This month I attended a training called Transforming the Experiential Brain taught by a man named Stephen Terrell. It was a great experience. The principles behind transforming the brain have to deal with determining basic survival patterns from childhood, especially if your particular experience is rooted in developmental trauma. This kind of trauma arises out of the earliest period of our life, before language comes online. It is a preverbal time starting in utero until about the age of 2. These trauma patterns include many from the prenatal and perinatal period, like stress during pregnancy, chemicals or toxins in utero, loss during pregnancy or during the year of life, disrupted attachment and bonding, difficult births, separations, and more. All this language was familiar to me because of the nearly 2 decades I have studied prenatal and perinatal somatic psychology but his approach was different. He works with people as they lie therapeutic tables (like massage tables) with distinct still holds on the body with his hands. The holds support the stress response, especially the kidney/adrenals and their role managing cortisol and fear. It was very comforting to have knowledgeable people in the training complete these holds on the body. After each exchange, I felt great, more whole, with greater coherence and connection.
I first learned about somatic trauma healing when I began studying prenatal and perinatal patterns 20 years ago. There were no books about trauma back then that were easily accessible to the lay person like there are now. Bessel Van Der Kolk has put trauma on the map with his book, The Body Keeps the Score. Before him, there was The Body Bears the Burden by Robert Scaer. There were inklings of somatic implicit (or bodily-felt) memory in the body psychotherapy realm. These practices were based on the early pioneers like Wilhelm Reich and practitioners like Alexander Lowen or Moshe Feldenkrais. My first exposure was in 1996 the work of Candance Pert at the National Institutes of Health and her book, Molecules of Emotion. We knew that the body carried emotional experiences. These practices were considered alternative health practices, and understanding memories and patterns of feelings that come from how we learned as babies in utero, during birth and afterwards were definitely far out for many people. Since then, we know that attachment and bonding are bio-psycho-social-spiritual experiences that lay the groundwork for human health. We understand that experience lays down neural networks in the brain and body, and these are coupled with emotions, thoughts, feelings, and perception. We began to more fully understand the brain and the nervous system. Trauma healing practitioners like Stephen Terrell and myself explore the realms of safety and survival. The polyvagal theory was discovered, revealing how we develop through layers of nervous system function and responses to threat. Our human face, voice, and heart and how we use them to connect with others is vital to our health.
Learning Somatic Trauma Healing has been such a journey. A memory of birth trauma from a client in 1999 propelled me down the path of understanding the baby's experience. Since then, I have spent many years studying prenatal and perinatal trauma and somatic healing. Learning Somatic Experiencing® was a pure delight. It gave me verbal skills so my clients could further integrate their experiences. The practitioner skills of John and Anna Chitty, plus a deep understanding of relationship or self and co-regulation are the ground for my work in Somatic Trauma healing. The skills of touch, presence, awareness and relationship are also in the work by Stephen Terrell and Kathy Kain. (See this interview with Kathy about the new book she has written on resilience with Stephen Terrell.) The awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma Informed Care are helping support somatic healing. Films such as Resilience say, the body remembers.
The bodywork at Belvedere Integrated Healing Arts encompasses the somatic trauma healing approach. I wish I had access to these kinds of healing when I started out on my healing path when, at the age of 25, I was debilitated by illness and panic attacks. We have so much more knowledge now about how to help people. Sessions explore early patterns and the sense of safety and survival, and how to find more resilience and peace in the present time.
If you feel that you have patterns of experience, behavior and adaptive responses to early trauma, book a session. Engage in your awareness, because healing wants to happen, and your body will lead you.