Beyond storytelling. How to heal your body beyond the narrative.
Beyond storytelling. How to heal your body beyond the narrative.
Over the last number of years there has been groundbreaking research regarding what therapy types are helpful in processing stressors, trauma and releasing stuck symptoms in order to offer healing and change on a deeper level.
The goal of the psychotherapeutic relationship is to build a solid, trusting relationship where the therapist provides support, offers tips for relief and nurtures a space for healing, change and for clients to experience transformation beyond the pain.
Talk therapy is one of the most common therapies used by therapists and has been seen as the gold standard treatment, however, recent research proves that sometimes talk therapy alone can bring about deeper distress, and sometimes, emotional catharsis.
I do want to note that talk therapies are important, they are effective and foundational to creating a therapeutic relationship, however, in some instances where clients are not receiving the relief they seek, adding other methods of treatment is important.
One of the recent integrative therapy modalities is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, developed by Dr. Pat Ogden.
SP is a body awareness therapy that helps resolve trauma symptoms that have not been successfully processed in talk therapy alone. Therapists trained in this modality, as well as Somatic Experiencing (founded by Peter Levine) have been blending talk therapy with body-focused methods for clients who had been "stuck" in their healing process, and have seen significant symptom relief and longer lasting change (Ogden, Minton & Pain, 2006).
This mind-body approach utilizes skills to strengthen the "felt-sense" of the body.
This therapy was originally created to help individuals heal from trauma and complex trauma, however, it has been proven to help clients who don't necessary come to therapy for trauma treatment. Somatic therapy helps with chronic anxiety, body discomfort, depression, relationship issues, self esteem struggles and boundary issues.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy believes that the body holds experiences deep within the body, and therefore needs healing to happen on a "felt sense" body level, not just on a cognitive - thinking level.
That's why your body might be holding stress, tension or anxiety, but your mind may be completely unaware of the reason for the discomfort.
Experiencing stress may be because you experienced a trauma and the body has the energy trapped inside. However, you can also carry tension without having "trauma", rather, maybe you've experienced some kind of everyday stress, an upsetting event or witnessed something that may have shaken you, and there when there are subtle reminders of any of that, your body may have a reaction.
The somatic approach to processing trauma and stressful events is in helping the body renegotiate the trauma or stressor and heal from the bottom up, releasing tension from the body, and upward- creating shifts in the mind as well.
This focus provides healing to mind, and body, instead of getting wrapped up in the details of the "story line".
How it works:
Using somatic methods, the therapist helps the client slow down and "retell" the experience using body awareness of the event. This way the body re-experiences the physical sensations associated with the stressful or traumatic event, only this time, in a safe, secure environment. Doing this allows the body to heal and process the hidden but ever present symptoms, and is especially effective in treating chronic anxiety, stress, chronic pain, panic, dissociation, trauma and PTSD symptoms and sensitive emotional reactivity.
Using these interventions, I have seen clients experience relief on a deeper level than what they achieved with cognitive focused therapies.
It's important to know that therapists who train in sensorimotor psychotherapy have opportunities to practice the skills, methods and interventions. By doing this it becomes an embodied experience which then allows the therapist to offer integrative healing to the clients they treat.
One reason somatic work provides transformative healing is because it requires increased awareness of self; in mind, body, and spirit.
When engaging in somatic therapy, you are't simply bringing your brain to therapy or shifting your thinking, rather, you're processing, digesting, healing and working through experiences in an integrative fashion.
Here are some examples of somatic interventions that we blend into therapy:
When experiencing a powerful emotion, slowing down and checking with the body to sense if theres a tingling, warming, cooling or numbing sensation that meets the belief or emotional experience. Just noticing the space and what it may be expressing.
Leaning in to an urge or inclination for movement. It may be simply stretching your arms, legs or rolling your neck from side to side. You may have a stronger urge to move forward, go for a run or engage in a calming yoga pose.
Expressing a strong emotion; pent up anger, frustration or confusion. You can do this by firming your stance, or if needed, gently stomping on the ground, using the power in your heels.
When noticing a rush of blood flow in your arms, gently "push" arms out slowly in front of you. You can also do this by gently pushing into a pillow, to feel the pressure going into something soft, or press against a strong wall.
Learning to set boundaries; practicing saying "NO" by role playing challenging, real life situations. Doing this helps you process the nonverbal fears and blockages that have been holding you back from sticking to limits that are important to you. Acting this out in therapy gives your body the opportunity to confidently set new limits in the safety of your therapists office, and then more smoothly do so in challenging situations.
And the good news about somatic work? The skills you learn gently re-program your mind and body to respond and engage with others from a healthier place.
The work you do with your therapist isn’t simply about shifting thoughts, rather, through body centered activities and mindful based interventions, you’re undoing old unhelpful patterning and weaving a better way of being.
Along the way, you learn skills specific to you, and are often simple and easy to practice on a daily basis. The goal of this work is in providing you a more connected way of being in this world.
If you are ready to experience relief from your anxiety, stress, relationship issues or trauma symptoms, reach out today for your free consultation so we can start helping you feel better today!