The Unexpected Effects of Road Traffic Accidents Part 1: Using Psychotherapy as a Treatment

This is a piece about how psychotherapy can help those who have experienced road traffic accidents. You can also read about how EMDR can help those in the same situation here.

When someone has become involved in an RTA (road traffic accident) there are many things to consider when it comes to rehabilitation and recovery. Here we will examine a case study of someone who had such an accident.

The man drove extensively for his work and was also highly experienced in his long career of taking large numbers of passengers to their destination. He was involved in a no fault collision while out and about doing his ordinary shop in his personal vehicle. He was convinced that with his unblemished driving history over 30 years of driving in all conditions and seasons- including mountainous regions abroad- he ‘should have been able to prevent the accident .’ He believed, therefore, that it was his fault. He needed psychotherapy or he would continue to stay psychologically trapped, as if he was still caught in the wreckage of the vehicle.

His injuries were one aspect that immediately required attention. When people require surgery they may have to wait a significant period of time on the NHS and remain in pain, sometimes unable to move. Often times, even getting to physiotherapy is a worry, with costs, time and effort all becoming stressful. Clearly, any time off paid employment or employment without sick leave pay can cause additional stress to the patient.

Sleep is often disturbed with long periods of time being restless and uncomfortable, even with medication. Partners may not be able to sleep in the same bed, and this disrupts the usual comfort and intimacy of being together. Sleep is essential when it comes to healing, mental aptitude and general mood.

The notion of attending psychotherapy can be so alien and so distressing to an individual that there may be reluctance or resistance to that kind of treatment. However, medico legal cases will assess for such need, and after an assessment with a clinical psychologist, clients will be referred to me for therapy assessment and treatment. Clients can often be resentful and angry about being in this position of necessity.

During this post-accident time, clients sometimes feel that their lives are completely dominated by appointments. It is common to hear them describe this as being a ‘full time job’ waiting on appointments and getting to them, then waiting again for results and recommendations.

Life can feel as if it is ‘out of control’ and this will also raise feelings of frustration, fear and anxiety, and sometimes lead to depression. Having all of these uninvited guests (including myself) bought into one’s life is disruptive. Personal details are divulged again and again as each professional becomes involved.

Financially, the implications and consequences of an accident are uppermost in causing anxiety in the present and worry for the future. Sadly, accidents can curtail or seriously change employment capability or participation in mental or physical activity.

The individual and his or her family will be noticing changes and it can be shocking and upsetting at how much the person in the accident seems so different to how they used to be. This will also be a significant part of my work in psychotherapy and body mind therapy to integrate these losses and enable adaptation to any loss.

Find out how EMDR can also help those who have experienced road traffic accidents.

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