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We are talking about trauma

The transformational power of trauma

People are talking more about trauma. And that is a good thing. It’s a fantastic thing. Because by talking about it, we learn about it and understand it. And by understanding it we can educate ourselves on others not only on how to be there for people who are living with the effects of trauma, but also to reduce those effects, or resolve them completely.

Trauma is an unprocessed emotional experience that affects the mind and the body. It isn’t “all in the mind”, as brain scans show physical changes to the brain following trauma, as well as a change in the response of the nervous system.

Everybody experiences trauma differently, and it has a different effect on us individually. The traditional thought is that trauma can only be caused by extreme incidents. However we are learning that trauma can constitute anything that had a significantly emotional impact on a person, from neglect at a child, to sustained abuse, to one-off incidents such as attacks or accidents.

Trauma is a part of life

The truths is, many things have the potential to be traumatising. We can unintentionally cause trauma with unkind words or actions, especially towards children. Sometimes words or actions will have a significantly emotional impact on one person, while on another they are meaningless and forgotten.

Trauma is present in our life from the day we are born – which can cause long-term negative effects on a baby as well as the mother. It is present throughout our childhood, as parents use discipline to guide us, or respond with strong reactions when they are fearful for our safety. Think of the child who runs into the road to chase their ball, and is yelled at fiercely and fearfully by a terrified parent: “You stupid child!! What the hell are you thinking of!!”. A shocking and intensely emotional moment, in which the unintentional damage can already be done before the parent gets the chance to embrace the child tightly in love.

Trauma lays the path for transformation

There’s little we can do to avoid trauma, as it is most often caused by factors external to ourselves, over which we have little choice whether we are subjected to or not.

But what we can remember, is that trauma lays the path for transformation. From the experiences we can learn new ways of existing in the world and learn more about who we are underneath our conditioning and unconscious patterns of being.

I work with emotional trauma, helping individuals to resolve the effects of the past so that they can live more presently in their future. Get in touch to find out more.

I also work coaching entrepreneurs to live healthier and happier lives, leading to greater success in business.


What is PTSD and Trauma

Man sitting trauma

Understanding PTSD and Trauma

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a disorder that may arise after a person has experienced (directly or indirectly) a traumatic event. The term PTSD was first used in the 1980s. Before that, it was most commonly referred to as ‘shell shock’, as it was observed in veterans returning from war.

While many people will experience traumatic events throughout their lives and only have short-term distress that may not even require medical intervention, a small proportion of people will develop the disorder. Many of those (up to 70% is has been suggested) won’t receive any professional help.

What is a Traumatic Event?

A traumatic vvent is exposure to anything that causes a significant surge in negative emotion. This includes: Fear, helplessness, shame and horror. Traumatic events that lead to PTSD can occur both in childhood and adulthood. The events can be experienced directly, witnessed, or experienced second-hand e.g. hearing the details of the event. Examples include:

Childhood neglect and abuse
Bullying – in the playground or workplace
Abuse in a relationship
Road traffic accidents
Shock medical news
Violent physical assault
Traumatic medical interventions
Natural disasters
Military combat
Death and grief
Shock redundancy

A woman with PTSD

What are the effects of PTSD and Trauma?

PTSD manifests itself in different ways for different people. Symptoms can include (but are not limited to): Flashbacks, a sense of hyper-alertness, panic attacks, outbursts of anger and intense emotion, nightmares, fear, withdrawal, amnesia, insomnia and exhaustion.

Any, all or some of these symptoms can present themselves as part of the disorder, and can occur spontaneously and without warning, as well as being chronic.

PTSD and trauma: What happens in the brain?

The primary function of the human brain is to ensure our survival. ‘Modern’ humans have been around for 200,000 years, our brains evolving and developing into the form they take today. For most of our history, those things that would cause us to experience that significant surge of negative emotion (e.g. fear, helplessness, shame and horror) would also have been life threatening. This includes encountering dangerous animals while hunting or in the tribal home, and being kicked out of the tribe and having to fend for ourselves.

Survival mechanism

In order to assist our survival, the brain developed a mechanism whereby if we encounter something that it perceives has the chance to kill us, then it deems it important to remember the event forevermore in order to try to guide us away from encountering it again.

In that traumatic moment, the brain also suspends all but the most important physical and mental systems for survival, so that the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mechanism can work at its best.

Once the trauma is over and you are deemed ‘safe’ again, the brain is challenged in making sense of what has happened as memory functions were compromised while the safety system was prioritised. Nightmares, flashbacks and outbursts of intense emotions are all the brain’s way of attempting to process those experiences.

illustration of human brain PTSD

An unprocessed memory

At the same time, the event is flagged up as ‘important’ to be remembered, and is therefore not filed away in the normal way that memories are. Usually, while we are asleep, the events of the day are taken from the emotional memory and filed into the episodic memory, also known as our autobiographical memory. Here our experiences become the story of what has happened to us, with a limited amount of emotion attached.

Without further processing, these memories will continue to prove troublesome, manifesting in PTSD and other trauma-related illnesses.

What treatment is there for PTSD?

The most effective forms of treatment for trauma involve working directly with the root cause of the PTSD. Therapies, including EMDR and Cognitive Hypnotherapy, reduce the level of emotional distress attached to the original event, so that it can be filed away more efficiently by the brain. Once the brain deems the event to no longer be a threat, the symptoms of PTSD will begin to resolve.

You can find out more about how my effective treatment for PTSD in Colchester, Essex here.

Live the life You'd Love to Live

Victoria Ward Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Colchester

Eye Movement Trauma Therapy (EMDR/EMI) in Colchester Essex

An eyeball - EMDR Colchester for Trauma

Colchester trauma therapy and PTSD treatment – EMDR & EMI

Eye Movement Therapy (also known as EMDR and EMI)

Eye Movement Therapy (such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing EMDR and Eye Movement Integration EMI) are used by the British Army to treat PTSD in soldiers returning from war zones. It is a gentle process that involves you following my finger with your eyes in a series of patterns designed to release trauma stored in the brain. In my Colchester therapy practice, eye movement therapy is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD.

[news] World Health Organisation Recommend EMDR for PTSD

As we progress through a series of the movements, you will be asked to either focus on the feelings that arise in your body when you think about the trauma, or the images that you see in your mind. As with everything, this is done at your pace to a level that you feel comfortable with.

EMDR/EMI type trauma treatment in Colchester, Essex

This technique amazes me with how quickly an emotional response can be reduced. Things that once seemed impossible to talk about can quickly become (in a matter of minutes some times) a simple story from the past that no longer causes that uncomfortable, uncontrollable emotional surge.

Eye Movement Integration (such as EMDR) techniques can help you by processing upsetting memories, thoughts and feelings related to the trauma that you experienced. This allows you to gain freedom from the distressing effects of PTSD.

EMDR for Trauma Treatment in Colchester

What to expect

We will initially evaluate your level of discomfort at focusing on the upsetting memory. If it is too difficult for you to visualise the memory or focus too directly on it, we may simply focus on the feelings you get at the thought of considering the memory. If even this is too difficult for you at first, then we will make use of other techniques for creating a feeling of safety in working on these memories.

Everything is at your pace and you will never me made to do something that you are not comfortable with.

Next you will hold the feelings, images, or perhaps sounds of the memory in mind, while you also follow my finger with your eyes in a series of back-and-forth patterns. After 20 to 30 seconds of this, we will discuss the experience. This will be repeated as the process develops.

In between movements, you will be asked to evaluate the level of distress that you are feeling. Very often, this drops rapidly between movements. This can be quite astonishing.

After a series of these movements, when the time is right, we will begin to focus on positive insights and beliefs that can replace the old thoughts and feelings.

Are there any risks with this PTSD treatment?

There are no known risks associated with EMDR or EMI. A very few people initially feel a little discomfort from the eye movements, but this tends to pass and the benefits of the therapy are considered worth it. There may also be some initial emotional discomfort from focusing on the challenging memories. Again, the aim is to resolve this as the session continues, leaving you in a much better place.

Do I have to talk about my trauma?

One of the great things about this treatment, is that you do not have to discuss the trauma out loud if you do not wish to. I can simply ask you to bring it to mind. Many clients who start out feeling like they can’t discuss what has happened, are able to after a short time working with the therapy, as it releases the challenging negative emotions.

How long does treatment last?

Every client that I see is unique, so it is impossible for me to say for sure how long we will work together. I combine eye movement therapy (EMDR/EMI) with other trauma release therapies to help you gain freedom in the fastest, safest and most effective way possible.

How does EMDR/EMI PTSD treatment in Colchester work?

There are several theories as to how eye movement therapy works. Each is concerned with how the brain stores and processes memories. Traumatic memories are given a special status in the brain, flagged up as essential to be remembered for our survival in order to help steer us from encountering them again.

Many traumatic events are unlikely to be experienced again, and do not need to be flagged with such high priority. EMDR and EMI help to downgrade the level of importance given to the memory, by scrambling it. Focusing on the past memory while also focusing on the finger activity in the present, creates a new version of the memory, which is regarded as non-threatening by the brain.

Alongside this, the patterns of the eye movements recreate those of the Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep, where memories are processed and taken from the emotional memory to the story memory. Traumatic memories flagged up as important to remember, are not processed during the REM stage of sleep, as the brain considers it important to retain the emotional content so that we can avoid the event again. By holding the memory in mind while following REM patterns, we can ‘trick’ the brain into processing the emotional memory into story memory.

The British Psychological Society explain this including relevant research in an online article here.

Find out more about Trauma PTSD treatment in Colchester Essex

Live the life You'd Love to Live

Victoria Ward Cognitive Hypnotherapy and EMDR/EMI in Colchester


Trauma and PTSD therapy techniques – Cognitive Hypnotherapy

Life Coach and Hypnotherapist in Colchester Victoria Ward

My approach to Trauma and PTSD therapy

Initial Contact

Your first step is to send me a message via the contact form on this site, by email to info@victoriawardhypnotherapy.com or call/text 07813 251 152

You can say as much or as little as you’d like, as we will arrange a convenient time to speak on the phone so that you can tell me a little about what you would like help with, ask any questions that you have, and I can explain the practicalities of working together.

This first contact is a brilliant way for us to get to know each other a little, so that you can be sure that I am the therapist you would like to work with, and I can be sure that my approach is going to be a good fit for you.

Trauma can often be difficult to talk about, so you don’t need to go into detail here if you’re not comfortable doing so. We take this all at your pace, and every interaction is done in complete confidence without any judgement.

The Initial Face-to-Face Session

If we decide to work with each other, then we’ll set up the initial face-to-face consultation at my comfortable practice in Lexden, Colchester, Essex. It is a non-clinical environment, where you can be comfortable to speak in confidence and be heard without judgement. It is a supportive environment, conducive to healing.

Most of this session will be spent sensitively exploring your trauma and PTSD at a pace that is comfortable to you. You can tell me as much or as little in this session, as there is much work that can be done content-free until you feel more able to discuss what has happened to you.

We will explore the events that have led up to you coming to see me and the impact it has on your life. We will also look at your motivation for changing, and begin to create the image of the you you will become once you are free from the effects of trauma.

Depending on the time, we may then start with a gentle introductory technique, that could be a simple relaxation hypnosis, or one of the tools that I have to work directly with the emotions that arise when you think about the traumatic memories.

The initial session last approximately 1.5 hours


I have a broad toolbox of techniques that I have learned over the years of continuing my professional development. Here I will explain the main tools in a little more detail.

Eye Movement Techniques (also known as EMDR and EMI)

Eye Movement Techniques (such as Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprocessing EMDR and Eye Movement Integration) are used by the British Army to treat PTSD in soldiers returning from war zones. It is a gentle process that involves you following my finger with your eyes in a series of patterns designed to release trauma stored in the brain.

[news] World Health Organisation Recommend EMDR for PTSD

As we progress through a series of the movements, you will be asked to either focus on the feelings that arise in your body when you think about the trauma, or the images that you see in your mind. As with everything, this is done at your pace to a level that you feel comfortable with.

This technique amazes me with how quickly an emotional response can be reduced. Things that once seemed impossible to talk about can quickly become (in a matter of minutes some times) a simple story from the past that no longer causes that uncomfortable, uncontrollable emotional surge.

More information about EMDR/EMI here

The Rewind Technique

The Rewind technique originates from the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It works on the neuroscience principles of ‘Neuroplasticity’ and ‘Reconsolidation Theory’. This is the idea that our brains are constantly capable of change. That they are ‘plastic’ and malleable.

Neuroscientists have shown that our memories are not a fixed, accurate recording of events. Rather, they are flexible and can change over time, depending on our perspective of events and information we learn at a later date.

Every time we recall a memory, it has the potential to go back into storage changed. Often, when we recall a traumatic memory, we talk about the negative impact or it, how terrible it was. This means that if can be stored with added layers of negative emotion.

The Rewind Technique allows us to recall a memory, and send it back to the memory banks dramatically altered. We can change the memory so that it is less traumatic visually, audibly and in meaning.

This means that when the brain refers back to the traumatic event in order to plan a path of action in the present to keep us safe in the future, it no longer sees the event as life-threatening and has a reduced response to it.

Timeline Regression Therapy

Timeline Therapy is a classic hypnotherapy technique. During a timeline session, you will be gently guided back to the event of the trauma to watch it from a safe distance. This allows us to consider alternative perspectives that may not have been considered at the time.

For instance, a child will not be able to understand the actions of adults at the time a trauma may have occurred. With Timeline Therapy, you are able to observe and understand the event from an adult perspective, so that new learnings can be integrated into the subconscious.

Very often, trauma experienced in childhood is confusing to the child, as their brain has not yet developed the capability to understand what is going on. This can often result in feelings of shame and worthlessness. Timeline Therapy can help you to see how something was not your fault, or that what your brain understood at the time was a mistake.

Emotional Freedom Techinque (EFT, also known as ‘tapping’)

EFT involves tapping on specific parts of your face and hand while working through the thoughts, symptoms and emotions linked to your trauma. It is designed to interrupt unconscious patterns of thought, and emotional energy. It is closely related to acupressure and acupuncture.

Tapping is a brilliant technique to learn, so that you have easy access to an immediate tool that you can use should you be experiencing anxiety and fear related to your PTSD.

Hypnosis and Traditional Hypnotherapy

I used traditional eyes-closed hypnosis to consolidate the work that we do in session, and to reprogram your unconscious brain to make the changes that we agree on together.

I also use eyes-closed hypnosis to create the mental blueprint of the you that you want to become, free from trauma. Your brain cannot differentiate between something that is vividly imagined and something that is real. By rehearsing this new version of you, the new feelings, thoughts and behaviours that you desire can begin to be something that your brain works towards believing in reality.

If at any point you are no comfortable with working eyes-closed, this work can be done using MP3 recordings for you to listen to at home.

More information on Cognitive Hypnotherapy can be found here along with common fears and misconceptions about hypnosis.


PTSD treatment Colchester Essex

A traumatised man

Don’t relive the past, live fully in the present

Treatment of PTSD can be successful even many years after the initial traumatic event took place. This means that it is never too late to seek help to resolve the effects of the trauma.

However, many people (up to 70%) suffering from PTSD, never receive any professional help at all.

While there is provision for PTSD treatment through the NHS mental health services, many of my clients find the waiting list too long, or the treatment has not worked for them.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a different approach that is backed by evidence to be more effective than CBT in treating anxiety and depression – both of which are often symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD treatment in Colchester

Cognitive Hypnotherapy for PTSD treatment in Colchester is an effective approach for reducing the emotional resonance of past events and helping trauma sufferers to rebuild their lives with new tools for the future.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy treats each person as an individual, with no one-size-fits-all approach. Following a sensitive and confidential consultation to explore the history of your trauma, I create a tailor made and flexible plan of therapy that goes at a pace you are comfortable. I am always aiming to resolve the impact of your trauma in the safest and quickest way possible, so that you can get back on with living the life you deserve to live. A life free from the effects of trauma.

Treatment for PTSD in Colchester, Essex

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a bit of a misnomer, as my approach to treatment for PTSD in Colchester is more than just Hypnosis. I use a combination – as appropriate – of traditional hypnosis, EMDR/EMI eye movement therapy (used by the British Army to treat soldiers returning from war zones), EFT (tapping), positive psychology, Rewind and Time Line Regression techniques, NLP and other healing modalities.

To find out more about how we can work together to resolve the effects of a traumatic experience in your life, get in touch with me to arrange a time to speak in confidence.


Live the life You'd Love to Live

Victoria Ward Cognitive Hypnotherapy

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The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Success

A sad looking child

How your Childhood can (negatively) Affect your Success as an Adult

A lot of what we experience in childhood affects the adult that we become. As a child, our developing brain is absorbing information from around us – every sight, sound and sense we are exposed to – and making a map of what the world looks like, as well as our place within it.

Our parents, teachers and peers all have a huge impact on how that map gets put together, and the identity we develop based upon that.

It stands to reason that the more supported, loved and accepted a child feels, the more secure they will grow and the safer the world will seem to them to explore as adults.

Whereas trauma, abuse and lack of love will lead our brain to develop the belief that the world is not a safe place for us to express ourselves freely.

Here are some examples of how this plays out.

Punishing rule-breaking with shame

If rule-breaking was severely punished as a child – through shame and the withdrawal of love rather than appropriate boundaries and consequences – then a child is more likely to grow into an adult who struggles to stand up for themselves. This can result in remaining in abusive adult relationships and allowing themselves to be overlooked in work opportunities.

Witnessing destructive conflict

Children who experience high-conflict involving an imbalance of power and a lack of compromise and resolution can result in adults that experience a high degree of hopelessness, anxiety, aggression and anger. You can read more about how destructive conflict affects a developing child here.

Sexual abuse increases eating disorders

Sadly, there is evidence to show a link between sexual abuse and the risk of developing an eating disorder into adulthood. One study discovered that women who have been sexually abused as children are 27% more likely to become obese as adults, with men that rises dramatically to 66%. There’s more information about this study in this article by Time magazine.

The lifetime effects of bullying

Bullying in childhood leads to poor adult relationships, depression, anxiety and poor professional achievement, this study into the lifetime effects of bullying reveals. There’s an article about that study here, if you want to know more. Sadly, the bullying doesn’t need to be particularly extreme for it to have a lasting and damaging effect on confidence. A further study found that female victims of bullying are more likely to develop agoraphobia and social phobias, while male victims are more likely to commit suicide.

Childhood abuse stunts the brain

Childhood abuse stunts the development of the key areas of the brain controlling memory and the capacity to manage emotions. The neuroscience behind this is discussed in an academic paper by the PNAS here.

Depression more prevalent in maltreated children

Being maltreated as a child makes you twice as likely to develop depression as an adult, says a large-scale study by Kings College London. The Guardian newspaper ran an article discussing the study here.

So we can see how the experiences we were subjected to as children affect the quality of life we have as adults. Many adults will move through life repeating maladaptive patterns of behaviour that don’t serve them, causing suffering and pain.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For those that find their way to one of the many therapy, counselling and support services that exist out there, there is potential to unlearn the learnings of childhood, and create a new map of the world where you can have a stronger, happier and healthier position within it.

Sadly, a lot of these services are only accessible privately, and those that are available on the public health system are underfunded and oversubscribed.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is an evidence-based therapy with a 71% success rate in which clients considered themselves recovered from depression and anxiety after an average of four sessions, compared to an average of 42% for other approaches using the same measures, such as CBT. 

A Quest Institute trained Cognitive Hypnotherapist can be found using the QCHPA Hypnotherapist finder.

Victoria Ward is a Life Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist working online and in London and Essex.