Trauma Counseling +
Using the Body for Nervous System
Are you struggling with symptoms related to trauma? Do you find yourself avoiding certain situations because they seem dangerous? Do you struggle with emotions taking over and becoming out of control? Or is it a challenge to feel emotions at all? Do you feel highly charged and anxious often? Or perhaps you feel numb and depressed? Do you view yourself negatively, perhaps with a lot of shame and guilt? Are relationships in any form unnerving? Maybe you are wondering about developmental trauma, or have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or complex PTSD and are exploring different forms of treatment?
Trauma can be at the root of many unwanted symptoms. It can bar us from intimate contact with ourselves and others. It often takes over our life, or makes certain parts of it unbearable. If you are seeking out ways to work with it, I whole-heartedly salute you.
Trauma has become quite the buzzword these last few years. While it may be used flippantly all too often, it is nonetheless good to talk about. But what is trauma, exactly?
In the Nervous System, Not in the Event
One common misconception is that trauma is the car crash, slip and fall, breakup, or sexual assault. Actually, any one of these may be a traumatic event, but trauma is the nervous system damage left over. It is the way our nervous system stays stuck on, creating all sorts of challenges.
In the face of any threat, our nervous system produces a high state of readiness in order to facilitate fighting or fleeing. But when these forms of protection are of no use, or are socially unacceptable, our body holds onto that highly charged state because the vast amounts of energy prepared for defense have not been released. This highly charged state becomes stuck, and can cause a lot of problems: both physical and psychological. (To read more about the need for using the body in trauma therapy, see Why Somatic Psychotherapy?.) Renowned trauma expert Dr. Peter Levine once referred to trauma as “being all dressed up with nowhere to go."
How Can Somatic Experiencing Help?
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is the main type of trauma therapy I practice. It is a body awareness-based form of trauma work that intentionally moves slowly, works with body sensations, and embraces nervous system healing as its first priority. Its main goal is to help you release unfinished energies and emotions from traumatic events.
This type of therapy might, at first, seem different than other talk therapies you have done in the past. But what makes it different is also what makes it helpful.
In our sessions, we will work to:
Notice bodily sensations and symptoms
Establish a sense of personal safety
Use relaxation techniques
Feel emotions without becoming overwhelmed
Release pent-up energy
You Do Not Have to Relive Your Trauma
For some, telling the story of their trauma needs to happen, but many of us who have lived through challenging times begin to dread retelling the story over and over. In our work together, you do NOT have to relive your trauma in order to heal it. Because the trauma is in the body, we can rework it by attending to bodily sensations, breathing, and emotion. This means we learn to listen to our body’s response to our thoughts and feelings in service of a less-taxed nervous system.
In trauma therapy, you are allowed to feel angry, hopeless, out of control, and any other intense feelings that come with the pain you are dealing with. And it is possible to do so without becoming overwhelmed. Over time, somatic therapy can help you learn to feel small pieces of the trauma at a time, thus making it more manageable.
You Don't Have to Go It Alone
In my trauma counseling, we will work together. All too often, our trauma was not only a result of feeling helpless in the face of danger, but also from no one being there to help us. Or, in the worst cases, the ones we relied upon for protection were actually the threat (to read more about trauma that comes from childhood, see Developmental Trauma vs PTSD.) In this sense, it is important for you to know that I will work to make this process as gentle and effective as possible for you.
And in our work together, you may find that trauma does not endure forever.
Chris Cannon, MA, CAS
Chris holds a master's degree in Mindfulness-Based Clinical Counseling and is a Certified Addiction Specialist in Colorado. He is also formally trained in Somatic Experiencing and attachment theory. He enjoys digging for records, hiking, and watching Little Women, over and over.