NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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

In a prior article, Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Mindfulness to Overcome Developmental Trauma - Part 1, I began a discussion about how I use somatic mindfulness with developmental trauma.  In this article, I'll provide a clinical picture of using the somatic mindfulness, which is an aspect of Somatic Experiencing, as part of an integrative approach in psychotherapy (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Mindfulness to Overcome Developmental Trauma

The following fictional vignette is an example of how somatic mindfulness can be used in integrative psychotherapy to help a client overcome unresolved early childhood trauma.

Fictional Vignette: Integrative Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy and Somatic Awareness to Overcome Developmental Trauma

Meg had been in therapy before and talked about her childhood trauma.  But even though her prior psychotherapists were empathetic and supportive, Meg continued to feel negatively affected by her unresolved trauma.  She continued to feel fearful of being in a serious, committed romantic relationship because she had problems with trust.

When she spoke with a friend, who was seeing a psychotherapist who used a mind-body integrated psychotherapy approach, Meg decided to look for her own therapist who used an integrative psychotherapy approach.

Meg explained to her new psychotherapist that she witnessed domestic violence between her parents when she was growing up.  Although her father never hit Meg, she grew up with a fear of trusting men.

As a result, whenever a relationship became serious, on an unconscious level, she would find a way to sabotage the relationship.  The subsequent break was a relief to her at first.  But soon after that she regretted it.

Her previous therapy helped Meg to gain insight into how she destroyed her relationships and the connection with her childhood trauma, but it didn't help her to stop doing ruining her relationships.

Now that she was in her early 30s, Meg wanted to get married and have children, but she feared that if she kept sabotaging her relationships, she would be alone.

Her new psychotherapist provided Meg with psychoeducation about how intellectual insight isn't enough to overcome trauma.

She also explained to Meg how she used integrative psychotherapy to help clients overcome trauma (see my article: Why It's Important For Psychotherapists to Provide Clients With Psychoeducation About How Psychotherapy Works).

Next, her therapist helped Meg to develop internal resources so that when they would eventually begin to process her traumatic experiences, Meg would be able to self soothe rather than get emotionally overwhelmed (see my article: Developing Coping Strategies in Therapy Before Processing Trauma).

In addition, her psychotherapist introduced Meg to Somatic Experiencing (SE) and the concept of somatic mindfulness, which is part of SE.

Since Meg had difficulty identifying her emotions related to her unresolved childhood trauma, her therapist slowed things down and helped Meg to begin to notice what she was feeling in her body when she talked about her early memories.

Initially, Meg had problems feeling much of anything in her body.  But, as she and her therapist continued to use Somatic Experiencing, Meg became aware of how much tension she held in her throat and jaw when she talked about these early traumatic memories.

As they focused on the tension in Meg's jaw and throat, Meg remembered how she wanted to yell at her father when she heard him hitting her mother, but she was too afraid to do it at the time.

As she continued to focus on the tension in her jaw and throat and she talked about her fear and anger related to those early memories, she felt an emotional and physical release and a relaxation in her throat and jaw.

Meg also talked about how, as a child, she wanted to run to get a neighbor to help her mother when her father was hitting  the mother, but she felt "frozen" in her room, so she couldn't move (see my article: Somatic Experiencing: Overcoming the Freeze Response Related to Trauma).

As she talked to her therapist about this, Meg became aware that she felt a numbness in her lower legs from her knees down.  This was something that Meg had never felt before.

Using a technique in Somatic Experiencing, her therapist helped Meg to imagine that she could take one molecule of energy at a time from the upper part of each leg that felt connected to her and move it to the lower parts of her leg that felt numb.  Gradually, Meg could feel the energy flowing back in her legs.  She also felt empowered.

Gradually, over time, Meg felt more connected to her body and was able to more easily connect feelings to various parts of her body in her therapy sessions.  As more parts of her body came back "online" again, she felt more empowered and energized.

There was still one particularly difficult memory that she was grappling with, so her therapist used EMDR therapy to help her to overcome the trauma related to this memory (see my article: What is EMDR Therapy?).

Gradually, as Meg worked through her earlier trauma in therapy, she was no longer afraid to be in a relationship. She was able to separate out the trauma that occurred to her in the past from her adult life now (see my article:  Working Through Emotional Trauma in Psychotherapy: Separating "Then" From "Now").

Integrative psychotherapy allows psychotherapists to combine the best aspects of different types of therapy to tailor the treatment plan to the needs of each client.

Combining psychotherapy and somatic mindfulness, which is a part of Somatic Experiencing, is an important aspect of integrative psychotherapy.  It allows clients, who have unresolved trauma, to begin the process of overcoming dissociation, especially dissociation which has caused a disconnection between the mind and the body.

This gentle approach to resolving trauma allows clients to work at their own pace in a safe way.

As clients re-establish a connection between the mind and the body, they are able to overcome traumatic events from the past.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been suffering with unresolved trauma, the past is still affecting you in the present.

An intellectual understanding of your trauma is usually not enough for you to overcome the negative impact of traumatic experiences, especially trauma that occurred in childhood.

Rather than suffering alone or continuing to feel frustrated by talk therapy, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who uses Integrative Psychotherapy so you can free yourself from your traumatic past (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who practices Integrative Psychotherapy.

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many clients to overcome their traumatic experiences.

I also work adjunctively with clients who want to maintain their relationship with their primary psychotherapist who doesn't practice Integrative Psychotherapy.

Using Integrative Psychotherapy, I work collaboratively with each client to develop the treatment plan that is best for his or her particular problems.

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.