NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trauma, Dreams and the Healing Power of Somatic Experiencing

Many people, who know about mind-body psychotherapy, know that Somatic Experiencing is one of the most effective and safest ways to work through traumatic memories. But not everyone knows that Somatic Experiencing is also a very effective form of therapy for doing dreamwork on traumatic dreams.

Trauma, Dreams and the Healing Power of Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing and Dream Work
Usually, when we tell our dreams, we give the narrative and we skim the surface of the emotional content of the dream. Even when I've worked psychoanalytically with dreams, which was my original training, dreams came alive and clients felt healed, but dreams tended to get reduced to various associations related to clients' histories. 

But using Somatic Experiencing to work through dreams related to trauma, we work the dreams using emotional resources that were not part of the original dream. Rather than reducing dreams to certain limited associations, we reenter the dream using the mind-body connection in a resourceful way and we expand the possibilities for reworking the dream to heal the trauma.

Somatic Experiencing as Gentle Therapeutic Treatment for Trauma 
Somatic Experiencing is a gentle therapeutic treatment modality developed by Peter Levine, Ph.D. 

Whether the therapist is working on a traumatic memory or a dream related to the trauma, Somatic Experiencing emphasizes the need for the client to work through the trauma with emotional resources that s/he probably didn't have during the trauma event or in the nightmare about the trauma. 

Rather than going directly to the worst part of the trauma memory or the nightmare (called T-0), Somatic Experiencing starts gently with a more benign part, working its way to T-0 with the emotional resources that were missing before.

What do I mean by this? 

Well, for example, even though we know what actually happened during the traumatic event or in the nightmare and we're not trying to pretend that anything different occurred, working the memory or dream slowly and feeling your emotions in the body in a tolerable way, we experience what it might have been like to have had the emotional resources we needed and didn't have. 

And we experience this in the here-and-now. For instance, what might it have been like to have a trusted loved one, mentor or pet there? Is there something different you would have liked to do in this memory or dream?

You might ask: What good is that going to do if that's not the way it happened? 

The answer is, surprisingly, that when you tell your dream or memory in the present tense, but this time experiencing the narrative with emotional resources you needed at the time, you create a new symbolic memory for yourself and this is healing. 

Of course, you still know what actually happened, but your mind and body experience the healing AS IF it happened the way the dream or memory occurred with these much-needed resources.

I have found Somatic Experiencing to be a gentle, effective and nuanced way of helping clients work through traumatic memories and nightmares.

To Find Out More About Somatic Experiencing
To find out more about Somatic Experiencing, you can read Peter Levine's latest book, In an Unspoken Voice, and his earlier book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.   

Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, and EMDR are among the treatment modalities that I use in working with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.