What is trauma?
Most of us are likely to know what trauma is and could give some examples. What's less widely understood is the lasting impact on us of trauma, even though the traumatic experience may have happened a long time ago.
In psychological terms, trauma can be:
a single traumatic event, or a series of events, at any stage of life
failed attachment experiences in early life (known as developmental trauma)
trauma that occurs over a period of time, such as sexual abuse or domestic violence (known as relational trauma)
The impact of trauma on us
In trauma and relational trauma, because the traumatic experience is too overwhelming for a person's brain to process, it remains unresolved and unintegrated in the body. It shows up in us as symptoms such as emotional overwhelm, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, nightmares, zoning out, constantly looking out for danger, and substance abuse, to name a few. Our bodies have to carry around the burden of this implicit memory (memory without words), because our brains haven't been able to process the overwhelming experience. What this means for us and our bodies is that the traumatic memory feels as if it's happening now, and will likely continue to persist without the right kind of help. In developmental trauma, we experience emotional distress, but without the intensity of symptoms described above.
How can trauma be treated in therapy?
During my years of working as a counsellor, I became curious about how clients with trauma in their history would struggle with physical sensations and emotional overwhelm when recounting their story, and how this was also accompanied by a variety of symptoms like the ones mentioned above.
I went on to train in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy - a body-oriented talking therapy that focuses on the bodily experience as well as the event or story.
How does Sensorimotor Psychotherapy work?
Clients are encouraged to use 'mindful noticing' as to what happens inside them as an issue is explored. This could be noticing emotion, physical sensations, thoughts, and sometimes movement impulses. In a traditional talking therapy we employ our left brain most of the time, the thinking part. Mindful noticing also engages the brain's right side, the traumatised part.
Mindful noticing is vital in trauma therapy as it allows us to gain some distance from the overwhelming event, making it possible for the body to process the information, out of which new meaning and a different memory can emerge.
Who does Sensorimotor Therapy work for?
Sensorimotor Therapy can benefit anyone who has experienced trauma, or traumatic relationships, or difficulties in early-life relationships. It's a gentle and sensitive, yet powerful, approach to treating wounds from the past, and enables body and mind to find ways to transform and heal.
If you think you might benefit from working in this way, or if you would like to discuss whether this could help you, you're welcome to get in touch with me. I'd be happy to hear from you.