Counselling services are confidential with the exception of our legislated duty to report child abuse and neglect concerns, or a person who is at immediate risk of self-harm or of harm to others, and our duty to provide court ordered information.
Counselling services may be funded by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the Victim Quick Response Program, personal extended health care benefits, Blue Cross/Medavie for Veterans, or Health Canada. Services are not covered by OHIP.
People who can generally cope quite well with multiple or varied daily stressors can find themselves in situations where their normal coping mechanisms and strategies become ineffective. When a person’s coping strategies are insufficient to process the severity of a traumatic event, the person becomes overwhelmed; their self-perceptions can alter from that of a strong individual who can cope with life’s circumstances to those of one who feels inadequate, worthless and helpless. Their previously relied-on defense mechanisms cannot provide them with the level of psychological safety they require to process the stressful events in a meaningful manner.
All living creatures, including humans, have a primitive part of
the brain whose primary function is survival. When we encounter an
event that overwhelms our normal coping strategies, we react with
the stress response. Stress is defined as the “nonspecific response
of the body to any demand.” (Hans Seyle: The Stress of Life: The
McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1984).
The typical reactions to overwhelming stress are fight, flight, or freeze. When the “fight/flight/freeze” response is activated, both the fight and flight responses allow a perceived escape, whereas the freeze response leads to a sense of powerlessness and an enduring loss of safety. When frightened, the sympathetic nervous system activates the body’s natural alarm system (i.e., changes in breathing, heart rate, senses, muscles tension, blood flow, etc.) When the threat is eliminated or reduced to manageable levels, the parasympathetic nervous system attempts to deactivate the sympathetic reaction. The freeze response can cause these alarms to remain activated past the time that they are necessary. People, unlike animals, can also replay events in their minds, and the primitive part of the brain that is activated in stressful events cannot distinguish what is perceived from what is reality. As a result, thoughts or dreams of the stressful event cause a person to have a triggered reaction that mirrors the body’s response at the time of the actual event.
“Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life. Unlike commonplace misfortunes, traumatic events generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with violence or death. They confront human beings with extremities of helplessness and terror, and evoke the response of catastrophe. The common denominator of trauma is a feeling of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat of annihilation.” (Judith Herman, M.D.: Trauma and Recovery: Basic Books: 1992.)
There are a number of reactions that an individual can experience
following a traumatic or highly stressful event that overwhelms
their usual coping mechanisms, including: increased irritability,
sleep disturbances, difficulties with concentration and memory,
nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, lack of energy, and low
motivation. Click for a complete list of typical reactions to stress.
Typical Reactions to Stress
People who have experienced a prolonged stress response or traumatic
events are often diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,
which can produce a variety of symptoms. Click for a comprehensive list of symptoms of traumatic responses.
Symptoms of Traumatic Responses