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Altru Health

Trauma counselling and somatic practices

When you’ve been through a frightening or distressing situation, you may experience a particular type of psychological harm known as trauma – and that can affect your ability to function normally.

What is trauma?

Traumatic events are ones where you feel under serious threat. They may include:

  • Violence – armed robbery, war, terrorism
  • Natural disasters – bushfires, earthquakes, floods
  • Serious accidents
  • Life-threatening illness or injury
  • Personal trauma – domestic violence, child abuse, rape
  • Traumatic grief – suicide or other sudden death of a loved one
  • Second-hand trauma – when someone you care about is involved in a traumatic event.

What are the symptoms of trauma?

Trauma symptoms can affect your body, mind, behaviour or feelings.

Trauma symptoms
Physical Cognitive Behavioural Emotional
  • On high alert all the time
  • Easily startled
  • Exhaustion
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Disturbing memories and images of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Poor concentration
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Avoiding places or activities that remind you of what happened
  • Withdrawal and social isolation
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Fear
  • Numbness
  • Detachment
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic

 

No two people respond the same way to a traumatic situation. Some people find that their symptoms gradually subside over a few weeks while others find that their life is disrupted for much longer.

For some people, though, trauma may trigger more serious conditions such as

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety conditions
  • A reliance on alcohol or other drugs.

Your response is influenced by many different factors including the event itself, your personality and coping mechanisms, your support system and other sources of stress in your life.

What is somatic therapy and how can it help trauma recovery?

‘Soma’ is a Greek word for the body, as distinct from the psyche (the mind).

The mind and body are closely connected. Let’s say you have some pent-up anger as a result of your trauma. That’s probably seeping out into many aspects of your life, affecting your relationships or job security. Teaching you some anger management skills could help – but only a little bit. You need support to release the pent-up anger so you can move forward.

Traditional approaches such as counselling and psychological therapy focus on the mind. You’re encouraged to talk, to become aware of disturbing thoughts, to identify patterns of behaviour and to work on changing them.

In contrast, somatic therapy starts with the body. You’re encouraged to become aware of your body’s sensations and learn to feel safe in it. From there, you can start to explore your feelings, thoughts and memories.

The idea is to bring the mind and body together using a range of therapeutic approaches such as:

  • Body awareness: Tuning into your body and identifying areas of tension, discomfort or numbness.
  • Releasing tension: Through breathwork, gentle movement or body-based mindfulness techniques
  • Resourcing: Identifying what makes you feel calm and safe, such as certain people or places
  • Pendulation: Guiding you from a relaxed state to feelings similar to the ones you experienced in your trauma then helping you relax again
  • Titration: Guiding you through a traumatic memory, noting the accompanying physical sensations and addressing them right there.

There are many other tools, including acupressure, hypnosis or even dance.

How does somatic therapy help trauma survivors?

Somatic therapy can give you a sense of agency in your healing process and help you regain a feeling of control over your body and emotions.

This is significant since trauma often involves situations where you’ve been deprived of control. Recovering that can be quite empowering.

As already noted, the mind and body are intertwined. A comprehensive trauma recovery plan needs to address both aspects.

Somatic therapy is a body-based treatment that aims to help you release pent-up emotions that are keeping you ‘stuck’. It complements mind-based therapies like counselling and meditation.

How can Altru Health help?

At Altru Health, we focus on a holistic approach to recovery. Our practice incorporates counselling, somatic therapy and wellness practices  such as yoga.

Best of all, we provide it all through telehealth. It’s easy and accessible, saving you the trouble of trekking across town to your appointments. It also means you can access our services no matter where you are.

We can’t change what’s happened to you. But we can help you change what comes next and help you move forward with confidence in who you are.

 

References

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Disclaimer

All information is general and not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

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