If declining mental health is a villain, then counselling is the superhero. As the stigma against mental health decreases, more and more people are turning to counselling for help. People can talk about their issues in a confidential and dependable environment. Issues like grief and trauma are at the forefront of most psychological issues, and understanding how to tackle these, is the need of the hour.
According to Kastenbaum & Kastenbaum (1989), grief is a set of responses to a real, perceived, and anticipated loss. These responses include physical, psychological, emotional, and cognitive components. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines grief as the anguish experienced after a significant loss. Intense amounts of grief may cause self-neglect, disruption of the immune system, and suicidal thoughts. It focuses on the relational dimensions and the accompanying grief. Grief counselling emphasizes remembering the deceased, dealing with feelings, and establishing a new relationship with the loss.
Trauma refers to a serious wound, injury, or shock to the mind or body, often resulting in psychological and behavioral disorders. According to Briere & Scott (2006), it refers to events that are incredibly difficult and overwhelming for individuals. People experience traumatic events in highly personal and subjective ways. In the clinical sense, individuals suffering from trauma may develop disorders like PTSD or ASD. Symptoms include self-destructive and impulse-control behaviors, hostility, physiological complaints, and more.
Grief counselling is a psychotherapy that helps people cope with grief and mourning. This could be dealing with events like death or other major life changes that trigger feelings of loss. Irrespective of culture, everyone experiences grief and expresses it in their way. Some individuals socially withdraw while others experience anger and take action
There is a wide range of emotions associated with grief. Providing support to those grieving is crucial for healthy resolution. If the grieving process is interrupted, it becomes an unresolved issue that requires counselling.
Grief counselling is for those individuals whose normal coping mechanisms have been disabled or shut down due to overwhelming grief or loss. This therapeutic practice encourages the expression of emotions like sadness, anxiety, loneliness, guilt, relief, isolation, confusion, etc
Here, counsellors tackle issues like trouble concentrating, poor sleep, tiredness, feelings of disorganization, poor appetite, vivid dreams, etc. It creatively utilizes the natural reactions to loss to facilitate the process of resolution.
The following are the principles grief counselling works on
Helping survivors actualize the loss: Encouraging the client to discuss the failure to review the events
Help survivors identify and experience new feelings: For effective resolution, clients need to feel their pain and unpleasant emotions and feelings
Assist living without the dead: Encouraging clients to live without the deceased and make decisions independently
Find meaning in the loss
Give time to grieve.
Understand individual differences in grieving
Identify pathology and refer if required
Note that grief counselling and grief therapy are different. Counselling focuses on helping people work through uncomplicated grief to health and resolution. Treatment involves using clinical tools for prolonged and complicated grief reactions. These reactions often manifest themselves as bodily or behavioral symptoms.
Trauma counselling is a specific approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes understanding the impact of traumatic experiences on mental, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It works on understanding the connection between traumatic experiences and behavioral responses.
Further, it helps individuals develop skills and strategies to help individuals better understand, cope with, and process the emotions and memories related to the experiences. The goal is to make the client healthier and more adaptive. The trauma-focused treatment activities used differ from client to client, depending largely on the client's age, trauma experiences, and setting. It inherently involves focusing on the client's healing process and a holistic view of the person. To understand the whole person, counsellors need to understand the gruesome nature of the trauma and creatively tackle the complexity of trauma-related responses.
When treating trauma, there are certain implications that every clinician or counsellor must understand. First, understanding trauma involves a multidisciplinary approach due to its complex nature. Next, professionals must be adequately grounded in their understanding of trauma. While identifying and treating the same, clinicians must maintain appropriate professional boundaries. There are several kinds of interventions that are effective with trauma victims. These intervention approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) (arguably the most effective method), group psychotherapy, eye movement and desensitization reprocessing, art therapies, and more.
Identifying the signs of grief and trauma is crucial for all clinicians and counsellors. Doing so provides a direction to treatment plan development and execution. It is important to remember individual differences and listen with empathy