Approaches to Healing Trauma


#1

Because I’ve noticed that in several different topics and in several different categories, the subject of healing trauma has come up numerous times, I thought I would open this as a new topic, so suggestions/resources can be easily found in one place.

I do not know Peter A. Levine, PhD, nor am I associated with his organization in any way. But I do subscribe to his method of addressing trauma. Much trauma healing is based on “exposure therapy,” which involves recalling, re-living, and re-telling the content of the trauma. Done incrementally, this can be useful in that physical and emotional tension are defused and eased over time,

However, Levine’s method, “Somatic Experiencing” (registered trademark), works directly with the body and the arousal cycles in the nervous system. Per the website, https://traumahealing.org/about-us, his method addresses both “acute stress from a perceived life-threat, or…the end product of cumulative stress,” (the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict). This method “facilitates completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body.”

I particularly like this YouTube video entitled “Nature’s Lessons in Healing Trauma: An Introduction to Somatic Experiencing.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmJDkzDMIIc. It is 27 minutes long, so allow some time. It contains vivid video of animals in the wild dealing with threat and experiencing the same nervous system arousals–fight, flight, fear/immobility (freeze)–as do humans.

The video also contains an example of Levine’s somatic experiencing work with a veteran from the Iraq war, illustrating how the nervous system’s natural “threat response” does not get completed in many traumatic experiences, thus energy gets “stuck” in the body at a particular point in the threat response cycle, and can subsequently be easily ‘triggered’ in the future, or turn into various involuntary motor responses. While talk therapy can be good, sometimes if the trauma is not addressed at its source in the body’s nervous system, emotional/psychological therapy will be less than successful.

Finally, this site, https://sepractitioner.membergrove.com, allows you to search for a practitioner/therapist trained in somatic experiencing. Plug in a zip code and possibly the speciality–everything from military trauma to childhood abuse to sexual assault to LGBT issues to the trauma of homelessness, and more–and it will tell you if there are somatic experiencing practitioners in your area.

(Addendum: Someone has reported being unable to get to the YouTube video “Nature’s Lessons In Healing Trauma” by using the link I provided. If that’s a problem for anyone else, just go to YouTube and enter in Search that title, and that should get you there.)


#2

I’ve been a big fan of Levine’s work for years. Of course therapy and growth must proceed on the mental, emotional and physical lines simultaneously but there are certain aspects encoded in the neuromuscular unconscious which must be processed first so that more elaborate layers of intelligence can become productively involved in resurrecting the self beyond trauma. The same is true of people who work with brain wave patterns. Neuro-physiological coding must be dealt with, to some degree, prior to psychological content.


#3

Agreed. Thank you for filling in what I neglected to say, because I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that Levine’s work eschews the emotional and mental aspects of treating trauma. But he generally does begin with the somatic level. This is some of the most integral trauma-healing work I’m aware of, and I’m glad you too are a fan.


#4

I totally love Peter’s work and his emphasis on experiencing the body. It was a major step forward from the cognitive-behaviour exposure work that dominated the field since the 70’s and 80’s. A turning point seemed to wake the behaiourists up in 1984 when Edna Foa in a semi-reflective moment in a journal paper on exposure therapies, she pondered that the people in her study that got better seemed to be the ones that actually allowed themselves to experience the “anxiety/ activation” during the exposure sessions. I believe it was her that then coined the term “Experiential avoidance” and how it needed to be avoided. It was a similar insight to what Gendlin had a full 15 or 20 years earlier that led him to develop “Focusing” a very powerful method for healing for trauma, but from within the psychodynamic lineage of therapies and hence ignored by the behaviourists.

The piece that is missing from all the therapies, from my point of view, is the explicit processing of emotions and feelings. My experience as a clinician and theoretician is that If they are not acknowledged explicitly while the fear or the crying is happening, it tends to heal the body but not resolve the emotional processing. With enough repetitions of the somatic based therapies, people often heal, but because they sort accidentally say the feelings words while they are going through it.

So basically somatic therapies have a part of the truth, as do the behaviourists with the exposure therapies and “experiential avoidance” (a conundrum for theorists who explicitly eschewed internal experiences as irrelevant) and now as we mature into Post-Modernism, we need to integrate the emotional-feeling realm and language to complete the healing process, or rather make it more efficient.

(I have a website dedicated to this topic)


#5

Wow this is something I’ve only very recently started to consider in my own trauma and wondering what is out there. I was reading about the freeze response especially, how the body actually shuts down, organs etc, not just to avoid an immediate threat, but to be out of body, or a deep relaxation to nullify the oncoming pain. It seems to me that that is a very deep thing that happens in trauma. Some may avoid through flight, but serious repression strikes me at times to be more serious issue, where there is a total lack of vital force or energy, and when there is hints of it, it can come out so unconsciously or ferociously that it can be very hard to make sense of or process.

Anyway I’m greatful for you guys to be chipping in with your knowledge. Such fruitful subject matter.

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve had my share of experience that was either too intellectual or too much about feeling, I really believe for true wholeness it’s mandatory to have deep insight and deep embodiment. It’s yin and yang really.

I’m wondering if it might be useful to collate some of the other threads. I’m somewhat new to the forum and I know I would love to scour any other debates and chats that have happened around therapy and trauma.


#6

_The piece that is missing from all the therapies… is the explicit processing of emotions and feelings… If they are not acknowledged explicitly while the fear or the crying is happening, it tends to heal the body but not resolve the emotional processing. _

This observation corresponds with the experiences I have had in healing my own trauma and deeply held emotional patterns.

I have experienced healing from trauma that was distinct and different than resolving emotional knots. But both processes are necessary.

When my core trauma was resolved (a specific event in my childhood that resulted in symptoms of PTSD and dissociation), it was through an explosive release that was very physical. I acted out the feelings in a therapist’s office in a very dramatic manner. This volcano of emotions was never tapped with “processing emotions.” What facilitated the release was trust and safety with the therapist. This level of trust took a couple of years to develop. The methods of emotional processing, such as “empty chair technique,” EMDR, and Focusing, dialog, drawing images depicting emotions, etc., drew me closer to the physical acting out that was necessary.

Regarding integration of emotional states, Wes Feuquay, founder of the Psylogia Institute (www.psylogia.org), has developed a series of protocols that facilitate quick shifts in unwanted or struggle states. His work is influenced by Živorad Mihajlović Slavinski (Spiritual Technologies, Belgrade, Serbia); the late Eugene Gendlin (Focusing); Satyen Raja (Accelerated Evolution Academy); and the orienting framework of Integral Theory. Feuquay refined his techniques at Maricopa College where he taught innovative, experiential courses for 15 years on The Psychology of Consciousness and Mature Ego Development. Feuquay has a toolkit of different protocols to match the level of readiness of each client as well as their specific needs. His methods are a skillful series of questions that lead the client to their own experience of resolution.

I have found Feuquay’s methods to be extremely effective. I have integrated emotional patterns that go back decades, or a lifetime. If I am “triggered” by an event, and am experiencing rumination about it and feeling “worked up,” I can go through a guided video-based session with Feuquay (although coaching is better), and reliably within 45 minutes arrive at an integrated state. Usually one session is sufficient, although some patterns/emotions have taken quite a bit more work.


#7

Hello LionLamb,
The comments I have noticed on trauma for the most part have not been in-depth conversations, but rather brief references to dealing, or needing to deal, with trauma. Perhaps now that there is this topic so-named, conversations about healing trauma will migrate here (as they appear to be doing, e.g. comments by withiniswithout).


#8

I gotcha :). I reckon some links might be useful at some point though with different subjects around therapy and trauma. I had a fairly in depth one with someone for example with struggling with ‘green’ values in the emotional and therapy realm, which is part of why I enjoy these threads as integral types seem to have some deeper layer in the way they deal with trauma that feels fresh and deep.


#9

Just giving a heads up, not sure if anyone has this but to me the video is unavailable.


#10

Yes, I followed that in-depth conversation you had with another, LionLamb. If you and/or your discussion partner in that conversation wanted to post here, referring readers to the specific topic and category where the conversation can be found, I personally think that’s just fine, appropriate.


#11

So sorry you couldn’t get to the video through the link. Just go to YouTube and search for “Nature’s Lessons in Healing Trauma: An Introduction to Somatic Experiencing.” (Or even just Nature’s Lessons in Healing Trauma, that should get you there.)


#12

Thanks Lawanna. Will do I, was checking out the website and Levine’s methodology seems to be just what I’m looking for.


#13

Just realised I watched this last Sunday lol, feels a little sychronous.