Guidance Sessions: Questions Answered
When I started to offer guidance in trauma recovery, I thought I would be just another helper. But as I have worked one-on-one with many clients now, I have learned that my work is different. In some ways, that is comforting. The widely-accepted approaches in trauma recovery do not often lead to a deep inner transformation. Many are behavioral in nature, which only covers up the unconscious turmoil. And very few approaches work with recovered memories.
But being different means there are questions. And I have learned it is critical to answer as many questions as possible from the start. Let’s face it. When we have a childhood of trauma, we do our research. And we don’t leave any stone unturned. So I created this page to answer the most common questions. If your question isn’t here, don’t hesitate to contact me and ask anything.
Why are you a life coach?
Even with a social work degree, I made the decision not to become a clinical therapist. I wanted to be a life coach. Why?
I didn’t want to be restricted in my approach. What does that mean?
I base my work with clients on my own healing process. My experiences deeply inform my work. This means I am personally familiar with the healing steps and what happens when we take them. My approach doesn’t perfectly fit in to any model used by clinicians today. That said, it does have many similarities to Internal Family Systems which I am grateful to see gaining popularity in clinical circles.
Clinical approaches tend to use labels for trauma responses, creating separation. My approach focuses on how our trauma can bring us together. I use my own stories of trauma and recovery to reduce the isolation and shame my clients often feel. This sharing, which is generally not accepted in the clinical world, is the basis for my work and fuels much of the success.
I often work with clients who are also working with therapists. Clients have found it very beneficial. I can help to uncover new aspects of the trauma through awareness building, informing therapy sessions in new ways. I refer to it as an acceleration program.
What is parts work?
When I discovered I experienced trauma, I became obsessed with healing. This obsession came from a few places. First, one of my responses to trauma was to develop an “all or nothing” personality. Second, I finally knew the source of my constant inner chaos and felt like I could make it stop somehow. In other words, I had hope. Third, I had a life to live, and I was ready to get started. I learned a tremendous amount in a short time. I researched everything I could find. It also helped that I was studying for my M.S.W. Books were easy to find. But even with all my reading, something was missing. The dots weren’t connecting. It all seemed too simplified, too “surfacey”.
But I didn’t give up. Gradually, I uncovered something that would change my life. While it was informed by various readings, it was never fully covered in any text I read. I recognized that the chatter in my head was not me. It was me, but it wasn’t. It was inner parts who held different experiences and emotions about the past. They each had a different take on life. And I had been attempting to ignore, even eradicate, almost all of them.
As I came to understand my parts, I realized they were manifesting my life. While they remained unconscious, their beliefs became my experience. It explained so much. I realized that my treatment of these parts was mirroring my external relationships. That was not good. But I also learned they weren’t trying to do me any harm. Even the meanest parts were attempting to help, based on the world they experienced. They were stuck in the past and attempting to keep me safe and loved using the only strategies they knew.
As I realized this, I also learned that I could help them. I could empower myself to heal them, teach them and partner with them to grow the entire family system out of the old traumatic cycles. At first, I hated all that responsibility. It felt like another thing I had to do because my parents failed. And that was true. But on the flip side, I could take responsibility for my own healing. I didn’t have to wait for a miracle or a savior any longer.
In my own life, the results have been phenomenal. I have stopped most of the chatter in my head (except for the bad days which still come). I have cleared up untreatable illnesses doctors told me would never go away. I have reduced my emotional responses to triggers from debilitating and intrusive to the occasional bad moment. As I have brought this to others, I have come to understand there are more commonalities than I thought. While we all have different parts, they tend to have similar desires and needs. And I have been able to help so many other survivors discover their own inner conversation.
Why does your program work?
It is individualized.
My one-on-one work is always tailored to the individual client. While there are commonalities in recovery, my program is based on where you are and what situation is currently causing you the most pain. I have learned that each client has a direction they need to go, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. And a one-size-fits-all program won’t work for that. We will be guided by your parts to the next best step in your healing.
It promotes autonomy.
While I definitely have clients who work with me on an ongoing basis, my goal is to teach you tools and techniques which can be used anytime. When you understand my journaling techniques, you don’t have to wait for an appointment to process your traumatic responses and release the pain coming from the past. You will have the skills to take it on. You are not alone in your journey toward healing, but you are in charge.
It is empowering.
The most amazing aspect of parts work is how it moves you from the victim to the healer. Before parts work, all those thoughts and emotions were assumed to be yours. They felt like they were about the present moment. Once you start using parts work, you come to understand those emotions and thoughts belong to your parts who are stuck in the past. And you are the healer they are looking for. This is an empowering shift in mindset.
It reduces shame.
The main reason I became a life coach is to reduce shame through my interaction with clients. There is only one phrase that reduces shame more than “I believe you”. That phrase is “me too”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to relate when I don’t. But even when our trauma is different, our response to it is incredibly similar. And the shame we hold from our trauma is powered by our isolation. It is in community that healing happens, whether that is a community of fifty people, or two people.
My trauma and dissociation is severe. Can you help me?
My own trauma and dissociation has been severe. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and used memory repression as a defense mechanism. I have struggled with severe anxiety most of my life. If anyone gets the struggles of intense traumatic response, I do. Severe symptoms do not eliminate inner parts awareness work. In many cases, it can be more helpful because the parts are louder and more active. It can also be helpful to diversify your approaches to recovery. Clinical therapy, life coaching and body work are viable options that can be used together.
I am not sure I have trauma. But I relate to everything you write. Can you help me?
Trauma is often touted as a severe occurrence or series of events, the kind of experiences that are reported in newspapers. But trauma doesn’t always look like that. I like to say that “trauma isn’t always drama”. Many people have traumatic responses to childhood experiences that would not be defined as trauma today. For example, conditional love is traumatic. It teaches us we can’t be who we are. The more conditional the love, the more likely we are repeating traumatic patterns through difficult or even violent adult relationships.
There another side to this too. We may not feel like we have trauma. We may not suffer from any visible or debilitating signs of trauma. We may be making our way through life with the low hum (or high hum) of anxiety buzzing under the surface. We may be looking to go from good to great, to find the beliefs holding us back in life. Inner parts work can help with all of this. And with less severe symptoms, it can often help in a shorter time frame.
There might be something I don’t remember. Can you help me with recovering memories?
If you feel like there is something you don’t remember, there is likely something you don’t remember. Why? Your defenses will try to tell you there is nothing to remember. Your family will tell you there is nothing to remember. Society will tell you there is nothing to remember. Even therapists will sometimes tell you it doesn’t help to remember. If you still feel like something has been repressed, your intuition is strong enough to be heard over those defenses. You need to listen to it.
I don’t recommend attempting to bypass your defenses to remember your past. This will usually cause you to forget again as your defenses take back over. When you work with your parts, you will begin to establish a conversation with them. They have the information you are missing. Once you convince your parts they are safe, they will begin to release information, including repressed memories. This process takes time, but I have not found a better approach. Short cuts don’t work.
I am not very good at writing. Will I be able to succeed at your program?
Your inner perfectionist might be concerned about writing. I understand. But this writing is different. I am not looking for grammatical and spelling perfection. This writing comes from the inner parts. It might come in single words, stream of consciousness or seemingly incoherent jumble. All of it is great. It is a window to your unconscious. Suspend your self-judgment long enough to give it a try. You might find a new passion in writing without editing.
I have a therapist already. Why should I work with you too?
While many therapists are wounded healers like me, many others are not. I am able to take this work to deep levels because I have been through my own deep recovery efforts. I know what to look for. I know how defenders will derail the process. I know how inner children manifest their needs. I can take you in a new direction which can inform your therapy visits in new ways. I have partnered with many therapists to create a very positive experience for my clients.
If you are a new client, you can purchase my 5-week guidance program.
If you have completed the 5-week program, contact me about my 6-month offering.
I knew I had experienced a difficult upbringing, and that it had affected me deeply, but it wasn’t until I met Elisabeth that something she said really got me thinking.
I had spent many years struggling to focus as my mind was constantly busy. I used to refer to it as if 10 things were going on at the same time, all of the time. As I matured and came to understand the term Attention Deficit Disorder, I believed that somehow this must apply to me. Many of the described symptoms seemed to fit; the inability to focus, the boredom I felt so much of the time, the detachment from other people and the constant need for new and stimulating projects to keep me ‘sane’.
Listening to Elisabeth talk about what happens when a child experiences trauma and how different part of the personality take on different roles, I had what I like to call a ‘light bulb moment’ as if a switch suddenly turned on in my brain.
What if it wasn’t Attention Deficit Disorder but a reaction to trauma? I had never thought of my life in those terms. To me trauma would refer to war, to murder, to rape – terrible experiences that would be life defining.
But my experiences were life defining for me.
I began to understand that my fear of rejection, my fear of abandonment, my dislike of criticism and my determination to be ‘independent’ no matter what the cost, were all the residue of a child’s reaction to traumatic events.
To begin with I was distraught as I had worked so hard, for so many years to leave my past behind me and become the woman I know I am. It felt as if all that work had been for nothing because although I had become aware of triggers and automated behaviours and had learned to manage my reactions in a way that allowed me to build healthier relationships with others, on some level I was still being controlled by a child’s view of the world.
I have been working for many years to build a flexible life for myself. One where I am in control of my own destiny, where I work hard but reap the rewards at a level that brings personal and financial freedom. I have retrained in a new field and worked tirelessly towards playing a big game rather than continuing to play small.
But no matter what I did, there were things that always seemed just out of reach. As if I was so close, but there was just something holding me back. I knew in my heart that I was standing in my own way. Not consciously, but in some deeper place I was sabotaging my own success.
Working with Elisabeth has given me the key to unlock the door to everything I have worked so hard for. Her unique way of understanding the effect that trauma has on a child’s spirit has allowed me to heal parts of me that I didn’t know existed.
For me it is early days, a work in progress you could say, but already after completing Elisabeth’s five week Beating Trauma program, I feel more empowered, more centred and more free and light than ever before.
I have noticed subtle changes in my dealings with others too. I have set firmer boundaries with some whilst at the same time letting others become closer and in every case, I have felt more myself than ever before.
And the opportunities which once felt just out of reach have come flooding toward me and I am poised to play the ‘big game’ I’ve always believed was mine.
Elisabeth will always hold a special place in my heart and I am eternally grateful for her guidance and support as I continue to work toward growing the wings to fly.