If you have gone through a traumatic event or have endured repeated traumatic experiences, please know that you are not alone, and that you do have the capacity to heal. I work with clients who are coping with trauma, complex trauma, and PTSD, and time and time again, I am amazed by the resiliency of our minds and of our nervous systems. Though trauma can impact our day-to-day life in many negative ways that make things feel hopeless, it is possible to make lasting shifts and find healing.
Each individual is different and needs their own individualized treatment, and there are many therapeutic techniques that we can draw upon. These might include: EMDR, Trauma Resiliency Model, traditional talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and various techniques from art therapy, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. it is important to me that you feel comfortable with everything that we do -- I am committed to working collaboratively with my clients and at a pace that is comfortable for you.
A few techniques that I have found particularly helpful are the following:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing)
EMDR is an effective and evidence-based therapy protocol that has been practiced for over 25 years. It is particularly helpful in relieving the symptoms of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and panic.
When we undergo a traumatic experience, oftentimes the memory feels as though it is “stuck” and has not been fully processed. This can lead to anxiety, overwhelming emotions, disturbing or intrusive memories, and other PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks and a heightened startle response. EMDR helps the brain process and re-file these memories using various therapeutic techniques, including bilateral stimulation (which simply means that we use both sides of the brain). This can be done with eye movement, auditory sounds, or gently vibrating handheld tappers. The 8-phase protocol of EMDR can lead to a safe reprocessing of memories, which can help negative thoughts and memories to dissipate or disappear.
For some individuals, having to consistently recount their story can feel overwhelming and retraumatizing. One of the wonderful things about EMDR is that it allows individuals to process trauma without having to share the details of their painful memories.
Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM)
Inspired by Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing work, Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) is a mind/body method that is designed to help individuals reprocess trauma and build greater resiliency.
When we experience trauma or feel threatened, our nervous system is designed to respond in a variety of ways that can protect us (these are commonly known as fight, flight, or freeze). However, once the danger or stress has passed, we might find that we are still suffering from intense physical or emotional reactions. On the high end, you may find yourself easily triggered into anger, anxiety or rage; on the low end, you may find yourself feeling numb, isolated, or depressed. Some people might find themselves in a dissociative state, where they feel removed from themselves.
Trauma Resiliency Model teaches us how to better track and understand our nervous systems, and how to regulate our mind and body so that we stay in a “resilient zone.” Unlike traditional “talk therapy”, TRM is a method that helps us build awareness of physical sensations and restore balance to the body and mind. TRM is an accessible system that blends practical self care tools with somatic techniques that are backed by the latest neurological research on trauma.
Yoga nidra, often referred to as “yogic sleep”, is a step-by-step guided meditation that is designed to systematically release stress from the body. Studies have shown yoga nidra to be particularly beneficial for those with PTSD.
A yoga nidra practitioner begins the practice by becoming aware of their body and the various sensations within it. Once a deeper awareness is created, the practitioner focuses on their breath, often slowing it down to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as the "relaxation response"). From here, one experiments with creating different sensations or emotional states in the body. As the process continues, one is led through various visualizations that are often geared towards creating a state of self-healing. At the beginning and the end of practice, one sets an intention for their practice. It is believed that by setting intentions during a deep state of relaxation, one is planting the seed for change in the future.
This practice, while simple, can have profound results. A body scan and focused awareness on the different states of the body builds interoceptive awareness, while changing breath patterns can influence heart rate variability, which reduces stress and increases resiliency. While one’s brain is typically in alpha waves just before sleep, yoga nidra is shown to extend the brain’s alpha wave state. During this state, progressive relaxation can occur. Remaining in the borderline between wakefulness and deep sleep can feel deeply restful, providing a natural antidote to PTSD symptoms as well as the usual stresses of our modern, fast-paced life.
“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation. I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma. In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.”
- Peter Levine