It’s hard saying no. For a lot of new therapists, we really struggle with the idea of disappointing someone in our care.
It can be easy to feel that because our clients need something, we need to be the one to give it to them. I hear new therapists say things like “but they need evening hours – they can’t make it during the normal workday“ or “they need a sliding scale – they can’t afford the full fee”.
When I saw Dr. Gabor Mate - author and renowned addiction expert - speak in October 2012, he gave a definition of trauma that I wrote down, and since then I’ve been collecting other definitions. I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of what it is we’re trying to heal. Dr. Mate would say that trauma is the suppression of natural fears and emotions, and that all mental illness is an attempt to get away from ourselves.
I'm currently reading Peter Levine's "Healing Trauma" and feeling SO GRATEFUL that he's written out a handy list of words to describe bodily sensations. When I work with clients, I often ask them to describe thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations of any given experience - and a lot of folks struggle with this! Most of us live in our heads and have a difficult time finding words for these other, equally important, parts of ourselves. So the next time your therapist asks how you are, instead of "okay" or "not so good", try asking yourself what sensation in your body tells you you're feeling that way.
Working in the area of sexual violence has taught me that for many folks, understanding our experience and having a name for it can help us heal from it. Knowing the definitions of sexual assault and consent and being able to claim the word "survivor" can be extremely powerful.
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.