Somatic Support for Trauma Resilience
As a therapist with lived experience, I support and advocate for others who have experienced developmental and/or complex trauma.
What is Developmental Trauma and How Do We Heal?
Experiences of being missed, neglected, or overwhelmed by one’s caretakers create an array of coping strategies that may be more or less adaptive as we age. You may feel dissociation, depersonalization, derealization, hypervigilance, and emotional disregulation. This trauma is a wound to the authenticity and integrity of the emerging human being.
In the first years of life, infants and toddlers need safe, predictable, accessible, and loving caregivers. Some parents are emotionally immature and unable to provide the safety and mirroring that children need. Our caretakers may have been overwhelmed themselves with generational trauma and scarcity of resources. Others may have intentionally caused harm. Whatever your experience, it was not your fault!
Each person’s road to recovery is different but the general goal is to allow understanding, communication, and some form of integration that serves the whole. We may have adopted caretaking or codependency for protection.
Attachment work underlies healing by allowing for trust and safety to develop organically between us. Therapy that includes principles from Somatic Experiencing, Hakomi, and Internal Family Systems are effective in building a life that feels real, meaningful and creative.
Interventions for Trauma
I break down trauma integration into three phases:
1. Establishing a sense of safety and competence. Engage with survivors in activities that do not trigger trauma responses and that give them a sense pleasure and mastery while facilitating self-regulation (van der Kolk, 2017).
2. Dealing with traumatic re-enactment. Survivors may replay their original trauma with other people. This can include perceiving people who try to help them, such as therapists, as perpetrators (van der Kolk, 2017).
3. Integration and mastery. Engaging survivors in “neutral, ‘fun’ tasks and physical games can provide them with knowledge of what it feels like to be relaxed and to feel a sense of physical mastery."
Somatic therapies are designed to address trauma and stress-related disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD by exploring how the body impacts the mind.
This body focus is grounded in the idea that one's body holds the physical expression of painful and traumatic experiences from the past. If we privilege working with the body’s responses, clients can release tension, trauma, and stress patterns held in their bodies. The primary goal of this type of treatment is to modify your trauma-related responses so that they no longer trigger you.
We'll use breathing exercises, meditation, self-touch visualization, and working with the body's response to stress as they come up in the sessions. If we can develop new patterns in session, you will be able to transfer that to your day-to-day life.
As a therapist who values somatic work, I will focus on your body's response as well as the thought patterns you carry. The goal is to grow your awareness of bodily sensations and then teach you how to feel safe in your body so that you can explore emotions, memories, and thoughts.
I am studying the following somatic modalities in 2023-24 to bring to my clients:
This type of therapy focuses on resolving symptoms of stress, shock, and trauma that accumulate in the body. During this therapy, you will learn to release built-up bodily sensations in a safe space so that it no longer becomes a trigger for you.
EMDR has been considered a primary therapy for releasing traumatic experiences in short doses while focusing on an external stimulus like sideways eye movements. The goal of this approach is to allow your mind to heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from the physical trauma.
This therapy approach uses the principles of nonviolence and mindfulness, or being aware of your internal state and your surroundings, to heal the body and the mind. During this type of work, you will work on being mindful during the session in order to help recognize and work with emotionally-charged material.
Combining principles of psychotherapy with the techniques from the Hakomi method, sensorimotor therapy is designed to let you re-experience a specific traumatic event and then change the ending. The goal is to allow you to experience some closure.