Psychological Trauma Clinic
Outpatient Services of the Psychological Trauma Program
Clinic Members: Drs. Clare Pain, Lisa Andermann, Alex Tarnopolsky, Ginny Wesson; Polly Florius (RN), Psychiatry Residents and other health care learners.
This service provides an extended assessment and consultation service for individuals who are suffering from symptoms related to their past unresolved psychological trauma/s.
The patients assessed in the clinic have witnessed or experienced difficult life events. These may include accidents, fires or explosions; natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes; physical and/or sexual assault or intimidation in childhood or as an adult. Many of our patient’s have emigrated from countries where political repression and reprisals are common and they have been exposed to combat/ war zone experiences or torture.
Usually people who have suffered through traumatic experiences recover psychologically. Some people have an initial period of difficulty, which resolves in a relatively short period of time and they adjust well enough and move forward in their lives.
It is often more difficult to heal from past traumas if the individual has experienced a number of traumatic events in their life, especially so if these occurred during childhood. Subsequently they may have chronic ongoing psychological difficulties, alcohol and drug use, physical and medical symptoms, and past hospitalizations and various attempts at therapy. In other instances, following a period of adequate adaptation, a recent traumatic experience can feel like “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Both scenarios can leave the patient and their doctor and/or therapist wondering what kind of care, medications and therapy would help the patient most effectively.
Depending on their stage of recovery individuals can have a mixture of symptoms and problems, which usually include:
- Dissociative and somatic symptoms
- Intrusive memories and reliving experiences
- Numbing and avoidance
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Anger problems
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Substance abuse/dependence issues
- Feelings of low self worth
- Relationship and work problems
- Difficulty parenting
Our extended assessment and consultation clinic provides a chance for both the referring clinician and the patient to benefit from a specific focus on the reasons for the patient’s continuing failure to heal. The patient has a chance to describe at length his or her experience, problems and difficulties as well as identify areas of strength, resource and hope.
Often this process itself, although difficult or even painful at times, has some clear benefit. It offers the patient a chance to consider the relationship between cause and effect and recognize behaviours that once kept them safe, or optimized their survival are now detrimental. It reconceptualises their symptoms and problems in a non-judgmental understanding of how the failed resolution of the trauma/s continues to influence their daily life. This process of exploration and reflection is supported and assisted by the expertise of the trauma team.