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Specializing in Trauma, including Sexual Trauma, Sex Addiction, and Relationships

Trauma
Trauma including Complex Trauma

There are many kinds of trauma; acute trauma resulting from one single event, chronic trauma which occurs repeatedly and over a period of time, such as an abusive relationship, neglectful parents, or complex trauma, when multiple events occur over a lifetime. 

You do not need a diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to acknowledge that you've experienced trauma in your life. Reactions to trauma may encompass everything from exhaustion, difficulties concentrating, confusion, sadness, anxiety, hypervigilance, agitation, restlessness, feeling numb, confused, tense, and/or brain fog. Trauma can encompass emotional trauma, where you have lived through events or periods of your life where you felt deeply unsafe and often feel hopeless or helpless to protect yourself. This can be the result of surviving experiences of chronic abuse, bullying, discrimination, racialized social stress, microaggressions, or being humiliated or gas-lit.

Complex trauma occurs when there is exposure to multiple traumatic events - often involving experiences that are invasive, interpersonal, and inescapable in nature. These could be events that are severe and pervasive, occurring over a period of time such as abuse, neglect or poverty. If these events occur early in life, this causes a disruption at a crucial time in a child's development, formation of identity, and sense of self. If these events occur at the hands of a caregiver, this will significantly hinder the ability of a child to form a secure attachments to others which will have a profound life-long impact to an individual's ability to engage in healthy relationships. 

90% of the population has experienced some form of trauma and self-awareness grows when you acknowledge the impact past experiences have had on you, and address the ongoing decisions, sometimes subconscious ones, that continue to perpetuate the trauma in your life. If you experience that reminders of past traumatic experiences have a strong hold on you now, causing emotional distress and activation, you may have had your recovery impeded or not had the safety to allow full emotional processing of the event and may benefit from support to guide you through "finishing the unfinished business". 

Healing and recovery, or post-traumatic growth is possible after experiences of trauma which can lead you to develop a greater appreciation of life, a deeper understanding of yourself, others, and the world, and more meaningful connections with others. 

Relationships
Relationships

I believe that how we show up in relationships is determined from our early attachment experiences with our first caregiver(s). If we grow up with emotionally responsive and attuned caregivers and were supported to develop as independent and autonomous beings, not an extension of our caregivers, we will develop an understanding about others that they can be trusted, and that we can convey our needs and anticipate that they will be met by others. If we grew up in households where our caregiver(s) were unavailable, not emotionally responsive, struggling with their own issues, including but not limited to addiction, trauma, and/or mental health challenges, you may grow up struggling to self-differentiate, over-functioning in someone else's life while under-functioning in your own. 

Our attachment style, learned from our early attachment experiences often dictates our behaviour in relationships. Consider taking an Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) survey to assess your attachment style. It will explore your ability to balance dependency with your ability to be emotionally intimate with others, as well as managing your experience of seeking external validation from others, and distress when you are alone.

High scores on this assessment may indicate a vulnerability to depression, anxiety, interpersonal distress, and/or loneliness. 

Attachment styles are not permanent over a lifetime but change comes from building self-awareness, gaining a tolerance to sit with difficult emotions, and acknowledging the impact of witnessing unhealthy patterns of behaviour that we observed in relationships growing up. 

 

Addiction
Addiction 

No one chooses to struggle with an addiction. It defies logic that anyone would choose to engage in problematic behaviour or substance use when they are able to acknowledge that it is starting to impact their personal life, career, friends, family, and finances. In the words of Gabor Maté, "Not why the addiction, but why the pain" conveying an understanding that addiction is borne from self-medicating, whether it be to distract from, numb, escape, or avoid pain. There is evidence-based correlation between individuals experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) being more vulnerable to struggling with addiction. 

 

Whether you feel this applies to you or not, recovery is possible. Abstinence is simply not using or engaging in the addictive behaviour or substance, but sobriety is taking a deep dive into building self-awareness and understanding what drives motivation for long-term healing. Recovery is painful and involves a lot of emotional introspection, but the result is a life worth living, and a belief in one's self. 

Sexual Addiction
Sex Addiction

Whether you agree with the definition of sex addiction or not, you may identify struggling with a compulsive and unmanageable sexual behaviour that has led you to seek more information. Sex addiction is an umbrella term to encompass anything from seeking the services of escorts, strip clubs, engaging in unsafe, anonymous sex, using dating apps or chatrooms for hookups, soliciting the services of cam girls, massage parlours, and typically involves a great sense of shame after the activity. Anyone who finds themselves seeking support around their sexual behaviour acknowledges that they have been impacted physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially by their sexual behaviour. This includes pornography addiction. You may have said to yourself, "everyone does it", but are you finding yourself watching pornography for hours at a time; that it is causing you to neglect your personal and professional life, and affecting intimacy with a partner or causing erectile dysfunction or problems performing sexually? If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, it is possible to gain control over your life and work towards a healthy sex life that will deepen intimacy and connection with others.

If you'd like to see if you would meet criteria for having a sex addiction, please take the free Sex Addiction Screening Test and reach out to discuss your results. You are not alone

Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal Trauma

If you are the spouse or partner of someone who has betrayed you with compulsive sexual behaviour and/or pornography use, discovering this side of your loved one may feel devastating. The person that you have been most intimate with, that you have shared your secrets with, and knows so much about you, is someone that you experience as a stranger now and struggle to believe anything coming out of their mouth isn't a lie. The effects of this discovery may range from shock, anger, confusion, shame, and isolation. This discovery is a traumatic event and you may experience invalidation from your loved one, family, friends, or even helping professionals who tell you, "it's just porn" or "everyone does it" or shame from sharing. You are not alone, and others who have gone through this experience of betrayal have reported symptoms such as hypervigilance, dissociation, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, self-injury, poor self-image/self-esteem, overeating or undereating, substance abuse, insomnia, and/or shattered sense of self, just to name a few. Let me reassure you that you are not going crazy and healing is possible despite the emotional roller coaster you may feel that you're on and you deserve tailored support from someone who understands what you're going through and support for your own healing journey. 

Sexual Trauma
Sexual Trauma

The long-term impact from having experienced any unwelcomed touch, comments, or acts can be anything from engaging in unhealthy sexual relationships, lack of understanding/clarity around your own healthy boundaries, having difficulty saying no to sexual acts, finding it easier to engage in sexual behaviours under the influence or with anyone other than your intimate partner. Do you struggle in unsatisfying relationships in general, or notice that it is difficult to be present even when you are in the presence of a caring partner? You may have experienced sexual trauma that you may not have fully realized the extent of its impact. Some individuals may experience long-term consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, addiction, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviour, and physical symptoms in the absence of medication conditions. If you have read any of this and have a question in your mind as to whether any of this applies, or suspect that it may, I invite you to embark on a healing journey where you can learn to feel as if you belong in your own body, that saying "no" is a full sentence, and that this is how you start to reclaim your space in the world. 

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