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How To Start Your Trauma Healing Journey: Q&A with Professor Craig Hassed (OAM)

In our recent event 'Overcoming Trauma' we were joined by endorsed counselling psychologist Jennifer Beaton, Megan Flamer Director of Innovation for the Monash Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies, and Professor Craig Hassed (OAM) to give both clinical and personal perspectives on trauma. Following the event we spoke more with Dr Craig Hassed to ask him some more questions regarding overcoming trauma and trauma support to further help those who may be struggling.

Why are some people more resilient to traumatic events than others?

There's a range of reasons. Some people have different responses when they experience adversity. Some people struggle with PTSD, while others experience the opposite, which is growth through trauma. For some people, their traumatic experience is one they cannot face, while for others, although it was traumatic, it has positively shifted them in the future, where they were able to grow and learn from the experience. It all comes down to the person's upbringing, personality, coping mechanisms, and how they relate to others and face these adverse traumatic events.

How can we identify when we might need to seek help?

There are a few signs that indicate we may need to seek more help when facing trauma. One of these is our psychological wellbeing and mental state. If we're very distracted and we're experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, we may need to seek further support.

Another sign is that constant replays of the traumatic experience and memory are impacting our daily life and functioning.

Keeping an eye out on our close relationships is also a good indicator we may need help, if we're starting to isolate and struggling to connect to those around us.

What is intergenerational trauma? Can my trauma be passed on to my kids?

Intergenerational trauma is trauma experienced many generations ago that has been passed down through generations and children. This can occur if trauma hasn't been processed or processed well.

This undealt with/ unprocessed trauma can impact how we communicate, connect with, and relate to our children, modelling unhelpful coping patterns.

Intergenerational trauma is also present in our genetics. Also known as epigenetics, trauma can impact what genes are switched on and off. Everything we experience in daily life can affect how our genes express themselves; this is why a traumatic experience can directly impact future generations. Trauma can ultimately impact our stress genes and, if left untreated, affect future generations' stress responses and genes.

Can trauma compound over time?

Trauma can compound over time depending on many factors, including the consistent memory of the experience. If we're constantly replaying the trauma in our mind, it becomes more entrenched in our psychology and physiology.

If we're also trying to find coping methods, we may stumble into unhealthy habits such as drinking. These habits aren't constructive and long-lasting and cause further problems on top of the stresses of the trauma.

Good coping methods are vital in overcoming trauma and lower the chances of compounding trauma.

How can trauma be seen in the body? Can a blood test pick up a trauma response in the body?

No single blood test will pick up trauma in the body; however, there are a range of things that can occur due to long-term trauma. The long-term activation of the stress response produces a wear and tear on our bodies called allostatic load, which can also be tied to excessive cortisol, adrenaline, and many metabolic effects. It can put our metabolism out of balance and homeostasis out of kilter, which can be measured in various ways.

Trauma can also show up in the form of chronic pain and acceleration of chronic illnesses.

Is there a non-talking way to heal trauma?

There are non-talking strategies that can help to heal trauma. However, non-talking approaches aren't commonly impactful on their own. Communicating to close loved ones and experienced health professionals is the most impactful way to help your healing journey.

Learning skills like mindfulness and meditation are helpful non-talking strategies to heal trauma. However, a communication aspect comes into play for them to be fully effective.

How do you find a good therapist?

There are several ways to find a good therapist; the first is asking your trusted GP, who may have some close and local connections. Another is selecting based on recommendations and reviews to find if they'll be a trust and suitable fit for you.

For more watch the event replay of 'Overcoming Trauma' HERE.

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