Somatic Trauma Resolution (STR) is a therapeutic approach that engages the body along with the brain to resolve trauma events. It goes further than talking about traumatic or stressful life events. It is about releasing the trauma energy that has gotten trapped in the nervous system and restoring healthy energy flow throughout the body.
Here is a bit of the scientific base for STR. Somatic work taps into the instinctual (lizard) part of the brain where trauma events get stuck. By allowing awareness of and tracking sensation in the body, clients are able to heal to the point of being able to think of or talk about the event as a part of their past. They also are so relieved to not be triggered on numerous occasions throughout their day and because of this, they report increased energy and a more positive outlook on life.
Because we have a more evolved, thinking brain, we frequently try to ‘think’ our way through trauma and stress, ignoring the body and the signals it gives us. And in the Western culture, we are often not as comfortable listening to our bodies and allowing it to show us what it needs for resolution (shaking, trembling, stomping, etc.)
I will be posting more about the function of STR on my website and blog posts so check back from time to time. I want to continue with the three basic principles of STR, giving examples from my practice with clients to reinforce each principle. I hope it helps bring clarity to the practice of STR.
1. STR brings the body on board so that greater healing can happen
A key difference between STR and traditional ‘talk’ therapy is that it is not important in STR to retell the event. Frequently we go to sensation and track that, rather than retelling the story. When the sensation has been explored, it is then easier for a client to recount the experience.
- A child tells about a lock down at school that day. I ask her how her body felt during that time. She responds with “I don’t know” as her feet move back and forth. When I ask what her feet want to do she responds with ‘run.’ We stand together and run in place until she stops running. When asked if she needs to run some more, she responds ‘no, it’s all out.’ She has gone through the process of letting her body complete what it didn’t have the chance to do during the lock down. By allowing her feet to run she was able to complete this process thus releasing any trapped energy that was still in her nervous system.
- After doing some boundary work in a session, a teenager was so excited and kept repeating, “I can feel my stomach.” He had had surgery in the abdomen area about a year before this session.
2. STR helps you build and use resources that are unique for you
A goal of STR is to help the client find resources that they will use and that work for them. Often resources become evident through the work the client does. Learning to breathe deeply and often is a resource that I remind clients of many times. Resources become valuable as a client recognizes triggers early on so they can help themselves make different choices.
- A first grade child who got angry quickly noticed that his fists were clenched at recess one day. Once he noticed that, he took a deep breath and slowly unclenched his fists and decided to go do something else with another child.
- A client who had spent a great deal of time in traditional therapy told me one day that she had always been given ‘homework’ to do but never would do it. The suggestions given at the STR session were so much easier for her to remember and to practice.
3. STR helps you establish healthy boundaries
Resolving trauma involves recognizing boundary breaches and re-establishing healthy ones, which leads to greater resiliency in facing difficult situations.
- By slowly going back through a ‘pushing in line’ incident at school, a young girl was able to imagine turning and putting her hands up to the person behind her so they could see that she didn’t want to be pushed.
- When a disturbing image came up for a client, she was able to work through it gradually by imagining that she became a robot, setting boundaries around her ‘younger self’ and finding the resolution she needed. She now recalls that she can tell this story to others without crying.
So why STR? It heals more deeply, it’s good for all ages, it restores balance in the nervous system and it engages brain and body working together for healing. I welcome your feedback, responses and questions.