Many of my clients have engaged in traditional “talk therapy” gaining insight into their emotional or relational blocks yet they continue to struggle with sustained change. Others have focused on using medication or behavioral strategies to create change only to find the symptom returns when life stressors overwhelm them. Most traditional therapy is referred to as “top down” or cognitive treatment and does not always get to the root of the issues.
My approach is Polyvagal-Informed which means that I understand the link between human relationships, of the defense system (fight, flight, freeze), and the sensory processing system and how these three systems interact with one another to establish a sense of safety in the body and mind. Somatic or “bottom-up” approaches to treatment are designed to target the source of the pain or symptom below cognitive awareness. By directly intervening in the limbic or sub-cortical (sensorimotor) areas of the brain, individuals are able to move through emotional pain or blocks, improve vagal tone, and engage the body’s innate capacity to heal.
Treatment modalities that I incorporate into my approach include:
- Somatic Experiencing (SE)
- This neuroscientifically-based approach to treatment works with interoception and proprioception to effect change in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, or our central stress response system. The HPA axis is an eloquent and every-dynamic intertwining of the central nervous system and endocrine system. The HPA axis is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation component of the stress response. With repeated exposure to stressors, the body habituates to the stressor with repeated and sustained HPA axis activation. SE works to support healthy cortisol levels in order to ensure the hypothalamus and pituitary glands maintain the appropriate level of sensitivity to the negative feedback of cortisol.
- Recognizing bodily sensations is a key aspect of Somatic Experiencing. When clients enter therapy they will start to learn more about their autonomic nervous system and the part it plays in anxiety, depression, sleep issues, digestive concerns, eating concerns, auto immune conditions, and overall health. My approach to SE involves touch, which most therapists avoid (The Taboo of Touch). Body-oriented therapies hold that therapeutic touch can be immensely helpful for many people, and SE therapists typically receive training in how to use therapeutic touch effectively and ethically.
For more information on Somatic Experiencing visit: http://traumahealing.org
Co-regulation through touch is part of healthy human development. Touch is a gentle and non-intrusive way to support regulation in the nervous system and facilitate mind/body connection. Touch supports grounding, boundary formation, development of safety, attends to attachment ruptures, and restores nervous system regulation. Polyvagal-Informed Touch reduces cortisol production and increases oxytocin. Untreated trauma that is pre-verbal is held in the implicit processes of the body. Co-regulation through touch provides tools to build resiliency and self-regulation when disturbances occurred in utero, at birth, or before age three.
Relational Bodywork and Somatic Education (BASE™)
BASE™ for trauma practitioners works directly with the body to allow change of dysregulation in the body tissues, organs, and structures. It recognizes the connection between touch and healthy development and considers how the body is part of our early template of the relational and bonding systems. Trauma providers trained in BASE™ touch skills facilitate the release of emotions in the physiology or work directly with stuck survival energy (fight, flight, freeze) that is held in the physiology so clients can move towards ease and freedom in the body.
Safe Sound Protocol
Formerly known as “The Listening Project Protocol”, SSP is based on more than 40 years of research investigating relationships between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes.
Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the originator of The Polyvagal Theory (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2007), SSP is an auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.
Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social- emotional processes. It is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music.
The music used in SSP trains the auditory pathways by focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. As your ANS learns to process these speech-related frequencies, it improves the functioning of cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall social behavior (i.e. the attachment system).
Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies.
Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.
The SSP is a research-based therapy showing significant results in the following areas:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory sensitivities
- Anxiety and trauma related challenges
- Depression and sense of disconnection
- Stressors that impact social engagement
- Improvement with functional medical issues such as IBS
SSP is not a stand alone therapy but is a platform for other types of treatment.
For more information visit ILS at https://integratedlistening.com/ssp-safe-sound-protocol/
I am the co-developer of a model of treatment called Embodied Recovery for Eating Disorders that draws from Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and Body-Mind Centering. I am a student of Body-Mind Centering studying with BMC faculty whenever I have time. Body-Mind Centering® (BMCSM) is an integrated and embodied approach to movement, the body, and consciousness. Developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, it is an experimental study based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical and developmental principles, utilizing movement, touch, voice and mind.
For more information on Body-Mind Centering visit: https://www.bodymindcentering.com/