074 588 3808 rdpearman@gmail.com

Counselling  |  Robbie Psychologist

What is Trauma and when to get Trauma Counselling?

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Robbie Pearman  |  Psychologist  |  Trauma Counsellor

August 10 2020

Trauma can be any distressing event in which an individual feels significantly threatened emotionally, psychologically, or physically. Most people will be exposed to a traumatic event during the course of their lives. This can include incidents such as a car accident, abuse or neglect, the sudden death of a loved one, a violent criminal act, exposure to the violence of war, or a natural disaster. Many people recover from trauma, especially when aided by the support of family and friends, and can bounce back to similar or even better levels of functioning than before the incident.

For others, the effects of trauma are lasting, causing a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) long after the incident took place. Often, the support, guidance, and assistance of mental health professionals is crucial in minimizing the risk of developing these chronic symptoms.

There are some myths about the effects of trauma that are still held today:

1) “All people who suffer trauma develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”.
2) ‘People who develop Post Traumatic Stress only resolve it through therapy
or counselling’
3) ‘Long-term, abreactive therapy is the best (or only way) to resolve trauma’

In reality, people in fact have a tremendous capacity to resolve their trauma without any professional assistant. Following the September 11th attacks in New York, many feared that there would be huge numbers of city residents who had witnessed the attacks experiencing PTSD type responses to the attacks. However, the numbers of people showing signs of PTSD were much lower than expected. This illustrates how people can recover from seemingly catastrophic events, without the need for treatment. On the other hand, some people can experience severe PTSD from relatively ‘minor’ traumas that, in comparison to 9/11 seem far less significant.

It is a very unpredictable response that varies from person to person and is therefore unfortunately not always easy to distinguish between the individuals that will adapt well on their own from those who need some kind of clinical intervention to help them onto a road of recovery. For these reasons, trauma counselling interventions are important to consider in most instances. It is a sensible preventative step to take that for many people, will be short term in length, but could help prevent long-standing, chronic problems that can have a significant and protracted impact on one’s life.

My Approach To Dealing With Trauma Generally Focuses On These Four Ideas:


Sometimes people affected by trauma disconnect from people that care about them. Helping individuals stay engaged with those people is an important indicator of those who make positive recoveries from trauma incidents.


People affected by trauma may become somewhat ‘hardened’ to the world around them. Developing a way of softening or regaining sensitivity to
themselves and those around them will help produce long-lasting positive change.


For some, it may be possible to turn a horrible experience into a way to give back constructively. Channeling overwhelming emotions into a positive contribution can help some people actually emerge even stronger after a trauma.


Connecting with an individual’s preferred future full of possibilities and in which the effects of the trauma are resolved, underpins the help that goes into ensuring that trauma does not impact people in the long-term. In most trauma scenarios, it will be helpful for individuals to receive trauma debriefing with the option of follow up counselling consultations to assist with continued post-trauma recovery.

SACAP also has a useful article on trauma counseling if you’re looking to find out more.

I’m a Counselling Psychologist situated in Blairgowrie, near the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, such as Rosebank and Sandton.

I work with individuals, couples, families, and small groups to address current challenges with a solution-focused approach. These challenges may include some more common complaints such as depression, and anxiety, or those trying to come to terms with trauma or bereavement.

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