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Therapy and Treatment

Healing involves:

 

  • Learning how to safely regulate strong emotions

  • Gently addressing harmful or sabotaging behaviours

  • SLOWLY processing trauma-related memories and feelings in order to avoid overactivation and retraumatization

  • Slowly discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight” energy often through imaginary processes

  • Building or rebuilding the ability to trust other people

  • Coming to know and acknowledge your new self

 

It is important to recognize that people can heal. People heal emotionally, behaviourally, spiritually, and also physiologically. Humans have incredible resiliency.

 

My overall understanding of therapy is based on the work of Judith Herman, a renowned expert in complex trauma.  Herman's Triphasal model consists of three stages of therapeutic work: stabilization, reprocessing of the trauma, and integration. I have specific training in the somatic (or embodied) trauma therapies.  Somatic therapies are based on neuro-physiological (brain and body) research. Somatic therapies are centered on understanding the instinctual and autonomic responses of a person’s nervous system when faced with a traumatic experience. I work with people to safely and gently release the automatic activation through attunement to body sensations and safely and slowly recalling the trauma experience.  Somatic therapies are safe, gentle, and non-cathartic. There many types of body oriented therapy, including Somatic Experiencing, Self Regulation Therapy, Hakomi, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and Focussing. Though these therapies are all slightly different, the basic tenets are the same.

 

From our first session, you will be asked to notice your body sensations as briefly and gently recalling upsetting events and more positive experiences. It is not necessary to recall all of the details of the upsetting event, though some clients may want to.  By focussing on sensations, the "language of the nervous system", the instinctual and automatic responses of fight, flight or freeze can be completed in a safe and contained way.

 

Because of the dysregulated and highly-sensitive nature of a traumatized nervous system, work with emotional arousal and/or physical activation is slowed down or titrated (small, tolerable amounts of arousal related to the trauma). The pace of addressing traumatic events is slow so that the physical responses of our instinctual survival responses can be slowly discharged. 

 

Titration has the effect of exposing the person to small, tolerable amounts of activation related to the trauma, thereby reducing the risk of triggering dysregulation and further traumatization. The therapist is always holding the autonomic nervous system in mind, with the goal of "prompting" it to move back into the normal pattern of oscillation between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. In this case "less is more".

 

When the nervous system releases activation (or energy), it can result in different physical sensations, such as heat, twitching, tingling or trembling in the body.  In few cases, discomfort may temporarily result.  

 

A session should be comfortable and clients can expect to feel a sense of control and a general sense of well being at the end of a session. The goal is to be able to recall or remember the upsetting event without over-activating the nervous system (dysregulation).

 

After completing thwarted instinctual responses to threat, the nervous system is able to reduce the amount of chronic activation. This can result in a greater capacity for the individual to experience flexibility, balance and steadiness in his or her nervous system. With reduced activation in the nervous system, clients are more likely able to respond to situations closer how to how they want to respond, for example not yelling at their kids with a first sign of frustration.  Also clients may be more likely to change behaviours or habits that they have been wanting to change, for example to go for a walk instead of grabbing a drink or snack when feeling activated.

Somatic therapy facilitates the development of new neural pathways that are positive in managing stress and individuals are able to experience greater joy, closeness in relationships, vitality and resilience in the body following treatment.