What is Trauma Therapy?by baladmin | September 15, 2015
Many of our clients with chemical addictions struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Over 50% of those who struggle with PTSD self-medicate with alcohol, 30% use drugs. Somatic therapy is one of the best ways to help those suffering from PTSD.
The word somatic comes from the Greek word “soma” which means living body. Somatic therapy connects the mind and body to the psychological past. The main goal of somatic therapy is to recognize and release the physical tension that may remain in the body after a traumatic event.
The idea of holding trauma in the body is bizarre to some. It can be explained through the autonomic nervous system (ANS.) The ANS is a connection of nerves that run from the brain through out the tissues of your body. This system regulates your “fight / flight” and “rest / relax” responses. The ANS remembers everything that happens to the body; every scent, touch, sight, taste and smell is registered. When trauma occurs the body remembers that just as well. Though one may be able to understand logically that the trauma is over, the ANS does not. Somatic therapy enters in as a space to work through that trauma on a physical level.
Working with a trusted therapist, a patient reflects back on the traumatic event, allowing the physical sensations to arise. Some people experience chills, heat, physical pain, shaking, etc… These reactions are a release of the stored tension and/or “trauma”. This can better be understood through the example of crying. Have you ever felt better after you had a long cry? The reason you do is that through your tears you excrete stress hormones. The process of somatic therapy is similar. When the emotion is moved physically, the body then has space to breathe and heal.
Somatic experiencing does not cure PTSD over night. It takes time to build a relationship with a therapist, talk through the trauma, release it physically and process healing. Body memories can take a long time to mend, many are unconscious and surface from time to time. A patient who has been through the somatic experience is better prepared to care for themselves when flashback or memories reoccur.
After somatic treatments people report feeling peace, being free and more engaged with life. As well, it has shown to decreases levels of physical pain. A great reminder that looking within us changes the world around us.