Category: <span>Personal Injury</span>

Counselling after car accident

I’ve been in a car accident – now what??

Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, shock, tearfulness, sleeplessness, or countless other impacts, we all respond to and experience a traumatic event differently. When it comes to an MVA, this may depend on how much physical damage was done, the nature of the accident itself (how shocking was it – did you see it coming or not?), whether you are also experiencing physical injuries, and how you are making sense of what happened (are you blaming yourself? Or blaming others?)  These factors can absolutely play a part in a person’s recovery. But there are things that EVERYONE can do NOW to help them get on the best possible course towards healing. These basic principles may even reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:

1) Make self-care a top priority.

They may seem basic. But eating well, creating conditions where you can sleep well (enough), and maintaining some degree of a regular routine can really make a difference in the early days.

2) Change your expectations of yourself.

If you are physically or psychologically injured, you are not going to operate at the same level that you did earlier. Period. It is an adjustment for sure, especially if you are used to being very active and motivated. But meeting yourself at your current level of functioning will allow you to set reasonable, achievable goals and work upwards from there. Many people can get hung up on feeling frustrating with the disruption of the accident.

3) Acknowledge the ways in which you were able to respond.

Sometimes an MVA, especially if it was without warning, can leave people feeling completely blindsided, like they had no control over it. And although there is truth to this, it can be helpful to think about in what ways did you respond that were helpful. This may your reaction to hit the brake, or to call 9-1-1, or to try and protect your passengers. Sometimes it is simple things that you do after the accident, like checking over your body to see if you are ok. Sometimes people are in a state of shock – which can feel unhelpful but actually is our body’s way of protecting us from further trauma. Acknowledge the small ways you tried to protect yourself or others.

4) Stay connected with people.

Sometimes if an MVA is serious enough, you may be off work for a period or become isolated. In this case, it becomes even more important to be proactive in your connections with others. Especially if you used to rely on work and other activities as your main social outlet.

5) Journal or talk to others about feelings that you are noticing.

– be they negative thoughts, frequent worrying, guilt, sadness, or any other strong emotion.  These are often part of the expected response, but sometimes these can be indicators that bigger things are going on, such as clinical depression or anxiety, which would benefit from treatment.

6) Catch yourself using avoidance strategies. 

You will likely be tempted to avoid things that remind you of the accident – like driving or being a passenger. Do your best to continue to expose yourself, even if in small increments, to those things, while also using relaxation strategies like breathing to help you remain calm. The more you avoid, the bigger the problem is likely to become.

7) Connect with a counsellor.

…and other professionals as soon as possible. If you live in British Columbia and you’ve been physically or emotionally injured, you may be eligible for free counselling through ICBC. As of April 1, 2019, you are entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident, regardless of whose fault it is. So get started right away to maximize this benefit.

Anxious, depressed, or not feeling yourself after a car accident?

Why a Car Accident Impacts Mental Health

Even the most minor car accidents can really shake us up – and for good reason.  They can call into question our basic sense of safety.  It’s also easy to think about the “what ifs” – “What if I had been going faster?” “What if I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt?” What if I hadn’t been running a few minutes late?”  It’s easy and a natural part of the process to have these types of questions running through your mind.  It’s also common, as a result of what happened, to start worrying that it could happen again.

Even if no one was physically injured, sometimes MVAs can impact our mental health in a significant way, including our overall outlook, how we cope with stress, how motivated or energized we feel, as well as our mood.  There are many good reasons for this, and sometimes a negative feedback system can be created, where a change in one area causes a negative snowball effect.  From there, it’s easy to get stuck and not know what to do.

Signs and symptoms that it’s time to reach out for help:

  • You are having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • The accident keeps replaying in your head
  • You have noticed impacts on your relationship, such as withdrawing, feeling irritable or snappy
  • You have less energy or motivation
  • Self-care has gone down or feels like a struggle
  • Normal parts of your day, like going to work or getting groceries, seem overwhelming
  • You feel more negative or hopeless about the future
  • You’ve been avoiding getting in a car or driving all together
  • Anxiety or stress have crept into your life
  • Things that used to bring you joy or pleasure don’t quite feel the same
  • You feel more tearful, numb, on edge, or moody
  • Other people have noticed a change in you

Really, if there have been changes since the accident that are impacting your thinking, behaviour, relationships, or commitments (such as attending work), then they are likely serious enough to warrant professional help.

Feel Like Yourself Again

The good news is, any one of these symptoms can be addressed and treated.  You don’t need to suffer, and the sooner you get the support you need, the better your recovery is likely to go.  And then you can get back to doing the things you love to do and feel like yourself again.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident (covered by ICBC for BC drivers). So don’t wait until things are really bad, because treatment is much more manageable when symptoms are mild.

Treatment following a Car Accident

Injury & Your Mental Health

If you have been physically injured or are suffering emotionally as a result of a Motor Vehicle Accident in British Columbia, you likely are eligible for free counselling.  It used to difficult for clients to get the treatment they needed; they would require a doctor’s note for counselling to be covered and sometimes this would involve a lengthy approval process for treatment.  Usually I wouldn’t see these individuals in my office until months or even years after their accident.  These sorts of delays would often cause their mental health and emotional state to deteriorate significantly, in the form of intense anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship changes, self-esteem issues, and many other issues.

Changes to ICBC’s Care Model

Luckily, ICBC has recently adopted a more client-centered care model, which will allow people to get the treatment they need, when they need it.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident.  So if this has happened to you, and you feel that your physical and mental health, lifestyle, or relationships are suffering as a result, connect with care providers as soon as possible.

To learn more about ICBC’s new aClient-Focused Care model, click here.

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