Why Is Your Body So Important In Trauma Treatment?

For many years, it has been known amongst Trauma Practitioners that the body plays an important role in trauma.

For decades, the mind and emotions were focused on as the areas where trauma impacted. But research over the past decades has changed that.

Somatic Therapy

Somatic Therapy, as practiced by therapists such as Pat Ogden is one area of work in the way we hold our bodies as having an impact on our mood as well as holding uncompleted defensive actions from our past.

Peter Levine, with his breakthrough book “Waking the Tiger” works to release trauma from the body where it is trapped in incomplete movements.

Bessel van der Kolk, with his book “The Body Keeps the Score” is another who has presented the evidence that trauma is stored in the body.

The Impact Of Your Body Posture On Your Mood.

More recent research has shown that your posture and the way you hold your body has a major impact on how you feel and how shifts in posture can release stress.

Big expansive poses such as the so-called power poses are empowering and stress relieving. Power poses include standing with your arms outstretched or on your hips, or sitting with your arms outstretched and leaning back.

The opposite of these poses, ones that trap stress hormones in the body include any posture where you hold yourself as small as possible. These include hunching forward and crossing your arms and legs slumping with your shoulders hunched forward and your head hanging down.

Body Poses That Empower

Poses that open up your vulnerable front, such as the power poses empower you whereas poses that close up your vulnerable front, disempower you.

Bessel van der Kolk often mentions in his lectures the impact of taking a person who is sitting slumped in front of him and directing them to sit up and pull their shoulders back. He reports that the person’s mood immediately lifts.

It is worth remembering the importance of posture when you are feeling stressed, or nervous about meeting certain people. Stand up, pull your shoulders back, gaze ahead, don’t look down. You will find your ability to remain calm will increase and your mood will improve.

Trauma Stuck In The Body Needs To Be Released

As for trauma stored in your body. That trauma needs to be released. I mentioned earlier how Pat Ogden and Peter Levine work with completing uncompleted defensive actions from the past. This is very helpful. I use this approach often when working with people. Being able to complete defensive actions that were not able to be used when the original trauma happened is very powerful.

It is also helpful to adopt practices to help you release the trauma. There are many different practices, although the one most often used is Yoga, which is a particularly well-known approach and there are Yoga practitioners who work with releasing trauma. Movement therapy can also be helpful.

Mindfulness can be used to feel into parts of the body and work with the movements those parts need to complete as well as the trauma those parts need to release.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with releasing trauma from your body, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: https://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

There is more to therapy than CBT – and the alternatives can work better

If you go to see a psychologist, it is likely you will encounter a form of therapy called CBT or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It has become the favoured approach with the medical model framework for mental health therapy. The reason for this is that it is easy to measure outcomes, so researchers can easily report on effectiveness so therefore there has been a lot of research about it.

According to CBT it is believed we develop Schemas, which are faulty patterns of belief. This in itself is not wrong. But I have observed CBT over the years, including visiting a psychologist to experience for myself CBT.

Personal experiences of CBT

What I experienced personally, and what people who come to see me report is that CBT is shaming. You have faulty thinking, therefore you are the one who is wrong. When CBT doesn’t work it is your failure.

My experience and that of people who come to see me is that there is never a focus on acknowledging a person’s pain. Instead the focus is on faulty thinking.

When I went to try CBT for myself, I had a fairly minor issue to deal with. By the time I walked out on the therapy after an experience where the psychologist failed to listen to me and made an incorrect and denigrating assumption, I was in a worse state than when I started. The psychologist was an extremely experienced psychologist so inexperience was not the reason she breached ethical standards and caused harm to a client.

Being left feeling defective because CBT doesn’t work for you

I have had numerous clients who came to me feeling very defective because CBT had failed to address their problems that had trauma at their root. They all reported the same thing – that they were given rigid exercises to repeat every day. It reminded me of joining a direct selling group when in my 20s. We were expected to attend weekly meetings and engage in online activities in between. All this to keep us in the mindset of what we were doing. As soon as I stopped going to meetings the impact of the meetings fell away.

Neuroscience has shown the problems of trauma are far deeper than CBT can address. CBT is a frontal lobe “top down” therapy.

However trauma is stored lower down in the brain and when activated the frontal lobe goes off line. Therapy that addresses the “bottom up” approach is more effective in these cases.

What is the bottom up approach?

Memories involve your entire body and all your senses. You don’t just have a narrative of a memory. You have vision of the memory. You have sound of the memory. You have smells of the memory. You have taste of the memory. You have sensations in your body of the memory. These aspects of memory are often overlooked but give vital clues to trauma memories where the narrative of the memory is not always accessible.

Your brain reacts to trauma memories in your subconscious. Your body sends signals to the brain that are contained in a trauma memory and you react without even being aware a trauma memory has been identified.

All of this is below your conscious control.

What does the bottom up approach involve?

The bottom up approach involves working with the memories in the body. It involves identifying body sensations and learning to be mindful (aware) of body sensations so that you can work with them. It involves a therapist being careful to only work with sensations in a safe way that does not send you into a terrifying reliving of the trauma memory.

The place of CBT in therapy

CBT has its place towards the end of therapy in helping people to restructure thought patterns once the bottom healing has taken place.

But CBT cannot replace the necessary healing of the subconscious.

I can teach you new ways of understanding your moods and give you exercises to achieve this, but when the triggers to past trauma happen, deep in the unconscious, the frontal lobe (your thinking brain) goes offline and all the exercises in the world are completely ineffective.

The need to develop and heal the subconscious brain

CBT cannot develop the subconscious parts of the brain. It works on the assumption that adult emotional problems are failures in thinking and reasoning. It works on the assumption that it is your misconceptions of events that is the key to your emotional upsets, not the emotional upset itself. But this is not true.

Most adult emotional problems have their roots in childhood trauma. And that does not respond to the rational approach of CBT. You cannot reason your way out of trauma. If you could you would not need counselling.

An example of a person’s needs not being recognised

One example I learned about when studying CBT at university was about a student who was depressed at failing a university exam. The therapist asked him why failing was so depressing, and he stated it was because he would never get into law school. This means he was not smart enough and could never be happy.

The therapist concluded that it was failing the test that made him unhappy. But that is not true. It was the belief he could never be happy that was the problem. However, the therapist concluded the student’s problem was an error in reasoning. It is after all illogical to think that failing to get into a course you wanted to do was cause for depression.
So therefore the student was expected to correct this faulty thinking.
There was no exploration of why the student believed not getting into the course he wanted was so important. There was just the assumption that the student was not thinking logically.

Being stuck in the idea mental health problems are due to faulty thinking

Although CBT has expanded to include mindfulness and acceptance of feelings in its treatments, it still has as its foundation the assumption that mental health disorders are problems of thinking and the answer is to teach people to think more rationally.

If only it were that easy!

No amount of work on your conscious thinking patterns will heal trauma and subconscious trauma responses.

When CBT fails to help the person they are perceived by themselves and their therapist as defective. In short they are shamed.

Why is CBT so popular?

CBT is popular with governments and insurers because it is “rapid” and can be completed in 5-12 sessions. Ideal for Mental Health Care Plans. The trouble is it only works in that time frame for minor issues. It does not work on trauma.

Any other form of therapy becomes expensive to do. Trauma informed therapy takes a long time and is irreplaceable by CBT.

But therapy costs so much.

To put trauma therapy cost into perspective, it is more cost effective to engage from the outset with a trauma trained therapist and not waste your time and money on CBT. It is very attractive to think you can just go to someone for 5 sessions and learn to say things by rote and all will be fixed but it is not reality.

Not all mental health problems are problems with thinking and they do not require cognitive restructuring to fix them. Trauma is not a problem of viewing reality in a faulty way. It is a problem of intrusive memories that won’t go away because they are stuck in your subconscious.

So think carefully about who you want to see. Find out what form of therapy they use. Do they use a bottom up approach? Are they trauma trained? Do they have experience working effectively with trauma? Are they prepared to listen to you with openness, rather than with the agenda of identifying your faulty thinking?

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz