"Wounds of the psyche are held in the body. And it is not until we can experience these wounds in a very physical, embodied way that we can untangle them completely." ~ Tara Brach
"Trauma? Do I have it?"
Trauma (at its most basic) is overwhelm. It can come from shocks (accidents, surgeries, losses), but it can also come about from chronic stress. You may benefit from trauma therapy if you suffer from:
High stress levels resulting in sleep issues, burnout, overwhelm (work, caring for someone, parenting, general life!)
Chronic illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders
Recent surgery or ongoing issues from surgery
Pre and peri-natal trauma (premature birth, born with cord around neck, stressful pregnancy/birth, trouble feeding, etc...)
Or have known traumatic events, including: childhood trauma, emotional trauma, abuse, sexual trauma, car accidents, asssaults.
"Can I feel better?"
You can feel better! You can experience better sleep, less pain, fewer experiences of anxiety, depression, 'bad head days', distress and illness. You can feel stronger and more able to deal with the challenges of everyday life. Life can feel easier, more joyful, more pleasurable and fulfilling! Life can feel meaningful and full of connection and wonder (as well as the tough stuff - that YOU can feel more able to respond to.)
"How does it work?"
I use a trauma healing, nervous system supporting modality called Somatic Experiencing® (SE). It is designed to resolve trauma AND the ongoing effects of stress. It is a gentle approach focusing on empowerment, tapping your body's innate ability to heal. It is a gentle approach that allows you to move beyond the effects of past (and present) overwhelming stresses to return to a feeling of aliveness, vitality, zestiness, and deep connection with yourself and your life. It was developed by Dr. Peter Levine and is supported by research. (See the bottom of this page for resources.)
No one need feel at the mercy of the past. No one has to live in a state of constant stresss, no matter how tough their situation. No. Not even you!
What happens in an SE session?
As usual no two sessions (even with the one person) are the same. However!
When starting SE we clarify what you most want help with and set your goals: this helps us keep focused and to know where we are headed in our work together.
Then we start slowly exploring the issue through talk and through noticing how this situation is affecting your body. We use this awareness of your body sensations (and sometimes bodywork for those who wish) to gently help your body discharge all that pent up energy in gentle ways (this is not a primal scream therapy!), to do what it needs to do to be able to fully relax again. We call this "renegotiating trauma"; it is not about re-living or re-enacting trauma - we want you to be free, to move beyond the effects of past trauma and overwhelm.
There is usually homework to help you integrate the learnings from the session and to equip you with tools to keep yourself healthy and strong going forward. Life is stressful these days and tough stuff happens, it is nice to have a few tools in your kit to help out.
Comments I have received from clients who have tried this sound like: "I feel more like myself than I think I ever have!" "I feel so much more alive." "I feel relaxed, maybe for the first time." "It feels like something is back after a long absence." These have been my experience, too. It is why I am so passionate about sharing this modality.
How SE works
SE works with our body's natural capacity to heal and recover from nervous system overwhelm.
SE's guidance of the bodily "felt sense," allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.
SE breaks experiences down into small, incremental pieces that the system can integrate and absorb, rather than evoking catharsis - which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the organism.
In essence your body, nervous system, brain and psyche get to: have a new and healing experience, complete what you were unable to at the time, regain full access to your own life energy.
SE may employ touch in support of the renegotiation process. I often use bodywork as an integral part of this work.
For many people these are new ways of approaching therapy, so don't hesitate to call me to discuss this or come try out what you feel most comfortable with.
Three ways of approaching Somatic Experiencing® sessions
Somatic Experiencing sessions can take the form of:
sitting together, as in counselling or coaching, and talking. Here we slow the story down and start tracking together what is happening in your body and what is needed for your system to renegotiate the stresses overwhelming it.
bodywork, that is, through touch. Here you lie, fully clothed, on a massage table and through a mixture of talk and touch we support your nervous system to renegotiate the stressors. We check in about what you are noticing. Sometimes people simply fall asleep and let the session do it's work without having to 'talk through' anything.
mixture of bodywork and sitting together. Sometimes it is helpful to do a mixture: to talk and then move to the table for some deeper bodywork. Or sometimes just bringing some supportive touch to you as you stay seated in the chair.
No approach is better, we simply work out what suits you and your system best. I may recommend a particulary style, or you may have an immediate preference. Once we have started one way we can always shift between depending on what feels right to you.
"With gentleness and caring, Chantal helped me feel my way back into my body, for which I will always be grateful. After decades of chronic pain and illness, it was hard for me to spend time inhabiting my body …. it hurt, and it got tired so readily. Also, Chantal and I worked together at a difficult time for me (my father almost died and we had to get used to huge changes in his life) and her support made a great deal of difference to my emotional and physical health in those months.
I had to return to America, and I miss her sessions. But I’m working through the Peter Levine exercises which she recommended (from his book Healing Trauma) and continuing to become re-aquainted with my body in a gentle way."
~ Heather Morrison
For more info on SE
Levine, P. (2008). Healing trauma: A pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Louisville, CO, United States: Sounds True, Inc.
Levine, P. and Frederick, A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma : The innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Kline, M., Levine, P., (2008). Trauma proofing your kids. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Kline, M. and Levine, P. (2007). Trauma through a child’s eyes: Awakening the ordinary miracle of healing. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
For further references and information online about SE go to: www.traumahealing.com www.seaustralia.com.au AND check out Resources for more useful links about SE.