Any event that a person finds distressing or frightening can cause trauma for that person. Trauma refers to when the individual has difficulty coping or functioning normally after a specific experience or event. Generally, a psychologist can help council a person through the trauma, teaching them coping mechanisms and giving them the support that they need. Every person reacts differently to trauma, so if the effects are not immediate, the problems may occur later on in life. It is thus advisable to seek trauma counselling from a psychologist to prevent an inability to cope later on.

With what workplace trauma could a psychologist help?

An event that poses a threat to the physical or psychological well-being of a person, or an event that is potentially life threatening, can cause trauma. Workplace trauma is becoming more and more common as the demands of business life increase. Any traumatic event that occurs in the same geographic local where a place of work is situated, can cause trauma for the employees at that place of work. Similarly, any big change or traumatic event that affects a business, can cause trauma for the employees of that business.

Traumatic workplace events can include construction at the workplace; downsizing or restructuring a company; natural disasters such as floods or fires; incidents of violence such as rape, stalking, assault, robbery, threats, explosions or the use of weapons; and lastly, death at work or work related which is caused by homicide or suicide, disease, violence or the work itself. A counsellor can help employees to work through any of these events so that they can return to normal functioning on a day-to-day basis.

How does a Psychologist treat workplace trauma?

Trauma can be treated by a counsellor using different methods, depending on the psychologist and the individual who has experienced the trauma. Many people who experience workplace trauma don’t require the intervention of a psychologist for treatment. If an individual has a strong network of friends and family to support them, this can be enough depending on what the traumatic incident was. However, for others trauma can be debilitating and the intervention of a psychologist is necessary to help them recover.

A psychologist can use stress management techniques, and help the person to face feared situations and memories, as well as provide knowledge about trauma and how to cope with it. In extreme cases, a psychologist may refer a patient to a psychiatrist for medical assistance when needed.

If left untreated, trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some people. PTSD includes hyper-vigilance, re-experiencing the traumatic event in the form of flash backs or nightmares, and avoiding reminders of the traumatic event and numbing emotional responsiveness. PTSD is a serious condition that can inhibit an individual’s ability to carry out daily life as they once used to. It is vital that someone suffering receives assistance from a therapist, as this is not a condition that will heal without psychological assistance. In the case of workplace traumas, a psychologist can help individuals deal with the trauma before PTSD sets in.

Contact me, Louw Alberts, psychologist. I give counselling in the Centurion, Pretoria area.