Individual Counselling/Somatic Therapy
What is Somatic Experiencing®? It is a body focused way of dealing with trauma, based on Dr. Peter Levine’s studies and clinical application of how to release the wounds of early developmental attachment and/or trauma. It is based on the 45 years of research on the study of stress physiology, ethology, psychology, biology, indigenous healing practices and medical biophysics, including the most recent and relevant brain-based research.
Our central nervous system activates and deactivates in response to outer sensory input (touch, smell, etc) or inner input (thoughts, dreams, memories, etc). The comfortable area within the central nervous system, Pat Ogden identified and named it our window of tolerance. Everyone’s window of tolerance is as unique as our finger prints. When our activation stays within our window of tolerance, we are our best selves. Once we are pushed beyond our window of tolerance there is a natural response of activation that often feels like fear, anxiety, and/or anger. If continued to be pushed out of our window of tolerance, often fear turns to terror and anger to rage. These are powerful experiences and can impact us for years.
Sometimes our experiences were too difficult, or went on for too long, and our central nervous system was either too young or simply unable to accommodate the high activation level that we experienced. What results is undischarged energy in our system and so we somehow feel different. If the energy was not able to complete its cycle, the undischarged energy is still in the body, needing to be released. Specialized assistance can be helpful in releasing undischarged energy resulting from these times and freeing us from such powerful negative bodily or emotional responses.
Often clients will say, “I don’t know why I can’t get over this.” Or “I have never been able to beat this and I don’t know why.” These feelings are often a result of something unresolved from our past. To deal with them, therapist does not spend a very much time in the past, but notices in the present when these responses from the past influence the present.
Somatic Experiencing® allows for a gentle and respectful way of releasing the power that seems to have a hold on us, that has kept us from what we want in our lives. Applying these amazing intervention strategies, clients can release the un-discharged physical energy and often, with this release, many symptoms also disappear. Post-traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorder, anxiety attacks, high anxiety or fear, phobias, out of control anger, even syndromes such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, or just living life in a robotic way, are examples that can be results of trauma in the body’s system. There is often a feeling of being stuck or unable to get over this feeling, no matter how hard we try.
What one might encounter during a Somatic Experiencing® session: a therapist mindfully tracking the bodily, emotional, sensory, cognitive, and behavioural responses, a breathing exercise, connecting one’s mind and body, noticing triggers, noticing activation, deactivating energy lodged in the central nervous system, pendulation, touch therapy and titration. Always at the client’s comfort level.
It is a common misconception that people who have experienced trauma are fragile human beings. These people are not only NOT fragile, but incredibly resilient and show amazing strength to have gone through such difficulties and still be able to live the lives that they do. Although clearly tough, their survival strategies are often held together by tenuous strings that often result in a sense of inner and often overwhelming feeling of fragility. This response can feel robotic, or fearful, or full of anger.
Lois counsels many individuals with trauma. This includes shock trauma, (a one-time, or a few traumatic experiences) developmental trauma (traumas experienced as a child, teen-ager and/or young adult) intergenerational trauma, (traumas siblings, parents, uncles and aunts and/or grandparent, great-grandparents may have experienced that have an effect presently) as well as complex trauma, (a combination of any or all the previously mentioned traumas). Understanding how the body stores trauma and how interroception, exterroception as well as proprioception effect us, can help restore the body to its former resilience is one of the keys to resolving trauma symptoms.
When people experience something overwhelming such as an assault, car accident, physical childhood neglect, or abuse, they don’t leave that experience behind when it is over. Trauma is far-reaching and energetic in nature. The effects of trauma can wreak havoc in peoples’ lives for years after the traumatic event. Not only does it affect the person who experienced the trauma but it also affects their families and communities around them. Many people who have had overwhelming experiences in their past will often present with intangible and difficult to pin down challenges. Some might be: highly fearful angry or robotic responses to everyday life, digestive disturbances, memory or cognitive issues, mood swings, interpersonal challenges, insomnia, chronic pain, autoimmune illness, endocrine disorders, and relationship issues, to name a few.
The central nervous system holds the energy from these traumas becoming a dis-regulated nervous system. This is true whether the traumatic event was known or unknown, spoken or unspoken.
In Somatic Experiencing® the model of treating trauma, was created through exploring the relationship between predator and prey in the animal kingdom and recognizing that humans share similar responses to threats. These embodied sensations frequently feel like helplessness, rage or collapse and most often arise from incomplete responses to the threat that was present at the time. Thwarted or interrupted self-protective efforts tend to linger in the physiology and may contribute to further disruptions in someone who has been traumatized. Completion of the interrupted self-protection response limits and often stops the traumatic stress response completely.
Traumatic stress does not show up from the story of the event, but instead from the experientially felt sense of that event, manifesting in an individual’s body, mind and spirit. This is often referred to as tissue memory or body memory. Clients are encouraged to listen to their bodies and to find their authentic responses. While accessing their past experience in a felt sense approach rather than through a cognitive narrative, clients are also reminded of their most resilient and coherent inner realities, and anchored to them. Traumatic events are addressed in titrated (very small amounts at a time) for just the right effect that is neither too overwhelming for the client nor ineffective for the treatment of release of the trauma energy. This nuanced and individualized approach deepens the client sense of safety, relationship, and attachment to self and to those closest to them as well as to their environment.
Focusing on whole body balance and regulation between systems rather than simply treating one symptom of a trauma is what Somatic Experiencing® is about. Lois mindfully utilizes therapies that access the deeper parts of the body, psyche, and spirit, the places where trauma has left its deepest and most profound effects. Applying these amazing intervention strategies, helps clients release the un-discharged physical energy and most often, with this release, symptoms of trauma disappear.
Lois also specializes in touch work for trauma. This is often used in conjunction with the above therapy, with the intention of allowing the autonomic nervous system to re-regulate. Touch work is not for physical repair but for the lowering of activation of the central nervous system and allowing trauma energy to be released when needed.
What can protect us from traumatic stress? Healthy bonding/ access to co-regulation (healthy relationships) and the eventually co-regulation assists in the development of self-regulation. Safety and security, a sense of connectedness, are the keys to unlocking self-regulation.
Also, Lowering Anxiety through Self-Regulation class, is recommended, as a possible alternative to individual therapy. While it may not cover all of the details of individual counselling, the contents of this class give the participant a very strong basis to start, or continue, their self healing journey.