"Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by an overwhelming force.  When  the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters. When the force is that of human beings, we peak of atrocities. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection and meaning.... Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life.... they confront human beings with the extremeties of helplessness and terror, and evoke the responses  of catastrophe."- Judith  L. Herman, MD, Trauma and Recovery (1992b, p33).

Traumatic events render many people helpless, but not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD).  Those who do may experience

1) Re-experiencing the event(s) through intrusive  memories, flashbacks, nightmares, body sensations, dissociative or psychotic episodes

2)Avoidance symptoms such as avoidance of thoughts, people, places activities or things even remotely associated with the event(s),  withdrawing from social situations and activities that would bring joy in the past, using substances/food/sex/shopping gambling to avoid feelings or to forget/numb, or experiencing memory problems of the event or surrounding timeframe.

3)Arousal problems such as hypervigilence (always being onguard and easily startled), being emotionally numb, trouble sleeping, eating and concerntrating, and being easily angered, saddened, anxious or frustrated.

Trauma may also be definied as poor or disorganizedattachment to primary caregivers or a lifetime of verbal/ emotional abuse or neglect. When working with trauma survivors, Helen helps each person to explore and process their painful memories in the safety of a warm, compassionate theraputic environment. Trauma work is often staged into 3 stages: 1) creating safety (including helping people diminish substance use and self harming behaiors that would otherwise impact trauma exploration 2) processing and grieving the trauma and 3) helping people move forward with life and finding ways to recreate meaning and positive relationships in the present.

 Helen largely uses explorative therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and  Reprogramming (EMDR) to help her  clients process difficult thoughts, feelings and  sensations associated with the trauma.  EMDR in particular is a very effective intervention. This is because traumatic memories have not been "processed" like other memories and keep emerging in thoughts, memories, nightmares,  flashbacks, sensations and re-experiencing.  EMDR has been designated one of the BEST PRACTICE interventions or Trauma by insitutions such as the APA, WHO and Veterans Affairs. I am a Stage 1 EMDR therapist.  For more information on EMDR please see .

 To do a self- test to see if you have PTSD symptoms see here -  Please note that this quiz should not be considred a diagnosis but rather a guuide as to whether treatment may help.