Pain is an interesting signal. It is here to help us pay attention. Sometimes our signals get crossed. We find pain in situations that are not physical, yet feel physically painful – the broken heart, gut response, or goosebumps rising. Physical and emotional pain run on the same circuits and there are a variety of options for treating it. Use your mind to help your body. Seek psychological treatment for chronic pain states.
Thank you to UWS Counseling Students for a great evening of exploration regarding the mental health field. In this post I also outline and more in-depth explanation of treating and healing from early trauma. A list of somatic psychology resources is also included.
Thank you for letting me come speak about our profession! I enjoyed the exploration and interest areas. There are some many possibilities and avenues for careers in behavioral health. I am grateful to be able to share my experience and hope for the next generation of LPCs. I wish you well, and please feel free to contact me if more questions/thoughts arise.
As I reflected on the questions I believe I didn’t answer the question about early trauma fully – to heal from psychological trauma we do not need the story/details of the event. Trauma happens in the body, even when it is verbal in nature, the physiology of the fear disrupts the endocrine system and dysregulates the brain processes. As a result we see dysfunctional behaviors and coping skills. To treat this we can use a number of therapies that target body sensations, as early trauma is stored in brain centers as sensations – not as words/symbols. We can then use the body sensations to track and allow neuropathways to develop while using the present moment therapist to client regulation. This allows the person to process through the trauma in the brain via the body with safety, then make meaning of the event(s) using words, art, music, etc. I tend to use somatic therapies most of the time along with cognitive work to help make meaning and keep the process moving – help clients understand what’s happening when that’s what’s needed for safety. And Dialectical Behavior Therapy to teach regulations skills prior to trauma protocols. Many somatic modalities teach them along the way, however some struggle with the mindfulness and/or aren’t used to being in the body, tracking sensation for long periods of time. Cognitive work can help balance the fears and safety while building endurance.
Some resources for the somatic work:
- USABP – United States Association for Body Psychotherapies
- SE – Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levin has a good book on trauma in the body
- Hakomi – Hakomi Institute
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – check out Pat Ogden’s book on trauma and the body
- EMDRIA – Eye movement densitization and reprocessing therapy main association website.
The body holds many truths. When we tune into the body we can tap into our personal wisdom, get our own message, and lead a more fulfilling life.The body houses a lot of information and experts tout it doesn’t lie. For many we spend most of our time in “our heads”. We think, and we think, and we think. We try to reason, rationalize, justify using our thoughts.
Our minds work really fast. They are very efficient and keep us busy. Our bodies on the other hand move at a slower pace and don’t hold our attention as well unless we’ve got a pain or problem and then we become consumed with the problem which doesn’t move us forward either.
By slowing down we are better able to tap the wisdom of the body and get information about what we want, need, and desire. My experience has been the body knows. The body knows and it is honest, sometimes painfully so. But by tapping into that knowledge I make better decisions because I have true knowledge about what I want or need in that moment. By tapping into the knowledge housed in my body I have been poised to make better decisions about my life, my work, my daily activities and my life is fuller and more joyous because of this gift.
Try it Today:
To begin carve out quiet space. Begin by breathing – just noticing the breath. Feel the breath going in and out, how your breath feels in your body as it goes in and out. Once you have gotten calm, ask the questions:
What do I notice about my body? (sensations, feelings, tightness, space, etc – describe it)
How do I feel about that? (Is there an emotion tied to that feeling? Can I name it? What do I notice about that emotion/feeling?)
What does this body feeling have to tell me right now?
See what arises. Notice and stay focused on your body and breath. What seems clear to you now? Just notice what information comes up for you.
If you find your attention wandering, gently bring it back to your breath and begin where you left off. This is a practice – be patient with yourself. The work is in practicing not in achieving results.
**If you find feelings, emotions, etc too strong it may be a good idea to seek a professional to help you process them.**