Dr. Bev Fredborg, psychology assistant professor

PROFile: Discerning the truth in TikTok trauma trends

Robyn Adams (Supplied)

As a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in trauma and emotion regulation, Dr. Bev Fredborg, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), is well aware of current social-media trends involving mental-health advice – and misinformation – about trauma.

“It’s very trendy, so people are making a lot of content on it, and I would encourage people to be a bit leery of that,” she says.

Under #trauma on TikTok alone, there are seemingly endless videos, many with millions of views.

These videos are sometimes created by licensed professionals and are well-cited with research, but are just as often posted by unregulated life coaches and influencers.

“It’s so easy for someone to say something online and for you to blindly follow them ... these are really vulnerable topics and vulnerable people who might be influenced by these (videos),” she says.

While Fredborg encourages people to think critically and be a bit wary of this kind of content, she also welcomes its positive effects.

“It might be helpful in that it’s getting people to really think about their own life experiences and maybe getting them on the pathway toward going to therapy,” she says.

Originally from Winnipeg and a U of W alum herself, Fredborg completed her master’s and clinical-psychology doctorate at Toronto Metropolitan University in 2022, supplemented by supervised clinical hours in Toronto.

In 2023, she moved back to Winnipeg to bring her expertise and research to the U of W, teaching a second-year course, Introduction to Clinical Psychology.

Her research lab investigates the strategies people use to manage their emotional responses, delving into questions about unconscious decision-making processes through cognitive reappraisals. In this process, individuals reinterpret or reframe the meaning of a situation or stimulus to modify their emotional response.

“For example, when we’re upset, sometimes we might think, ‘oh, that person doesn’t really matter to us, anyway.’ So we change the personal relevance. Or maybe sometimes we say, ‘oh, things will be better tomorrow,’ so we imagine a better future,” Fredborg says.

“I’m really interested in how people make those decisions and why, because they’re unconscious processes,” she says.

One of Fredborg’s primary career motivations is to shed light on the challenges and stigma faced by people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who often grapple with dysregulated emotions.

Fredborg says she finds joy in engaging with students and fostering dialogues that go beyond mere lecturing. Her teaching philosophy revolves around encouraging students to think critically, facilitating debates and drawing from her personal experiences to help her students navigate university.

“It’s really energizing telling students: I went to U of W as well, and I ended up having a great career. And you can, too.”

What have you learned from your students?

“It’s really important to listen to students, because students have interests beyond what the professor thinks is interesting. And incorporating student feedback is going to hopefully improve their experience of the course and also engagement in the course.”

Who was your most streamed artist in 2023?

“Taylor Swift. I’m going to see her in Vienna in August.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“Teleportation. Where would I go first? Probably New York to see a Broadway show ... maybe I would teleport into the lobby of a theatre after you’ve scanned your tickets and just find a free spot.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I do improv comedy. I’m in a choir. I take piano lessons. I take voice lessons, and I’m taking songwriting classes. And I spend a lot of time with my dog, who’s a white Pomeranian.”

What’s your favourite thing about Winnipeg?

“The people are so friendly here.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 1, 2024)

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