Trauma Therapy: The Influence of Neuroscience
In the past few decades, neuroscience has reshaped the way we look at trauma therapy and PTSD. The focus has shifted away from the (external) life-threatening event to the (internal) impact that an event or an environment has on a person’s nervous system.
Neuroscience has shown that trauma has the greatest impact on our brain’s subcortical structures. The subcortical parts of the brain are more involved in our emotional, physiological and biological functioning. The cortex, on the other hand, is the part of the brain that is most responsible for cognition, language, and other executive functioning. This is why trauma symptoms manifest themselves so strongly at emotional-physiological level. Trauma therapy has followed suit. These days, trauma therapy focuses on helping people work with the physiological sensation that accompany their anxiety, overwhelm, numbness or irritability, rather than verbally processing trauma at the emotional or cognitive level.
Trauma Therapy focuses on the concept of “activation.” Traumatic activation is defined (in trauma therapy) as an increase in a person’s autonomic nervous system, creating a state of heightened alertness, anxiety, restlessness, intense or diminished concentration, irritability, respiratory/cardiac rhythm changes, overwhelm, numbness, dissociation, powerlessness or the inability to act.
When a person is experiencing traumatic activation, whether as a chronic state of tension, anxiety, overwhelm or dissociation, the brain creates a “lens” for how we see the world, making daily life feel more challenging, threatening, or hollow. What’s worse is that during a heightened peak state of activation (when something “triggers” us), the survival centers or the brain will “shut down” the neo frontal cortex making it very difficult to think clearly, let alone remember “the cognitive skills” we learned in talk therapy. Years of “talking about it” can feel like it hasn’t changed anything. This can leave us feeling frustrated and hopeless that there is nothing we can do and/or no one who can help.
Trauma therapy (that focuses on body sensations) is thus capable of helping clients work directly with the activation in their nervous system. Trauma therapy teaches them how to track and manage their nervous systems activation throughout the day. In session, trauma therapy allows clients to directly access and process the non-cognitive memories that are affecting their autonomic nervous system. This is what makes body-based trauma therapy so effective. It addresses the neurological root of the trauma in a way that talk therapy can’t.
My Trauma Therapy Training
I have trained in three types of body-mind trauma therapies: Brainspotting, Psychedelic Somatic Institute Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing and Regulation for Early Attachment Trauma.
Using these three modalities of trauma therapy, I am able to help you connect to the “body memory” of the trauma and guide you through the skills necessary to process these body memories in a way that will have a deep and lasting impact.
For a more detailed understanding of how trauma lives in the body and why trauma therapy needs to incorporate working with the body, please read “The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in Healing Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
What are the Common Emotional and Physiological Symptoms of Trauma?
- Respiratory Issues
- Heart Rate Issues
- Digestive Issues
- Sleep Cycle Issues
- Low Energy / Fatigue
- Appetite Issues
- Libido Issues
- Attention/Concentration Problems
- Struggle with Motivation
- Quality of Thought Problems
- Hypervigilance and Hypovigilance
Trauma Therapy: Self-Assessment Questionnaire
For your convenience, I have available a Trauma Symptom Survey which will allow you to assess yourself for the possible symptoms of trauma.
(click icon to view)
It can be useful to take the survey before starting trauma therapy,
and then retaking it a few months later as a way of monitoring your progress.
Get In Touch