Trauma is an experience that is "too much, too soon, too fast, or too little" that overwhelms our nervous system, and our body, soul, and spirit cannot integrate. It can involve an extreme stress or shock that is one-time (acute) or ongoing (chronic), interfering with our ability to experience safety, trust, and emotional stability.

Trauma is not the event, but what happens in the body.

Whether it's natural disasters, war, acts of violence, early-life experiences, auto accidents, major surgery or even falls —so many people live with the unresolved consequences of trauma.
Anything can be experienced as traumatic, including looking out of your window and no longer recognizing the world as we've known it. Only you get to say what has proven traumatic to you or what may prove traumatic for you. We have been trained to believe that it is the size of the incident that determines whether or not trauma will occur. But that is not what determines whether or not we will experience some event as traumatic. It is our inner reality that determines it, our precise idiosyncratic makeup, not the so-to-speak magnitude of the event.

Possible symptoms that you have experienced, and have unresolved trauma:

  • Chronic pain, including headaches/migraines

  •  Anxiety/panic attacks

  •  Gastrointestinal disorders

  •  Memory lapses

  •  Immune imbalances

  •  Nightmares/flashbacks

  •  Hypersensitivity, hypervigilance

  •  Repeated injuries or ones that don't seem to heal

  •  Addictions, OCD, repetitive destructive behavior

  •  Decreased vitality

  •  Insomnia

  •  Depression

  •  Reenactment

  •  Shame, feeling of failure

  •  Relationship difficulties

  •  Persistent thoughts or dreams of the event

  •  Feeling detached or numb

  •  Easily startled

     As well as feeling stuck in dysfunctional patterns and beliefs.

These are all common symptoms of incomplete physiological responses* suspended in fear which can remain hidden for years after a triggering event, negatively affecting our lives on many levels.

During some stressful events the autonomic nervous system can become dysregulated, particularly when full expression of one’s response to the event is repressed. As a result, the body continues to respond as if it is still under threat, denying the body the opportunity to fully process the traumatic event.

These symptoms need not be permanent.

Somatic Trauma Resolution (STR) therapy is a unique, body-centered technique for releasing the trauma-bound energy that may be responsible for the symptoms.

Method

Somatic – relating to the body. 

Guided into an awareness of bodily sensations the client is more able to address emotions that are not as likely to be resolved through talk therapy alone. A felt sense of self is developed through observing these sensations. This allows access to the frozen energy which then begins to move and release. Research in the field of neurology and trauma indicates that tracking sensation, while controlling the activation level in the nervous system is one of the most effective approaches for short- and long-term healing. It opens neural pathways which allows the safe discharge of trauma-bound energy from the nervous system.

We begin with determining a sense of safety using body awareness. Then, small amounts of stress (not from traumatic memories) are introduced while observing the client’s physical responses to that material. The therapist will frequently check in with the client to assess and record the body sensations that may be imperceptible to the client, such as feelings of heaviness, tightness, or dizziness. We proceed carefully and cautiously to avoid retraumatizing or triggering the client.

Other simple interventions may be used that are based on movement, images, breathing and vocalizations for creating new experiences in the body that displace negative emotions such as powerlessness, shame, and low self-esteem. Hands-on touch may be utilized with full consent of the client.

We progress into the traumatic event in a slow and safe way allowing clients to fully process the trauma. 

The intention of the process is to help the client restore resiliency in their nervous system and gain a sense of completion of their trauma leaving them with a sense of freedom and      empowerment

Clients also achieve heightened awareness of their physical responses to stress, and this skill can serve them in everyday life.

The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.”

 

- Bessel A. van der Kolk

"There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.,"   Nietzsche

"Trauma, simply put, arises when there is a lack of choice, something from which we feel unable to escape and is overwhelming to the nervous system, which leads to disconnection from ourselves and others, and impacts our ability to be present.

(Dr. Peter Levine, 1997, p. 23)

I prefer to have 90 minutes for at least the first session, please let me know if that will be difficult for you.

*As a simplified example, a healthy cycle of arousal looks somewhat like this:

  • Challenge (a car cuts you off)

  • Arousal – activation of the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight response)

  • The challenge is met by taking an action and either successfully escaping or successfully fighting (swerving to avoid)

  • Relaxation and integration (parasympathetic nervous systems restores the basic functions of rest and digest)

 

A traumatic arousal cycle may look like this:

  • Challenge (same)

  • Arousal – activation of the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight response)

  • Challenge is not met (you’re a passenger so no action available)

  • Hyper-arousal – activation of the sympathetic nervous system which is somewhat disproportionate to the situation (anxiety)

  • The challenge is still not met

  • Hypo-arousal – a drop in the sympathetic response which leads to a “freeze” response (immobilisation – no discharge of arousal – dissociation – constriction)

  • No relaxation and integration (difficult to rest and digest)