NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Mindfulness to Overcome Developmental Trauma

When I work with clients who have unsolved psychological trauma, I often discover that their awareness of their body is cut off due to the dissociation, a defense mechanism which used to cope with trauma (see my articles:Psychotherapy to Overcome Your Past Childhood TraumaWhat Happens When You Numb Yourself to Your Traumatic Past?, and Untreated Emotional Trauma Can Have Serious Consequences.  Part of the initial stage of trauma work in therapy is helping clients to gradually reconnect with their bodies by using Somatic Experiencing.  And part of Somatic Experiencing is learning to develop somatic mindfulness, which is reconnecting the mind and the body that disconnected after the trauma (see my article: Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind.

Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Mindfulness to Overcome Developmental Trauma 

When childhood trauma, also known as developmental trauma, is overwhelming, one of the defense mechanisms is dissociation.

Dissociation is useful at the time because it keeps the child from being overwhelmed, especially if there was no one at the time to help soothe the child.

But the problem with dissociation is that it not only cuts off the negative feelings related to the trauma--it also cuts off positive feelings.  As a result, this disconnection between the mind and the body can make everything feel muted.

Helping clients with somatic mindfulness is a gradual approach of necessity, especially if there was severe childhood trauma. Since the dissociation protected the child from being overwhelmed with emotion, a gentle approach is needed so that reconnecting with thoughts, feelings, and body sensations doesn't become overwhelming.

Somatic mindfulness can start with helping with client to notice where they feel their feelings in the body.  If someone is really disconnected from his or her body, the process of helping him or her to reconnect might start with the body and just noticing what s/he feels and then trying to link the feelings to the sensations in the body.

I usually start wherever the client can start and wherever s/he can start is fine.  If a client notices that she feels a tightness in her throat, but she doesn't know what feeling is associated with that tightness, we will work with that and see what comes up.

Sometimes a client might think of a color or shape.  Sometimes a client notices that the tightness moves to another part of the body--like from the throat to the jaw.  Other times, a particular memory might come up.

What's happening is that the client is starting to reconnect the mind with the body and, in doing so, the dissociation is starting to dissipate.

For many clients, the cut off between the mind and the body is a partial cutoff.  For instance, the client might notice that she feels connected to the upper part of her leg, but she has little to no sensation in the lower part of the leg.  Using Somatic Experiencing, I can assist the client to reconnect to the lower part of the leg so that the energy begins to flow to that part of the body again.

Somatic mindfulness helps clients to become aware of their bodies again.  Ultimately, over time, it can be re-energizing so clients feel alive again--possibly after many years of feeling disconnected from their bodies.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've been struggling with unresolved trauma on your own, you're not alone.

There is so much more that is known now about the mind-body connection and how trauma-informed therapy can help to resolve trauma.

Unresolved trauma can take the joy out of life.  Rather than suffering alone, you could get help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to overcome your unresolved trauma (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

By working through unresolved trauma, you can lead a more meaningful and fulfilling  life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples and I specialize in helping clients to overcome trauma.

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.

See my article: 
Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Mindfulness to Overcome Developmental Trauma - Part 2