that was around me. This included all creatures; animals and humans. There were two main things that drove my curiosity as a child; I wanted to know why people did what they did, and I wanted to save all animals from any hurt or pain. Growing up on a farm, my childhood in nature taught me many things that I believe are not available to children today. I learned about the dualities of life, the chaos and the serenity, the fight and the flight, the power and the vulnerability, death and life. All of these learning’s I believe to be connected to views on working with the effects of trauma in my counselling practice.
Today I am privileged to be able to counsel people with the help of horses, animals and nature. I have a degree in Criminology and a Masters in Counselling Psychology, and I am Internationally certified. Reaching far beyond what my degrees have given me are the experiences I have received throughout my life with people and animals. In this blog series I will share what has been given to me by others hoping to honor and respect the gifts and life lessons through their life stories.
To begin, it is important to offer more of an understanding of where I come from in my practices and the foundational theories that are integrated into my work.
Emotional focused therapy
Emotionally focused therapy proposes that emotions themselves have an innately adaptive potential that, if activated, can help clients change problematic emotional states or unwanted self-experiences. Emotions themselves do not inhibit the therapeutic process, but people’s perception is seen as the challenge that creates stuck-ness. Emotions are connected to our most essential needs. They rapidly alert us to situations important to our advancement. They also prepare and guide us in these important situations to take action towards meeting our needs. Clients undergoing EFT are helped to better identify, experience, explore, make sense of, transform and flexibly manage their emotional experiences. Emotions are a key part of what makes the type of therapy that I do viable. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotionally_focused_therapy)
Having horses as a part of the counselling process is unique in that they are emotional creatures. Often when people think of emotions there is a negative connotation attached to them, as we tend to think of the extreme emotions that are shown through behaviors such as crying or yelling or violence. Horse emotions however, bring us closer to the subtleties of all emotional states through a heightened awareness to details. Their emotions are based on survival instincts. Emotions however big or small are powerful, informative and have a strong purpose; one that connects all parts of our being physically, mentally and spiritually. Horses also have an organic use of these emotions that is useful in teaching people how to reconnect to their own feelings.
Attachment therapy in this case is guided by Gordon Neufeld’s integration of developmental theories. Neufeld developed a theory of attachment that includes six stages in the development of the capacity for relationship, the construct of polarization that explains both shyness and defensive detachment. His model of attachment is universal in both its application for adults as well as children. The use of attachment therapy is considered a foundation at Shamrock Counselling, as it is key to understanding the challenges and ruptures in relationships that often cause trauma.
Narrative therapy refers to the ideas and practices of Michael White, David Epston, and others. The narrative therapist focuses upon stories in the therapy and seeks collaboration with the client in the process of developing richer (or "thicker") narratives. In this process, narrative therapists ask questions to generate experientially vivid descriptions of life events that are not currently included in the plot of the problematic story. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_therapy
At Shamrock Counselling, I follow the works of my mentor Vikki Reynolds Ph D, as she has a strong foundation in social justice advocacy. Vikki Reynolds is one of the most influential people in my working career and is a Vancouver based Psychologist. The first time I heard her speak was at a workshop in Maple Ridge BC, when I was a youth addictions counsellor. The topic was on vicarious trauma and I remember listening in amazement as I was floored by the ideas that she brought to life which I had always felt were true, but had never heard anyone talk about in such a public way. From that point I knew that I needed to be connected to her and that was six years ago! I encourage everyone to check out her website as it is full of free resources and articles – (http://www.vikkireynolds.ca)
The first thing that I took away from that workshop was in order to survive in our work as health professionals; to be vivacious, continue to learn and be connected to our ethics, we need solidarity… (To be continued…)
Cristina works in Abbotsford BC and is the creator of both Shamrock Counselling Services (www.shamrockcounselling.com ) & Sundance Solace Society (www.sundancesolace.com). Sundance Solace is a non-profit branch that focuses on the power of nature to benefit people. If you would like to be involved there are a number of opportunities including: professional and practicum internships, associate positions, and volunteering. Please contact Cristina for more information
By Cristina Rennie MA, RCC, CEIP – MH
604 751 2354