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Trauma Program

TRAUMA PROGRAM OVERVIEW

The trauma program is available to all clients who are struggling with interpersonal and/or work-related stress and focuses on (1) how clients can self-regulate to deal with dissociation, anxiety, depression, anger, and other symptoms of trauma, and (2) how clients can pursue a fulfilling life, in spite of suffering.

Although there is a Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) component in the trauma program, therapies that focus on the trauma experience are kept to a minimum. Furthermore, in spite of the inevitability of clients bringing up their trauma experiences during the course of treatment, therapists do not focus on these experiences. It is, of course, therapeutically necessary to validate these experiences; however, the emphasis is on how clients can begin to pursue a more fulfilling life while suffering from trauma symptoms.

How We Define Trauma

Trauma arises when the individual’s way of making sense of self and the world is confronted with an experience(s) that is incompatible with his worldview. This incompatibility is so extreme that the individual cannot integrate the traumatic experience(s) into how he makes sense of himself and the world. Intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and hyper vigilance are generally considered the most common trauma symptoms.

SCHC’s definition of trauma does not deny any effect on the cortical or limbic brain pathways. It does not deny any changes in a client’s endocrinology. It does not deny any neurobiological or psychosocial predisposing factors. What this definition emphasizes is, however, that trauma cannot be reduced solely to neurobiology, maladaptive learned behavior, or environmental conditioning. Rather, trauma also has its effect at the level of fundamental motivations, i.e., at the level of self-concept and identity, relationships, personal meaning and purpose.

What this definition also suggests is that treatment that focuses on symptom reduction is less effective than treatment that combines symptom reduction with helping clients pursue personally meaningful lives.

Overall Aim of the Trauma Program

The overall aim of the trauma program is to help clients begin the process of integrating the traumatic experience(s) into how they make sense of self and the world. To achieve positive results, this new way of making sense of things must be responsive to reality and to the client’s values.

How the Trauma Program Works with the Addiction Program

It is important to recognize that the trauma program at SCHC is part of the primary addiction program of meaning therapy. It is not intended as a stand-alone program; rather, it is an adjunct to the addiction program. The addiction program is based on the proposition that addiction is a response to living a life that lacks personal meaning. Because of this proposal, the addiction program aims at helping clients take control of their lives, recognize their limitations, learn to live comfortably in the grey areas of life, and act congruently with values. Both the addiction program and the trauma program share key themes. Please note that a diagnosis of addiction is not required as admission criteria for enrolment in the trauma program.

TRAUMA PROGRAM THERAPIES

At Sunshine Coast Health Center, our treatment goal is to move clients beyond merely attaining a measure of physical and emotional stability, and toward transformational change. Our therapy program prepares clients and their families for a deeper, more meaningful life.

Research has shown that concurrent trauma and addiction requires an integrated approach to treatment. Our program reflects the latest in evidence-based care where the focus is on the whole person rather than just the ‘trauma’ or ‘addiction’. Our program combines the best practices of addiction medicine and psychiatry, cognitive-behavioural coping skills, family systems, and narrative therapies, with a special focus on a humanistic-existential approach.

Sunshine Coast Health Center is an approved provider with Canadian Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Besides military and occupational trauma, the trauma program is also open to clients suffering from a past episode(s) of violence, sudden loss or childhood abuse.

1. Defensive Coping Skills (Affect Self-Regulation)

There are many barriers to achieving a personally meaningful life. Thus, one primary focus of the trauma program is to help clients overcome these barriers. A common barrier is, for example, that clients have lost connection with their physical and emotional selves. The goal of these skills is to help clients develop any number of skills for affect self-regulation. When anxiety increases, they can simply use these skills to self-sooth. Defensive coping skills are provided in both group and individual sessions. Group sessions generally involve grounding exercises, breathing exercises, guided imagery, and information on sleep hygiene. Individual sessions tend to focus on hypnotherapy and neurofeedback.

2. Existential Coping Skills

A second program focus is to help clients gain awareness of their authentic values and pursue personal goals. Research has shown that affect self-regulation (defensive coping skills) is not sufficient to achieve contentment. Clients must also recognize that they, like everyone, have desires to fulfill. Human beings cannot live simply by what they do not want (e.g., negative emotions) but also by what they want (meaningful lives).

Existential coping skills are those that help the client gain awareness of self, world, and how he fits in that world. This group processes what clients’ experiences of post-trauma life are and how these have affected self-definition and relatedness. Although past experiences may arise naturally in the group, the focus of the group is on how clients are experiencing their present world. As well as deconstructing current experiences, therapy helps clients construct new ways of making sense of their experiences and new ways of coping.

Ideally, existential coping skills also include acceptance, humility, and forgiveness. Understanding who he is, what the world is like, and practicing acceptance and forgiveness, gives the client the best chance at working through struggles and growing from them.

The goal of developing existential coping skills is to help the client make sense of his life in a way that is more responsive to reality and to his values.

3. Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment

Expertise in assessment and psychotropic drug therapy are critical in concurrent treatment.

Trauma program clients participate in an initial psychiatric assessment, consisting of a client history, mental state examination, impressions and recommendations. As part of psychiatric services, clients receive ongoing psychiatric care which includes medication monitoring by nursing staff.

4. Complementary Trauma Therapies

Sunshine Coast Health Center offers a variety of complementary therapies for trauma as part of a comprehensive mental health program provided in conjunction with addiction therapy:

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a therapy that was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. The desensitization and reprocessing in EMDR refer to the removal of emotional disturbance associated with the traumatic memory, and the replacement of unhealthy negative cognitions/beliefs related to the traumatic event with more positive and healthy cognitions/beliefs.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a therapy that measures brain activity as a way of informing clients on the state of their brain functioning. Based on this instantaneous feedback, clients are taught to adjust their thinking patterns based on whether the feedback is within a designated range. These changes in thinking patterns are associated with positive changes in physical, emotional and cognitive states.

Hypnotherapy and Active Meditation

Sunshine Coast Health Center has utilized hypnotherapy and active meditation extensively with clients, particularly during evenings and weekends when clients tend to experience heightened anxiety. Hypnotherapist Tatiana Tsarouk, Ph.D., is a full-time psychotherapist at Sunshine Coast Health Center with over 15 years of hypnosis therapy experience and formal training from her native Russia.

Therapeutic Exercise

The trauma program includes special individual exercises. Research indicates that such exercise is therapeutic for those suffering from trauma. The purpose of the exercise is to work with trauma symptoms that manifest in the physical body.

Therapeutic Recreation

Nature is an important aspect of the treatment experience at Sunshine Coast Health Center. Therapeutic recreation offers clients the opportunity to work off-site with their peers and the clinical team.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To order a copy of our trauma brochure please refer to the Order a Brochure page.

Trauma Program Testimonials

I notice many improvements while in the trauma program. My sleeping issues have been resolved. This has been an issue for many years. I was on medication and treatment for that too. Today, I no longer take medication for sleeping and I sleep very well. My concentration went up and my isolation and energy problems have been resolved. BrainPaint was beneficial in healing the mind as well as the body.

Jean-Paul

We are very pleased with Julian's progress and credit your program as well as to his own commitment. His greater self-awareness, deepening tolerance, and patience has come from a better understanding of himself and is really helping him to move forward constructively.

Jill, Veterans Affairs Canada Case Worker

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Testimonials

The most important thing I’ve learned is I’m not weak. That drugs and alcohol don’t control my life. That I’m able to make up decisions and that everyone and everything I’ve done here is about me, not other people.

- Roger

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