Emotional & Mental Wellness
Why Feeling Safe Is Important For Trauma Therapy
By Ipseity Counseling Clinic, Therapists in Denver, Colorado
What Does It Mean To Feel Safe In Therapy?
Every time someone walks through the door of my counseling office I try to remind myself to focus on making that person feel safe in my office.
Feeling safe is such an essential part of good therapy.
Safety has kind of become a buzz word today. We often talk about creating “safe spaces” for people because we live in world that can be harsh and unkind.
As a trauma counselor in Denver I work with people who’ve experienced the pain of emotional or physical abuse.
Experiencing these situations can take away your sense of safety in the world. Things you used to take for granted can now stir up feelings of anxiety and fear.
Even something as simple as sitting in a therapist’s office can trigger feelings of being unsafe.
The difficult part of feeling safe during therapy is that you can’t predict what might trigger your thoughts and feelings.
Even well intentioned counselors might say or do something that unknowingly triggers you.
If you can’t predict every situation that might trigger these feelings, then what does it mean to feel safe in therapy?
Trauma Counseling Is About Learning To Tolerate Your Thoughts and Feelings
As a therapist I often tell the people I’m working with that you can’t erase a memory, but you can change how a memory affects your life.
The main goal of trauma therapy is learning how to tolerate the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing.
When I’m helping someone with this process I describe it as trying to get that thought or feeling to feel neutral.
Feeling neutral about a memory means that when you think about it, it doesn’t stir up overwhelming feelings of fear, anger, or deep sadness.
When you’ve experienced the trauma of abuse it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Your emotions might get flooded and the thoughts and feelings might seem too intense.
If you can work through the things that feel overwhelming you can learn to tolerate them in your life. Eventually they can become a part of your life without causing disruptive thoughts or emotions.
But what about those times during counseling when you do feel overwhelmed or unsafe?
Being able to speak what your feeling can be empowering. It let’s you know that you’re in control of your healing process.
Let Your Therapist Know When You Feel Uncomfortable In Counseling
Therapy is about collaboration. It’s an interaction that requires both you and your therapist.
Being able to share you thoughts and feelings is essential for good therapy. If you’re feeling unsafe or uncomfortable during counseling you can tell your therapist what you’re experiencing.
Bringing this to your therapists attention in the moment gives both of you the opportunity to work on what you’re feeling.
If you’re therapist is tuned in to what’s happening during counseling they might notice when you’re feeling unsafe. If they don’t recognize you’re feeling uncomfortable it can be very therapeutic for you to share it with them.
Being able to speak what you’re feeling can feel very empowering. It helps you learn that you have a voice, and that you’re in control of the counseling process.
During therapy I always remind people they can tell me when they’re feeling like therapy is too much or too painful.
If you feel overwhelmed or unsafe during therapy it’s not going to be a helpful experience in your life.
It can be helpful to talk with your counselor about having a gesture or a word that can let them know when something feels like it’s too much. Remember that you’re in control of therapy and it’s important that you let your therapist know what you need.
Regulating Your Body and Mind Is The Key To Good Trauma Therapy
A traumatic experience can have a lasting impact on both your thoughts and your body.
Trauma therapy is about helping you learn how to regulate the negative feelings and memories that you’re experiencing.
When you’re feeling triggered by something related to your trauma there’s typically a physical feeling that tells you you’re uncomfortable. Your body is trying to signal to you that something doesn’t feel right.
Learning to be aware of these feelings and then learning how to regulate these feelings is the main goal of therapy.
In the past trauma therapy has tended to focus more on the mind. The goal was to help people work through the psychological effects of a traumatic experience.
As our understanding of trauma is improving there’s a much bigger emphasis on how your body responds to trauma. Your body has a way of remembering the negative feelings you might have had when your trauma occurred.
Good trauma counseling will help you understand how your body is related to trauma and how to regulate the physical symptoms you’re experiencing.
Trauma Therapy Isn’t Just Talking About What Happened To You
Trauma therapy doesn’t mean you have to sit with your counselor and just talk about the terrible things that happened to you.
Sometimes this might even make you feel worse. Part of the problem might be that you can’t stop thinking about what happened to you.
This could be one of the things holding you back from getting help from a professional.
Working through trauma is about helping you know how to deal with the painful things you’ve experienced. It’s about developing the skills to cope with the aftermath of a traumatic experience.
As our understanding of trauma is improving we’re also improving the ways that we treat it. Modern approaches to counseling like EMDR therapy helps you work through trauma by focusing on your body and mind.
One of the wonderful things about EMDR therapy is that it allows you to work through your pain without necessarily having to talk about what happened to you.
If you’re experienced some trauma in your life it’s important to find a good trauma counselor that can help you feel safe as you work through your pain.
To learn more about healing from trauma you can check out another great article called What It’s Really Like Recovering From Trauma.
Finding The Right Trauma Counselor
Therapy can be a very helpful way to work through the effects of what happened to you.
Finding the right trauma counselor can be helpful. If you need help finding the right therapist you can check out our article on how to find the right therapist.
A good trauma counselor should be able to connect with you, and allow you to feel safe throughout therapy. They will be able to guide you through the healing process at a pace that feels comfortable and allows you to heal.
Cody Mitts, MA, NCC, LPC
Cody is a therapist in private practice in Denver, Colorado. As a counselor he loves helping people work through pain related to trauma and PTSD and also specializes in treating anger problems. Want to connect with Cody? You can call (720) 507-8170 or connect with him online by clicking the link below!
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