The Emerging Field of Psychotraumatology in Canada

Posted by: Linda AK Thompson on August 17, 2012 2:18 pm

Reflections of a Trauma Nurse/Counsellor’s Academic, Research & Clinical Experiences

My Beginning:  Have Trauma Will Travel & Rude Awakenings:

In 1989, this is what I said to myself ‘have trauma will travel’ on a novel path and idea that this trauma nurse, retiring from bedside intensive care unit (ICU) nursing could transition, with transferable skill sets gained as a mid-life professional, into a private nursing practice to be a grief counsellor.  A good naïve innocent thought until I realized from my own bereavement that the phenomena of grief requires master level education/training in order for me to be helpful or acceptable in any professional association providing counselling services[21]. 

Google search Psychotraumatology and Wikipedia high-lights three professionals: Frank Ochberg, MD is named the founding father of modern Psychotraumatology; Gottfried Fisher, PhD is named the founder of Psychotraumatology in Germany, and Steve Abadie-Rosier is an expert in criminology and considered the ‘psychoanalyst of the irrecoverable or the borderline.’  Goggle search Psychotraumatology Canada and Wikipedia high-lights the Canadian Friends of Herzog Hospital.  I was pleased to see the range of services now available and of particular interest to me is The Soldiers Project.  My father was a WW2 veteran and post-war a firefighter. During his end-of-life and palliative care journeys, I suffered great sadness alongside my family as my dad, my hero – died so hard.  This is another story.

At the onset of my practice, 3 client populations emerged:  grievers with anticipatory, living or finite losses; the overwhelmed alleging self/other relational harm/abuse by neglect, poor conduct or judgement and/or  maltreatment: stuck or trapped in mind-altering, overpowering circumstance = undue influence[8][22].  At retirement from bedside ICU nursing, popular opinion was that patients were well sedated and no memory recall of their ICU traumatic event/care experiences.  My knowledge base concerning emotional distress, inherent in addictions, mind-altering, spiritual/paranormal phenomena was limited. 

The cultural norm was whatever went on behind closed doors was private.  Secret survivors [5] knew they were at a disadvantage when they were victimized for typically, deception, misguided direction or force was involved.  Threats of legal suits were openly expressed and typically, nurses held midway posts in regards to the patient/physician dyad, advocating for two essential rights: informed consent and personal directives.[15]  ‘Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism’[12] human rights/civil liberties, boundary violations, privacy/confidentiality, abnormal power dynamics:  secrecy, isolation, dominance/submission, love/hate are the cornerstones of abusive relations where intimidation, manipulation, exploitation and coercion abides.[13]  This is undue influence.[8][22] 

We are on alert for acts of violence and terror – contagion effect, the recovered memory therapy/false memory syndrome (FMS)[9] debate remains controversial, the suggestion patients may be confabulating or malingering; all these remain hot topics within culture and the professions.  The war over the family remains. [16] 

There are more shelters and treatment programs/options available today, but exit counselling [8] and deprogramming are limited resources and controversial.  Grief and mental health care services remain available through government, charitable organizations or private contracts provided in private homes, community agencies or in/out-post care and service facilities.  Pastoral Care is reduced, but still available and active in most major hospitals.  Father Bernie Black is retired now and remains my most enlightened, invaluable spiritual teacher.  Grief Recovery Groups remain available and brochures are available at funeral homes.  The www has opened up the world of information and resources for those engaged in recovery and healing journeys.

In 1981, I was living in Winnipeg and working in viral research and totally missed the shocking headlines that a pediatric nurse in ICU was charged and arrested for the murder of infants she cared for.[18]  In 1983, my husband was transferred to Calgary, AB and we settled in Airdrie.  When I look back at our family photo taken at that time, I see our whole family system was naïvely innocent.  In hindsight, I now know and realize how ill-prepared we were to effectively deal and cope with all the unknown, hidden and emerging forces operating in this bedroom community with few community supports.  The combined aftermath effects of these forces would have profound, far-reaching consequences upon all of us and the quality of our family life.  My juxtaposition begins. 

Within the first two weeks of moving, one morning I received a panic call from my mom.  She nervously said to me that she had just read in the morning paper of the Winnipeg Free Press that Airdrie was the ‘Wife Beating Capital of Canada.’   She then stated, “Get out of there” and in that moment – we both knew moving seemed impossible.  In hindsight, I wish we could have moved.  Believe it or not, up to this point in my life I did not know people lied intentionally or otherwise.  I was contained, blessed with innocence, determined and optimistic and this is another story. 

1983 was my beginning of rude awakenings [22] named in my doctorate.  Our sons coped with the necessary transitions inherent in provincial moves: separation from family roots/heritage and friendships, the shift from private to public schools and their on-going struggles with bullying. I heard rumors of pre-pubescent children hanging out on Main Street referred to as the popcorn stroll that started in Red Deer and ended in Italy. [17] I watched a video, ‘The Entity’ – a movie documentary of a true paranormal experience absolutely freaked me out. My son joined a gaming group playing dungeons and dragons (D&D); a fantasy-role playing game (FRPG). [23]

The whole topic of sexual predators/offenders was hush, hush, kept underground until around 1985 in Calgary, AB as informed by my clinical psychology supervisor, Ada Dhillon. That was the year survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) [5] started to disclose and no surprise I have been an underground trauma counsellor alongside them.  To say that I was shocked and rudely awakened remains an understatement. 

Airdrie Town Council provided seed money and volunteers to launch/organize community family life support services.  I accepted the role/position as President, Airdrie Family Life Education Council (AFLEC), which has grown and flourished into Airdrie Family Services. My ass backward pattern is evident again as I seek education to fulfill council duties by completing the 3 levels of Focus on Parenting Leadership training.  I started asking why all this conflict and controversy kept coming my way before training and I now know this pattern was evident since LPN training when I and another student were the only nurses available to assist with a delivery of twins.      

I played and loved the game of baseball since I was a kid, so I joined the local Ladies Fastball League, met lifetime friends Carol and Laurie and retired in 1988; 40 years playing ball.  I still apply the basic batters rule – third strike/you’re out to all kinds of matters in my personal life/professional practice with conscience. 

While my sister was terminally ill back in Winnipeg, I was hired to design, plan and ran a couple of prenatal classes.  During her battle and death bed vigil, we shared and I witnessed profound mystical moments as we were very close.  Mourning and walking with my sister (1983) and my brother (1992), during their battles and death trajectories was cataclysmic.

I accepted a position in ICU and heard rumblings that by the year 2000, all nurses required a minimum undergraduate degree to enter/continue practice in the field of nursing.  On my way to work one night, I heard about the sudden death [18] of the father of Susan Nelles.  None of my colleagues seemed shaken or disturbed by this dramatic, suspect killing/death trauma like I was.  I delivered a message:  that nurse could have been anyone of us!  How awful for her and her family.  There was silence in the room, then, we listened to change of shift report.  The Canadian Nurse accepted an article I wrote, however, I guess Susan’s story was too hot a topic at that time. The article was returned to me, shelved and I have not looked at it since. 

My belief was that communication is one key to success and we are either messengers, mirrors or both dependent upon our reaction, response and ability to engage in the topic/matter at hand,  however and sometimes, lockdown occurs.  During one annual baseball wind-up while sitting in a rec room surrounded by my teammates, I felt totally alone, but not lonely – an existential moment.  My thought was where had I been all my life and what planet was I on?  I survived and moved beyond my own near-death experiences (NDE) and those six pack moments were not my focus or concern and what I did want to know more about was this unbelievably primitive [2] [12]], naïve innocent sense of my being at my core.

Author:  Dr. Linda AK Thompson, BGS, MA, CCC, PsyD, FAAETS  Owner, Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™):  Research, Advocacy, Healing

References:

  1. Airdrie Axe Murders (1989).  www.airdrieecho.com/articleDisplay.aspx?e=156647
  2. Aziz, Robert (1990). C.G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity (10 Ed).  The State University of New York.  ISBN 0-7914-0166-9
  3. Bilsker, Sheldon. (1986). The Orca Institute: www.hypnotherapyassociation.org
  4. Braden, Gregg (1997).  Walking Between the Worlds:  The Science of Compassion – Sacred Spaces Ancient Wisdom.  Sacred Spaces Ancient Wisdom Book.
  5. Brady, Maureen. (1992). Beyond Survival: A Writing Journal for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse.  Hazelden: ISBN: 0-06-255294-5
  6. Cheek, David B.; Rossi, Ernest L. (1994). Mind-body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis.  Norton: ISBN-10: 039331247X
  7. Desiderata:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata
  8. Jung, Carl G. (1983).  Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Ch. 12
  9. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1985).  Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Thomas Allen & Son Ltd, Markham, ON: ISBN 1-919028-66-7
  10. Shadow Psychology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow
  11. Talbot, John M. (2002).  Come To The Quiet: The Principles of Christian Meditation. Penguin Putman: New York: NY
  12. Thompson, Linda A.K. (1991).  Transforming Counselling Theory: A thesis – partial fulfillment for requirements for degree of masters of arts in counselling.  Spokane, WA
  13. Thompson, Linda A.K. (1996).  The Matrix of Trauma:  A dissertation – partial fulfilment for requirements for degree of doctor of psychological traumatology in psychological assessments and etymology.  © Unpublished/Sealed.  Summit University of Louisiana, New Orleans:  Louisiana.
  14. Thompson, Linda A.K. (1989).  Parental and Young Adolescents’ Views on Fantasy Role-Playing Games (FRPS’s).  Journal of Child and Youth Care, (Vol. 4), 2, 43-57



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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