Last year, I attended complex trauma training delivered by Dzmitry Karpuk, which focused on stage 1 of Herman’s three stage model of trauma recovery and described ways of ensuring safety and stabilisation in the counselling room.
I was curious about learning new ways to work with trauma. Although I am an experienced counsellor, my work exposure to complex trauma was relatively new. I wanted to ensure I worked safely and effectively with the refugees, supporting my learning and growth as a counsellor. As the course progressed, I realised the training would not only develop my work with the refugees, but it would also enrich my effectiveness as a private practitioner.
What I learnt
The course illustrated that the body holds onto the trauma and clients become locked into events. One of the most important aspects of therapeutic work is to ensure client safety, while building trust with the client, in order to adapt coping strategies to deal with their symptoms. Helping clients notice triggers (both internal and external) can help them to manage their emotions. We learned body scanning and grounding techniques through practical exercises. These practical exercises enabled me to see the importance of recognising the feelings in our bodies.
Helping my refugee work
I was able to take what I learned to my sessions with refugees with enhanced confidence and empathy. I found the calming techniques allowed clients to be present in the room, whilst also helping them to stabilise themselves when they were getting flashbacks at home. Enabling the client to feel grounded and be present, helps the refugees feel less vulnerable, allowing them explore issues around managing everyday life in the UK . This further allowed the refugees to take responsibility for the challenges of living in the UK.
Enhancing my private practice
In my own private practice I now encourage my clients to be more physically aware and I have learned being in the room with clients and building trust and respect is enough. I thought that 12 sessions were not enough and felt time pressured to move the clients on. I am now aware of the importance of the client being focused on the present moment. If they are not feeling overwhelmed, I am able to do something in the 12 sessions. Equipping refugees to cope with challenges they face in the UK is an important part of my therapy work with them.
My own personal development
I am less wary of working with clients who exhibit trauma in my private practice. Initially, I would have referred clients straight away if they had a complex trauma issue. I developed my practice such that I am able to work with clients who present trauma. I do this through stabilisation and body work, and I am aware when the time is right to refer them on to a trauma specialist.