Trauma/Somatic Experiencing

 

Ron Balamuth

The past decade has seen Trauma – an experience that by its very nature is abrupt, unexpected, and intensely distressing to the individual – take center stage in clinical theory and in treatment of many emotional and somatic symptoms. Trauma by its very nature has overwhelmed the individual’s nervous system and has profoundly altered the victim’s way of existing in the world. While we often refer to overwhelming events such as car crashes, sexual abuse, domestic violence and such as traumatogenic, they do not need to be so clearly defined nor observable. We are finding out that the traumatic impact is not exclusively dependent on the event itself, as we used to think. Evidence from research shows that events that were shared by numerous victims are not traumatogenic to everyone. Other factors such as previous exposures to trauma, neurological resilience or vulnerability, and the degree of social support, validation, and containment of the victim following the trauma may determine whether an otherwise traumatic event will end up debilitating and compromising the person.

In the past several years I have found out that many patients, even if they have entered treatment to address relationships issues or other difficulties in love and work, have experienced overwhelming moments in their lives when they felt profoundly unsafe and have had great difficulty placing these experiences in the past and feeling safe in the present – that the “worst is over” and that they have survived. I have found out that my extensive training in Somatic Experiencing, and my long years of mindfulness practice and body based approaches to healing have been central to my work with patients. 
Nowhere is the unity of mind and body more evident than in the current neuroscience of trauma. Somatic Experiencing, a body-based method of healing trauma, was developed by Dr. Peter Levine and is based on the discovery of somatic sequelae of traumatic experiences. In my work with trauma, as in the other areas of my work, my primary interest lies within the client’s resources. Trauma, by its unpredictable and overwhelming nature, fragments awareness of body, mind, and emotions. In my work with clients who have experienced trauma, my first goal is to establish a safe setting where there is no risk of retraumatization and exacerbation of PTSD symptoms.

It is always inspiring and life-affirming to discover that even the most horrendous trauma can be healed if and when the body, the mind, and the feeling can be re-integrated in a safe environment. Recovery from trauma is essentially self-healing for the client,  where my role is to facilitate and help mobilize the client’s untapped resources and innate intelligence that have become inaccessible because of the trauma. I find that trauma healing work through Somatic Experiencing is often profoundly transformative for both the patient and therapist.