After the Accident: A Counsellor’s Guide to Dealing with ICBC

Have you been in a car accident? Are you suffering from more than just physical injuries? Do you overwhelmed to keep up with all the appointments, while trying to recover from your your injuries? Did you know you are eligible to receive coverage for counselling/therapy sessions? Have you heard of something called Part 7 benefits?

Whether you are found at fault for a Motor Vehicle Collision (mvc) or not, as long your vehicle was insured with ICBC, you are a member of the vehicle owner’s household, were in the vehicle during the accident, or someone hit by an insured vehicle, you are likely eligible for Part 7 benefits/funding, under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Part 7 benefits are meant to provide quickly accessible rehabilitation services to the injured individual involved in an mvc to the “highest level of gainful employment or self sufficiency that is reasonably achievable”. In other words, these benefits are meant to get you back to your pre-mvc state. ICBC is liable to provide up to $150,000 in Part 7 rehabilitation benefits on top of the coverage provided by the BC Hospital Plan and the Medical Services Plan. The benefits cover services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage, transportation, medications, and more, but in this article, we will focus on the psychological benefits under part 7.

In our practice, our team of six therapists, have the experience of working with hundreds of ICBC cases of acute trauma, depression, driving anxiety, and more that was due to a mvc. Our clients have been approved for as many as 30 sessions per client, per collision, and we take care of all the documentation and approval process so that you do not have to worry about this. We will work with your law team, if you have one, and if you do not have one, we will work on your behalf to advocate for your case to get you the support you need to heal from your mvc related injuries. We can also collaborate with your occupational therapist, physiotherapist, and doctors to provide a full circle of care, if you wish.

At Burnaby Square Counselling, we truly care about your wellbeing and want to get you back on your feet, both physically, and mentally, so that you can get back to being and doing what you did before the accident, and put this experience behind you. In order to do that, it is important to learn what trauma is, and how we work with it.

We may have the misconception that trauma comes from major catastrophes or violent disasters. These events may lead to trauma in many individuals, but even what some may consider a minor car accident, such as a fender bender, can have damaging effects on a person. Peter Levine, PhD, has been studying stress and trauma for more than 35 years and helping people heal from it. The effects of accumulated stress on our nervous system can be debilitating affecting your digestion, muscles, health and your sexual drive. Car accidents can have accumulated compounding stress if we do not deal with the after effects early on. Certainly, you have felt the psychological symptoms of stress in your daily lives, which may include, and not limited to, headaches, fatigue, pain, and anxiety. When the initial stress that the car accident caused, our bodies and mind may pay a severe price: people end up suffering from initial anxiety and mild depression, and when this is not looked at, can lead to severe panic, despair and long-term suffering.

Levine goes on to describe automobile accident, even fender benders, as less obvious potential cause of stress and trauma. He demonstrates that early symptoms are hypervigilence, intrusive imagery, sensitivity to sound, startle responses, nightmares, abrupt mood swings, and difficulty sleeping. If the stressful situation of the trauma is not worked on being healed, the next list of symptoms show up later, even years later: panic attacks, anxiety, phobias, avoidance behaviours, addictive behaviours, forgetfulness, etc. The next list of symptoms shows up numerous years later accompanied by the earlier symptoms: diminished emotional responses, chronic fatigue, immune system problems, chronic illnesses, asthma, digestive problems, and feelings of detachment. These are a few examples of the symptoms that can escalate over time if not brought out to the surface and the symptoms of stress and trauma can stay with you in your body until you have found a way to get help. It may be hard to imagine that a minor car accident could have the listed implications. Research has shown over and over again the negative consequences of not dealing with our emotional hygiene.

We have forgotten that our bodies speak to us in various ways. When our body is suffering, it is communicating with us that something in our life is not going right. When we do not listen to our body, we suffer, especially after a car accident. You need to minimize the damaging effects after the car accident for your body as well as your mind. You do that by acknowledging that the accident was a stressful event and you are experiencing stressful symptoms. Often when we do not deal with the acute symptoms, the symptoms accumulate and the damage to our minds and bodies become bigger ailments and illnesses.

We are not machines. We are human beings who feel emotions. It is completely okay to feel emotions. During an accident, our stress hormone, cortisol and adrenaline are released in our bodies. We are in a fight or flight mode. Unfortunately, we may get stuck in this response even after the accident because we do not know how to allow our bodies to feel through the responses. After the accident, if we become aware of the negative symptoms, we may brush it off or not give it another thought. But your body is telling you that it is not resolved.

In Burnaby Square Counselling, we work with clients who have been in to car accidents (recent and some even 7-10 years ago).  They came because they did not initially deal with the shock and now years later the symptoms have developed into major concerns.  Our clinical counsellors use a gentle gradual approach to healing the trauma of car accidents. We take immediate action on accessing and renegotiating the trauma. Of course, this is done with an encouragement of a sense of safety. We teach you how to allow yourself to process the accident, not just with your mind but also with your body. It is about focusing on sensations and allowing yourself to feel the emotions without judgements. We look at the anxiety and depression symptoms that surfaced after the accident, and work through them. You have this innate ability to heal yourself and all we do is show you how.

Lima Abedin in a Registered Clinical Counsellor at No Fear Counselling.  Her areas of focus include the practice of Eastern & Western psychology to help with meditation, spiritualiaty, sex, anxiety, & depression.

Ofir Vaisman is the Clinical Director of No Fear Counselling, and Registered Clinical Counsellor with apassion in working with couples through Emotionally Focused Therapy

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