Healing Trauma

Trauma moves in and out of our collective consciousness. Often preferred in the background, while at other times, it is undeniably in the foreground.

Although trauma is often associated with war, domestic abuse and other violent events, trauma can also result from other incidents, frequently overlooked. In fact, an individual can feel overwhelmed by what are commonly considered everyday events: automobile accidents, routine medical procedures, sudden loss, sexual and/or physical assault, ongoing stressors of fear and conflict, among other potentially threatening circumstances. To emphasize, the events on their own do not cause trauma. In short, trauma can not only result from feeling overwhelmed in relation to a single incident, but also through the accumulation of stress over time.

“Trauma is the most avoided, ignored, denied, misunderstood and untreated cause of human suffering.”
—Peter A. Levine, PhD, author of  Trauma and Memory, Waking The Tiger etc.

Clients I work with often struggle from:

When a person’s body, psyche and nervous system fail to respond and adequately process adverse events, traumatic responses may develop. Whereas the effects of trauma can be long-lasting and pervasive.

In recent years, so many layers of trauma have re-surfaced in our global collective consciousness. Immigrants, refugees and descendants thereof, of course, have very different historical traumas and dilemmas to address than, for example, Black folk. On the whole, each journey of trauma healing is unique based on your individual life experiences, cultural and family dynamics – plus ancestral lineages, historical contexts and so much more… 

Slowly, I will attempt to sort through these different layers with you, and find ways to highlight that resilience must be remembered as part of your intrinsic birthright. For every traumatic narrative, there is an equally important, concurrent life-affirming story also woven in. 

Simultaneously, I combine culturally-sensitive and racially-conscious approaches with somatic therapies (Somatic Experiencing®, Gestalt Therapy etc). Cutting-edge, trauma-informed, somatic methods essentially aim to: 

Phases of trauma healing:

First and foremost, trauma treatment begins with getting acquainted and building enough trust in our therapeutic relationship. Not to worry, your hesitation as much as your mistrust are also welcome here. For one thing, learning and insights can only be gained when there is enough sense of safety and good-will present. Therefore, establishing a solid relationship with your therapist creates the container for trauma healing to be possible. 

Urgency is a hallmark of traumatic responses.

In reality, trauma-informed, somatic therapy is gentle and requires slowing down. Unfortunately, so many new clients want to tell me everything at once, which altogether can potentially flood your system. Indeed, I was trained to gather as much of your life’s story at once like other psychotherapists. Consequently, trauma-informed approaches recognize that such methods can be too triggering, and potentially counter-productive. 

Too much, too soon and not enough support are common markers of traumatic experiences. 

While phases of treatment can be neatly outlined, however, healing from trauma is often not linear. Current stressors from life events may trigger stress responses, and therefore create too much instability to focus on past traumatic memories up front. Obviously, stabilization is essential, and will be our first pass of work together. 

So when you’re in crisis, we won’t be tackling the hardest stuff. It simply doesn’t make sense to. Since you’re already overwhelmed, first, reducing your stress levels and looking at what is working will be our top-priority. In the meantime, I emphasize sleep habits, exercise and self-care because these are inherently stress relieving. Furthermore, we need to establish some breathing room in your system.

Since turning towards trauma can be de-stabilizing, doing so from stable footing makes for more effective outcomes. Furthermore, sustainable transformations.

More often than not, the clients I work with have a complexity of different traumatic experiences for us to sort through together. While not every single event needs to be targeted, certainly time and space are needed to nurture changes at the level of your nervous system. Chiefly, our aim will be to untangle traumatic responses from your intrinsically healthy ones.

Indeed, I do understand that you wish progress to be linear. In truth, the change process with healing from trauma can be circuitous.

Somatic, trauma treatment is akin to homeopathy—a little at a time. Yet, slow sets the conditions for deep healing in trauma recovery.

Once you’ve developed tools and skills for navigating life’s ups and downs, and while you are maintaining healthy habits to support yourself well, you may decide our work is done. Even though we may both feel sad to part ways, at the same time, I will gladly see you off to enjoy life as fully as possible. With grace. I emphatically wish to witness you lovingly embrace all the blessings and growth opportunities life presents you. Thereafter, I am sometimes fortunate to receive brief notes of gratitude from former clients updating me about significant life changes—such as new additions to the family and so forth—even well after our work together!
Trauma healing requires slow, gentle approaches

Ultimately, I am committed to supporting those suffering as a result of trauma to live with greater ease, choices, meaning, presence and vitality. Without a doubt, what  I love about supporting individuals to recover from trauma is the awe-inspiring power of life energy. Undeniably, in each individual there is an unstoppable, indestructible aliveness that remains untarnished in spite of the difficult, horrific and tragic events that so many of us endure and survive. To this end, I revere this source of aliveness, which is inherently wise, whole and healing.

“We are born knowing how to rest and listen to what our bodies need. It’s second nature and an inner knowing. Infants and children follow their body cues and, without doing so, would not survive. This inner knowing is slowly stolen from us as we replace it with disconnection. We have been bamboozled and led astray by a culture without a pause button… [and] are barely surviving from our sleep deprivation, worker exploitation, and exhaustion. We must rest.”
—Tricia Hersey, Creator and Founder of The Nap Ministry, author of Rest Is Resistance

Touching Trauma

Touch is a fundamental sense, and albeit one of the earliest ways to relate to self, others and the environment. Above all, it is a vital aspect of human experience as well as a form of communication which can contribute to a deep feeling of togetherness, connection, care and love.
Because of its importance, the need for touch does not decrease with age. Yet, in the US, adults touch each other far less than in many other cultures. Unfortunately, our relationship to touch has become so fraught. In spite of all of these factors, the therapeutic effects of healthy, appropriate touch have been scientifically and clinically proven.

Somatically-attuned touch can support you to find greater ease as well as relief from constriction, pain and other symptoms as a result of trauma and chronic stress held in the body.

To illustrate, while seated and talking, I might ask you to place a hand on your forehead or abdomen, for example, as a form of self-touch (and only with your willingness). In certain moments of profound upset, I may ask to sit next to you, in order to offer physical support with my hand on your back. Meanwhile, I also likely will verbally comfort you. In another case, during a state of high anxiety, or near-panic, I may set you up on a yoga mat on the floor in a restorative posture, and guide you accordingly to a calmer, more relaxed state. Furthermore, similar to bodywork settings, I keep a table in my office—where clients lie down. In contrast to massage, however, you will remain fully clothed and hands-on support accompanies verbal processing with attention to what’s happening somatically. 

To clarify, our explorations will not move to these places immediately. In time, they are directions our work together may take. Overall, my recommendations will be based on the skills and awareness you build as your healing journey evolves.

Gentle supportive touch combined with verbal dialogue increases awareness of yourself from the inside—where beliefs, memories, emotions etc. correspondingly can be processed at somatic levels.

On a case-by-case basis, our work together may eventually focus more on intentional, somatically-attuned, therapeutic touch to support the release of tensions and constriction patterns in the body. As a result, touch can support movements and impulses to reach natural completion on many levels: cellular, emotional, energetic, muscular, systemic, psychological and more. Moreover, therapeutic hands-on contact can be profoundly healing for many, and especially those who experienced traumatic events when very young.

“Providing physical and emotional communication at a level far deeper than words, touch is a vital aspect of experiencing meaning, purpose and joy throughout our lives.” 
—Michael C. Changaris, PsyD, author of Touch 

Due to preferences at times for seeking medical treatment, looking at health conditions in isolation sometimes is not enough. In other words, addressing the root cause—trauma and the stress response—is fundamental, particularly for anyone exposed to chronic stress at an early age.

Frequently, clients who suffer from certain conditions are often drawn to bodywork recognizing that touch can be relieving. However, ordinary bodywork can sometimes feel like a balm – where relief is quite fleeting – especially for those who have experienced trauma of various forms. Frankly, we need more trauma-informed practitioners. In the event that tension patterns and other adaptive management strategies – often arising as protective responses – remain in place, traumatic stress can contribute to chronic ailments such as:

For the most part, when the stress physiology from traumatic events remains unaddressed, the body attempts to manage in whatever ways possible leading to dysfunction, symptoms and complex conditions that can become exacerbated over time.

Specifically, addressing the underlying traumatic stress with a trauma-informed professional will inevitably reduce symptoms and bring about more sustainable relief.

With this intention, I pursue ongoing advanced training with Senior SE™ Faculty Kathy L. Kain, PhD who over the course of thirty plus years developed methods specifically for touching trauma held in the body. For the purposes of gently resolving and releasing the effects of stress patterns held in the body, these particular hands-on methods were developed out of a remarkable cross-pollination including: Body-Mind Centering®, lymphatic drainage, motor sensory integration, neurobiology, Ortho-Bionomy®, osteopathy, Somatic Experiencing®, somatic psychology—and more. Unlike other forms of bodywork where the client is generally passive, this is a collaborative process where practitioner and client are actively in conversation both verbally and somatically.

Rather than working to release muscles and tightness from the outside in, this gentle, therapeutic method of touch explicitly invites relief from the inside out.

Moreover, touch used in this way increases somatic awareness and greater connection with oneself. It is also an effective way to release shock and traumatic stress from the physiology, inviting the body’s intrinsic healing capacities to be restored. Finally, supporting the body’s organismic directive towards health provides deep, lasting and life-altering transformations.

“…healing implies that something is wrong that needs to be right. Here, the word is used more to point towards a need for sacred attention and intention. In this work, healing is about remembering who we are and what we deeply know.” —Ruth King, MA, author of Healing Rage

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