Counselling after car accidents

Counselling after car accidents: What is the story you are telling yourself, about yourself? 

You were in a car crash. We don’t know the details- speed, impact, injury, whose fault, hospitalizations- we just don’t know.  

What we do know is that something changed for you that day. Physically yes, there’s probably already a wonderful health care team taking care of that.  

But internally? And emotionally? Something shifted.  

Maybe you’re having flashbacks or nightmares. Maybe it’s not even that dramatic, you just feel an internal recoil, dry mouth, or a lump in your throat, a general sense of uneasiness or discomfort that catches you off guard, sometimes its car related, other times it’s not.  

Let’s first call it what it is- a normal reaction to a frightening incident! 

Something terrible happened to you-maybe you thought you were going to die in the car that day, and it shook you to your core.  

How normal of your body to change internally after an abnormal event? But normal is not synonymous with comfortable or easy. 

Consider this analogy, there is a lake, a calm and stagnant body of water. It’s peaceful until you begin throwing pebbles into it. Is it calm anymore? It simply cannot be! The ripples grow and spread all over. 

You are the calm and composed lake. The accident can be likened to the pebbles. The ripples, of course, are automatic and normal 

In your case, the accident is long gone, but the ripples just don’t seem to stop. You can’t figure out why and here’s the good news: You don’t have to figure it out alone. 

Seeing a counsellor is less about your inherent brain, your inherent strength, your inherent sanity, or your inherent ability to function as a competent adult.  

Seeing a counsellor is more about the accident, the-thing-that-happened-to-you.  

In this post, I want to challenge you with two questions. 

  • There’s you, the lake, on one hand and, on the other, there’s what happened, the pebbles that were thrown at you. Are you able to separate yourself as a person, from the-thing-that-happened-to-you? 
  •  In making sense of that internal shift in your body, would you, then, be able to talk about the accident with a trusted confidante, and know that, in describing the thing-that-happened-to-you, you are being the bravest version of yourself? 


Mental health after accidents: 

To understand what your body goes through when in a car accident, it can be useful to begin with evolutionary psychology. 

  • Our hunter gatherer forefathers relied on their instincts to be aware of predators in the vicinity. Fear or instincts- potato potaahto! The 5 senses were used to determine if an activity, movement, or environment was safe and free of predators.  
  • The senses constantly receive and transmit information from within and outside the body to prepare the body to defend, attack or escape danger. In and of itself, fear is a good thing, it has ensured the survival of our species.  
  • How normal, in fact, how marvelous that your body wants and will do whatever it takes, to keep you safe. 
  • A car crash, because it happened out of the blue and may not have been head on, your body could or could not anticipate a potentially dangerous situation. It was sudden, unexpected, and you didn’t have the time or resources to prepare for this dramatic change in energy or forces. 
  • Maybe your senses picked up on the threat a few milliseconds before it happened, but it was too late. Even in such cases when it is anticipated, sometimes when your body is unable to stop or escape the threat it can impair your threat-fear-response system. 

After the accident, it’s almost as if the different parts of your body are in conversation with themselves. I imagine it goes something like this: 

Brain: Whoa, what on God’s green earth was that? Which one of you failed to warn me about that car approaching us? 

Eyes: I swear we were doing our jobs mate; we didn’t even blink. 

Ears: Same here, the radio was practically on mute. We didn’t pick up any signals. 

Heart: Can we stop blaming and pointing fingers? Damage is done. What we can do instead is make sure it NEVER happens again. Listen up everybody, I’m going to work hard and pump, stronger and faster. All the time, to make sure you guys are getting all the blood and oxygen you need.  

(That explains your increased heart rate) 

Stomach and gut: We don’t need this much blood, happy to sacrifice and send it to the mobility team. Arms and legs, you guys need it more than we do.  

(It’s no wonder you feel the recoil, tightness and loss of appetite.) 

Eyes and ears: We’re on high alert.  

(Now your dilated pupils and your unusual startle response make sense.) 

Brain: Aye Aye captain. I’m going to check my memory folder to replay the accident repeatedly, until I find out what we missed that day. Don’t worry, I’ll bury all the bad stuff like pain, hurt and shock so we don’t have to feel them repeatedly.  

(That’s why you’re experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, headaches, brain fog, and numbness.) 

Heart: Great! Everybody’s working overtime. Teamwork makes the dream work folks. Let’s get on with it. *self-mumbling* accident, that word can never come up again!              

Clearly, I’m a big fan of the Disney Pixar movie Inside out, it was simply brilliant. 

I digress.  

I hope you’re able to see just how endearing it is that your body is working overtime to protect you. 

The real question is this, what can you really do to calm the ripples? 

The first step is to acknowledge the accident as something that happened to you in the past and seek help to find safety in the present. A counsellor can help you do just that. 

Counselling after accidents: 

  • The greatest challenge with healing from symptoms, all this overtime workaholism, is that, most often, these reactions hide below your conscious mind, again, to serve as a protective mechanism.  
  • Talking about them will be enlightening, as you will soon come to realize some of these fears are more irrational than you imagined.  
  • In addition to talk therapy, counsellors use several strategies to bring these to the surface so you can experience complete recovery. 

Clinical counselling is done by anyone who holds a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology, psychiatry, social work, or clinical or counselling psychology.  A counsellor is a qualified medical professional with specific skills to guide you towards complete recovery.  

With these strategies and tools, they are trained to put you at ease and work with you towards a common goal, one which you can determine for yourself.  

All the workaholics inside you can breathe easy, literally and metaphorically. 

ICBC coverage for Counselling: 

  • The calm of the lake is what you deserve to experience every day and that is who you are, inherently. By talking to a counsellor, you will be reminded of the real you- the part that the ripples have made invisible. 
  • With all this going on, ICBC is taking some load off your back by preapproving 12 sessions for clinical counselling. 
  • You need only take your first step- book an appointment.  

At Revere Physiotherapy, we have a skilled social worker who will provide the best counselling services using a holistic approach. You can be sure to experience healing and ease to truly improve your quality of life. 

Be brave. Take that first step. You’re in good hands! Book an appointment now. 

If you have any questions about your symptoms or treatment, feel free to reach out to us at We are offering a free 10-minute consultation call with our expert clinicians. Call us at (604) 566-5108  

Share this article with friends or colleagues who are experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms and a nudge to get help. They could benefit from the clinical counseling services at Revere Physiotherapy. 

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