North Star Trauma Service
The North Star Trauma Service offers high quality, scientifically-proven psychological therapy to people who are struggling with trauma symptoms, such as nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories and a variety of other unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I know from the research base and my clinical experience that trauma-focused therapy can resolve PTSD.
A trauma-focused therapy can help you make sense of your current experiences in relation to what happened to you in the past. I am committed to offering the most effective therapy possible, so that our clients can rebuild their lives and move forwards, rather than being held back by the things that happened in their past.
We can't change the past, but we can change how it affects the present and the future.
Below is some information about traumatic events and normal trauma responses. We have also included some information about choosing a therapist and some data about my clinical outcomes. There is a page that lists helpful coping strategies and in the next few weeks we will be adding some other resources. You can subscribe to our newsletter via the home page if you would like to be kept informed of new resources and upcoming workshops.
Please email me if you need any further information.
Dr Rachel Lee
What is a traumatic event?
Traumatic events are events that are very distressing and disturbing events that involve a significant physical or psychological threat. Events in which we feel powerless or helpless are particularly likely to lead to trauma symptoms. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop as a result of being involved in, or witnessing a traumatic the event. We can also develop vicarious trauma from hearing about other peoples' experiences.
Examples of traumatic events
There are many types of traumatic events, including (but not limited to) accidents, physical or sexual assaults, childbirth, bullying, childhood abusive experiences, domestic violence, natural disasters, large events like the bombing at Manchester Arena, witnessing a death or significant injury, medical procedures and intensive care experiences.
What are trauma symptoms?
Trauma symptoms fall into three main clusters (as noted in the ICD 11 criteria):
Re-experiencing the event in the present - having vivid intrusive memories, flashbacks and/or recurring disturbing dreams or nightmares. Re-experiencing symptoms can occur in any sensory modality and typically result in overwhelming emotions.
Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event - such as thoughts or memories of the event, or activities, situations, objects or people that are reminders of the event.
Ongoing sense of current threat - e.g. a heightener startle response or feeling hypervigilant to signs of potential threat or danger.
These symptoms are very common after a traumatic event. They are a natural response to a highly distressing and abnormal event. Some people will make a natural recovery in the weeks after the event. When the symptoms last for several weeks after the event and cause significant impairment in social functioning, this is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
North Star Psychology Trauma Service offers two effective and scientifically-proven psychological treatments for PTSD; EMDR and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT). Both treatments are recommended in the National Institute for Health and Social Care Excellent (NICE) guidelines for PTSD.
What is it like to experience post-traumatic stress and PTSD?
If you have PTSD you will probably recognise many of these experiences:
Spending a lot of time thinking about the traumatic experience.
Some situations make you feel like you did during the event.
Struggling to sleep, because you have nightmares and disturbing dreams.
Waking up in the morning feeling anxious, but you're not sure why.
Having "flashbacks" in which you relive aspects of the traumatic experience during the days time and feeling like you are back there at the time
Having times where you smell or hear things from the event.
Trying your best to avoid talking or thinking about the event.
Staying away from things or people that remind you of the event.
Feeling on edge, irritable or angry.
Feeling differently about yourself, other people and/or the world in general.
Finding it hard to trust people or feel safe.
Less interest in things you used to enjoy, e.g. hobbies.
Feeling unable to plan for the future or pursue your goals and dreams.
A trauma-focused therapy can help you to resolve these difficulties, so that you can feel free to enjoy your life and do the things that matter to you.
What type of therapy is best for trauma? What does trauma therapy involve?
North Star Psychology Ltd offers two evidence-based trauma-focused therapies. Both treatments are structured therapies and work relatively quickly, often within 8-12 sessions.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing or EMDR Therapy
EMDR is based on a theory that trauma symptoms occur because the trauma memory has not been fully processed, due to the distress and threat that was experienced during the traumatic event. This means that rather than being stored as a stable memory, it has been stored in a raw form, as a current memory with strong sensory components. EMDR uses specific techniques, such as bilateral stimulation, to enable the memory to be processed. It is a therapy with three phases: Phase 1, Stabilisation - which gives you new skills to manage distress; Phase 2), Trauma reprocessing - in which key memories are processed; and Phase 3, Rebuilding one's life - which involves creating a richer, more fulfilling life.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT is a form of CBT that has been specifically designed for people with PTSD. Treatment is based on an individual formulation and involves several elements, including rebuilding one's life (e.g re-starting activities); exposure to the trauma memory (to enable further processing and to update the trauma memory) through imaginal reliving; modifying any unhelpful appraisals which may be maintaining a sense of current threat; changing unhelpful patterns of behaviour (such as avoidance) by experimenting with new strategies; and learning new ways to respond to triggers.
What should I consider when choosing a therapist?
Choosing a therapist is a really difficult decision. There are two main things to consider:
1. Do you feel safe and comfortable talking to the therapist? Do you feel heard and understood?
North Star Psychology offers a free online consultation, so that you can see what it feels like to talk to me about your difficulties.
2. What are your therapist's qualifications, skills and experience and how effective are at treating the problems that you are seeking therapy for?
Examples of my clinical outcomes
When people have therapy for PTSD, they are asked to complete the Impact of Event Scale (as well as a couple of other questionnaires), which measures PTSD symptoms, at the start of therapy. A score of 33 (the orange line) or more suggests "probable" PTSD. This graph shows data from three EMDR clients who completed therapy earlier this year with Dr Rachel Lee (noted on the bottom axis as 1, 2 and 3). At the end of therapy all clients had a score of 1 or 0, suggesting that they no longer had PTSD. These kind of results make us very happy, as we love to see our clients recover from traumatic events and do more of the things that they care about.
This level of improvement is typical for Rachel's EMDR clients, although like with any treatment we can never guarantee the outcome.