I have been working with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since very early on in my career which started in 1990. The only difficulty we had in those days was to identify this particular disorder. When I began my career after my academic training, it was pretty much only attributed and discussed that Vietnam Veterans had PTSD, and there was very little recognition of other populations who would qualify for this diagnosis. However, this could also be my “rookie” impressions of my newly chosen field.

The Full Scope of PTSD

As my career progressed I learned so much more about this disorder and I had many other experiences with clients who did experience PTSD. I encountered many individuals who were in life-threatening situations such as car accidents, child abuse, and natural disasters in my career. Amongst the people I worked with were specialized populations such as prison inmates, Katrina Hurricane survivors, in-patient psychiatric survivors, out-patient psychiatric survivors, active duty soldiers, refugees, and combat veterans. However, I also learned that everyday people could also develop PTSD through their experience of workplace accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and victims of domestic violence, victims of child abuse or simply by witnessing any of these events.

Some of the symptoms of PTSD include being hyper-aroused when a person encounters a triggering event that reminds them of their trauma. There can also be panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares of the event, avoidance behaviours, out of proportion anger, dissociation, and tension-reduction behaviours such as self-harm or self-injurious behaviours.

Treating PTSD

During all my years of treating individuals with PTSD I have learned various therapeutic techniques that assist in the processing of these traumas that people can be troubled by for many years. I have learned how to do Cognitive Restructuring, Eye Movement De-Sensitization Reprocessing, Narrative Therapy, Hypnosis and Solution-Focused Therapy. What I observed during all my professional therapist years is that there are some common elements amongst all of these people from these diverse populations, and the most common thing I have found is that there is an overwhelming emotional experience that people have extreme difficulty coming to terms with in their lives. PTSD clients often have an experience that is so traumatizing and upsetting, that they sort of shut-off part of themselves to be able to cope with the pain. When an individual dissociates from themselves to a significant degree it can be difficult for them to access and express these painful emotions.

Fortunately a professional therapist can, through the various methods previously described, can help a client to process painful memories and work through their emotions in a safe and reassuring environment. I enjoy helping clients work through their traumas and I attempt to process their memories in the most efficient manner that I can hoping to provide context and understanding of their experiences during the course of treatment and therapy.

How PTSD Patients Have Helped Me Improve as a Therapist

Despite some pretty disturbing and intense memories that are shared with me, and with all due recognition to the pain I have seen my clients experience as they work through their traumas, I am always struck by the resiliency, dignity and humanity that most, if not all of my clients have demonstrated through the years of my clinical work in this particular area of interest.

How Should a Reader Approach Their Own Trauma-Related Stress?

To begin psychotherapy to address one’s traumatic memories can be stressful in and of itself, especially if you have never done this before or were used to burying your feelings as some of my clients have been wont to do. Though, for some individuals this attempt to bury their feelings is natural for them especially because they are not used to talking about their feelings, and they may be new to psychotherapy.

Another barrier that has to be overcome is the stigma of seeking out professional help for mental health issues. I feel that therapist-client relationship is sacred and the quality of this relationship aids in the healing. I believe that demonstrating the human quality of empathy and understanding while at the same time acknowledging my own personal fears and anxieties now and in the past, help people to connect with an equal and not an expert, which is one of my goals as a professional therapist. It is my hope that by establishing a positive and healing environment, clients can overcome these barriers and challenges.

To seek treatment with either myself or one of my friendly, understanding associates, please feel free to contact us for a no-obligation over-the-phone assessment.

Bruce R. Cook

I have been a practicing mental health professional for the past 26 years and I have worked in various public and private practice settings throughout the GTA and Ontario. The populations that I work with are adults 18-64 and I have extensive experience working with both individuals on various presenting problems, and also as a couples’ therapist.

I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.
Bruce R. Cook