Frequently Asked Questions
What is Polyvagal Theory Practice and Why Regulation of the Nervous System is Crucial for Trauma Recovery?
Everyday living is a complex experience of autonomic nervous system. Polyvagal Theory developed by dr. Stephen Porges explains how and why trauma clients move through a continuous cycle of mobilization, disconnection and teach how they can move back to regulation, safety and engagement.
Trauma, which might be thought of as “what happens to a person where there is either too much too soon, too much for too long, or not enough for too long”, creates an autonomic demand that shapes the system away from connection toward protection. The autonomic nervous system responds moment to moment to what are often competing needs to survive and to be social. In a state of protection, survival is the only goal. The system is closed to connection and change. In a state of connection, health, growth, and restoration are possible. Polyvagal Theory therapists are working exactly on co-regulation of your nervous system so client can restore sense of safety and stability in the client body and mind.
The greatest thing then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally as opposed to our enemy.
When family dynamics are based in experiences of autonomic misattunement, there is little chance for experiences of repair. When the adults in a family carry their own patterns of dysregulation, habitually triggered into states of protection and unable to return to regu- lation and offer the safety of connection, the child’s autonomic nervous system responds by creating its own patterns of pro- tection. “Without the experience of an organizing other, the nervous system is stunned” (Fisher, 2014). Without interven- tion, a legacy of dysregulated autonomic organization is passed from one generation to the next.
Trauma survivors often suffer from unpredictable, rapid, intense, and prolonged states of dysregulation. This auto- nomic imbalance and lack of flexibility leads to health prob- lems. Physical problems include impaired immune function, digestive problems, respiratory problems, diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and chronic fatigue, etc.
In addition to physiology, psychol- ogy is impacted. Social isolation and loneliness, a vigilance for angry faces, distraction from tasks, inability to discern meaningful cues from trivial ones, and increased depression and anxiety are some of the consequences of an out-of-balance autonomic nervous system.
The hopeful news for people living with PTSD and trauma is that since the autonomic nervous system learns from experience, ongoing experiences can reshape the system. Habitual response patterns can be interrupted and new patterns can be created. Autonomic flexibility is a hard-won outcome of therapy as clients discover their autonomic vulnerabilities and together look toward resourcing autonomic resilience.
In Polyvagal Theory informed practice we are regulating dorsal vagal and sympathetic nervous system and activating ventral vagal part of your nervous system.
Think about dorsal vagal state as state where you feel numb, without energy, state of freeze. Sympathetic state is a state of flight or fight. State where we feel anger, rage, or we are always people pleasing and accommodating others without seeing our needs and our boundaries. And ventral vagal state is a state of safety, connection, clarity and purpose.
The ability to return to regulation is the essence of resilience and this is what you will learn in a sessions. When you establish and resource pathways to ventral vagal regulation, you recover your innate abilities for resilience. The ventral vagus connects with the heart’s pacemaker—the sinoatrial node—that regulates the rhythms of the heart. This pathway has been named the vagal brake because it describes the actions of the ventral vagus to slow down or speed up the heart, supporting a flexible response to the challenges of every- day living. A well-functioning vagal brake brings the ability to rapidly engage and disengage, energize and calm, and experience ease in making these transitions. With a flexible vagal brake, you can reflect and respond rather than react.
Resources: Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection: 50 Client-Centered Practices Copyright © 2020 by Deb Dana, Dr. Stephen Porges Polyvagal Theory, Grippo, Lamb, Carter, & Porges
What is Dr. Peter Levine The Somatic Experiencing® method?
The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE™ approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. SCHEDULE A SESSION
THE SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® APPROACH
Offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states.
Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.
HOW IT WORKS
The Somatic Experiencing® approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
In Somatic Experiencing®, the traumatic event isn’t what caused the trauma, it is the overwhelmed response to the perceived life threat that is causing an unbalanced nervous system. Our aim is to help you access the body memory of the event, not the story. So we don’t discuss what happens if you don’t want to.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SESSION
The SE trauma resolution method does not require the traumatized person to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event. Instead, it offers the opportunity to engage, complete, and resolve—in a slow and supported way—the body’s instinctual fight, flight and freeze responses. This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life. The SE Practitioner offers an environment of impartial and compassionate support to facilitate the release of trauma throughout your body.
WHAT KIND OF TRAUMAS CAN SE® TREAT?
As an SE practitioners, I can successfully work with developmental traumas (such as childhood neglect and abuse and ongoing medical and/or physical issues) and with shock traumas (such as motor vehicle accidents, assaults, operations, and falls)
SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® (SE) psychobiological trauma resolution works with all ages of individuals who have experienced shock or developmental trauma.
HOW LONG DOES SE® TAKE?
The length of time and number of sessions will depend on several factors, including the severity and duration of the trauma(s) and the degree to which the trauma has affected the individual’s nervous system. A conversation with me in the initial session may be helpful in providing this kind of information.
BENEFITS OF SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® SESSIONS
One of the main benefits of Somatic Experiencing is its use in the relief of physical and emotional symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), such as anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, eating problems, numbness, and chronic pain. Although empirical support is limited, a few studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this approach in treating PTSD symptoms among survivors of natural disasters. Somatic Experiencing has also been applied with success to the treatment of various forms of addiction.
Clients who receive this form of treatment often report less tension, irritability, and anger, as well as a greater sense of ease and balance. Since improvements are said to be possible in just one session, this treatment can be particularly useful in situations where a brief form of treatment is needed, such as in emergency situations. Somatic Experiencing is also considered a safe method of treatment since the individual is not re-traumatized during the process. Although traumatic memories are triggered, they are approached indirectly and gradually so arousal remains at a manageable level.
An additional advantage of Somatic Experiencing is the way it can help individuals develop their capacity to self-regulate. Many people find it possible to learn, through somatic experiencing, how to shift quickly and easily out of negative emotional states and how to calm themselves when faced with stressful situations. Anyone wishing to increase their sense of resilience and empowerment may find this mode of treatment to be beneficial.
What is Dr. Gabor Mate The Compassionate Inquiry method?
What Is Compassionate Inquiry?
Compassionate Inquiry is a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Dr. Gabor Maté that reveals what lies beneath the appearance we present to the world.
Using Compassionate Inquiry, both the individual and therapist unveil the level of consciousness, mental climate, hidden assumptions, implicit memories and body states that form the real message that words both express and conceal.
Through Compassionate Inquiry, the client can recognize the unconscious dynamics that run their lives and how to liberate themselves from them.
“The purpose of Compassionate Inquiry is to drill down to the core stories people tell themselves – to get them to see what story they are telling themselves unconsciously; what those beliefs are, where they came from; and guide them to the possibility of letting go of those stories, or letting go of the hold those stories have on them …
That’s what Compassionate Inquiry is.”
~ Dr. Gabor Maté
To practice the Compassionate Inquiry approach, developed by Dr. Gabor Maté, so that individuals can connect to the truth within themselves in the present moment, become free from self-generated suffering, and gain insight, clarity and choice in their behaviour.
To bring compassion, respect, acceptance, insight, healing, freedom and connection to humanity through an international community of skillful Compassionate Inquiry practitioners.
About Dr. Gabor Maté
Dr. Gabor Maté is a retired physician who, after 20 years of family practice and palliative care experience, worked for over a decade in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side with patients challenged by drug addiction and mental illness. The bestselling author of four books published in twenty-five languages, Gabor is an internationally renowned speaker highly sought after for his expertise on addiction, trauma, childhood development, and the relationship of stress and illness. His book on addiction received the Hubert Evans Prize for literary non-fiction.
For his groundbreaking medical work and writing he has been awarded the Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian distinction, and the Civic Merit Award from his hometown, Vancouver. His books include In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction; When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress; Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder; and (with Gordon Neufeld) Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. To learn more, join his enews list at www.drgabormate.com.
What is Conscious Healing and Embodied Trauma Recovery?
Conscious Healing and Embodied recovery means teaching your self to bring more awareness in your daily life and healing your trauma in a conscious, self-compassion, and self-kind way and building emotional body resilience for any future challenges. It has been in practice for thousand of years in many cultures and finally we are brining more of this movement to Western Medicine as well.
For example, embodiment and Conscious Healing is slowly getting in touch with what is happening in the body, with what physical sensation is felt, how do they relate to specific action or triggers – all is an exercise of exploration and curiosity. And we will repeat this exercise many times so you can resculpt and train your brain not go to the autopilot of fear, panic, and pain when triggers and flashbacks occur. This way, you will learn to also heal your body from many symptoms you might have: insomnia, back pain, migraines, asthma, IBS, hormonal disbalance, to name a few.
Everything we do gets framed as an exercise in curiosity and exploration, and that is bringing more awareness. This way, you will learn to heal your trauma and trauma symptoms for good and be prepared to start living without fear: no quick fixes, no medications. You were holding trauma for years in your body, and you will release it in a slow, steady, and nurturing mindful way out.
3 Critical Insights you MUST know either we work together or not
Before you leave my website , three critical insights I want you to have and learn from me today.
Psychoeducation is a key, and I want to help you disrupt these painful patterns and begin to understand how a traumatized mind often makes traumatized choices. So, take this in:
Violation of human rights. It is against the law to hurt and harm someone. Including emotional, verbal abuse, and neglect. It is against the law, and someone did violate your human rights.
If the mind of the person who hurt you hadn’t existed, you wouldn’t be hurt and harm in this way. It is NOT about you.
Traumatized minds make traumatized choices and traumatized patterns. You can not beat yourself up for repeated bad choices.
If you are trapped in a cycle of self-blame, shame, beating yourself up for what you perceive to be wrong thoughts, wrong decisions, and wrong relationships, please remember what I wrote above.
Call or text me when you are ready to heal and recover, and in the meantime, please be gentle with yourself.
Oppressed individuals and groups I work with
I work with Complex PTSD, narcissistic abuse survivors, and emotional trauma survivors, including childhood neglect, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse and assault.
Also, I work with anyone who has been exposed to gun violence or war conflicts.
I work with anyone who is OPPRESSED in life by the family of origin, partner, society, culture, or working environment.
I work with anyone who felt or feels EXCLUDED in life either by family, society, culture or working environment.
I work with anyone who is or was OPPRESSED because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or age.
Can you provide me with other referrals and resources I might need?
Absolutely. I can refer you to a selected network of proven and seasoned clinicians, counsellors, psychotherapist, acupuncturists, naturopaths, support groups, doctors, osteopaths, hypnosis practitioners, and massage therapists in Canada and USA. Healing is holistic, and you will be supported in many ways without losing time and money in searching for the right people.
What is Somatic Touch Practice and Transforming Touch®?
Touch therapy for healing deep developmental and early traumatic wounds.
- SE Touch is applied with hands and occasionally with forearm or foot contact, and can also be offered indirectly, such as providing support through a cushion. SE Touch is done fully clothed and is not used to manipulate the body. SE Touch offers support to muscles, joints, diaphragms and organs to support regulation and healthy functioning. Touch can be applied with the client in a seated position or lying face up on a table, or standing during movement exercises.
- During online sessions fully effective intentional somatic touch is provided.
- Some examples of when touch can be helpful are:
Identifying an area of the body for tracking internal sensations.
Supporting an area of the body to release tension or constriction.
Stabilizing a highly activated / dysregulated nervous system.
Containing and processing difficult emotions (e.g., feeling therapist’s hands on the outside of your upper arms to provide a sense of containment to reduce flooding).
Bringing awareness to an area of the body that feels disconnected or numb.
Engaging a reflexive action or defense to support completion / discharge of a response (e.g.,
(pushing into a therapist’s hands to engage a frozen fight response).
Resourcing an individual with positive sensation or a healthy body function (e.g., pressure on the feet can enhance a sense of grounding).
Calming an anxiety response, by supporting the brain stem or the kidney/adrenal area. Connecting with tissue / muscle memory or natural biological rhythms.
Increasing blood flow to damaged tissue.
Touch was incorporated in Somatic Experiencing by Dr. Peter Levine, and was further refined as a practice by Kathy Kain, MA, SEP, somatic and bodywork practitioner and senior faculty member with the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute (www.somaticpractice.net) and Stephen J. Terrell.
Stephen co-created Somatic Resilience and Regulation; Early Trauma with Kathy Kain. Together, they teach students internationally. Stephen developed Transforming The Experience-Based Brain: An Integrative Neurodevelopment Approach to the Treatment of Developmental Trauma utilizing Transforming Touch® and teaches the program worldwide.
Transforming Touch and Transforming Intentional Touch , Stephen J. Terrell PsyD, SEP
Transforming Touch® is a treatment modality that follows a specific protocol which has supported healing of thousands of clients. Transforming Touch creates a milieu of safety where a client can begin to feel a difference in their life through subtle, yet profound changes. In this place of safety, the client experiences attachment focused protocols which and consistent and measured for repairing early ruptures and the consequences.
Transforming Touch Therapist® understand the importance of presence. They assume the role of Secure Base during the treatment which opens the door for repair of early trauma ruptures.
Transforming Touch Therapist® rely on the work of John Bowlby who is often times referred to as the father of attachment. Bowlby believed that there are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment:Proximity maintenance: The desire to be near the people we are attached to. Safe haven: Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. Secure base: The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment and Separation distress: Anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.
Transforming Touch Therapist support and understand the importance of the client’s story or narrative. We are all born with survival parts that we use to navigate being born to growing up to death. We listen to each of these parts and honor their individual stories and make note as the story begins to change. Change is a clear indication of healing.
Transforming Touch Therapist provide “Trauma Informed Care” to their clients. Listening to their needs and supporting. As studies have shown such as the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, without intervention there is a possibility of experiencing early disease processes that may lead to a shorter life expectancy.
Transforming Intentional Touch
Transforming Intentional Touch is an equally effective way of facilitating regulation within our client’s nervous systems. All the protocol and enhancements have been tweaked to work without physical touch. The power of working with intention has been expressed and shared from Healers from around the world. Some actually believe it is much stronger than using physical touch.
Transforming Intentional Touch Therapist is an effective treatment for those who work in agencies that don’t allow physical touch and for those limited by licensure laws. This is also enhances our work using telemedicine.
Transforming Intentional Touch Therapist rely on the work of John Bowlby who is often times referred to as the father of attachment. Bowlby believed that there are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment:Proximity maintenance: The desire to be near the people we are attached to. Safe haven: Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. Secure base: The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment and Separation distress: Anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.
Transforming Intentional Touch share all the understandings and workings of Developmental Trauma and support Trauma Informed Care.
I am afraid to share my feelings, and shame is deep inside me. I am terrified of giving ``wrong response`` or have the ``wrong answer.``
That is ok. It is completely ok. Space between you and me will never be a performance test. It is your time. No judging, no taking scores. This is not about right or wrong. You will take small steps, one by one, at your own time and your own pace.
How long it will take to feel better?
Methods I am trained at do take less time than regular therapy. Also, keep in mind any session doesn’t have to be a long term commitment, but you need to participate. You need to be willing to change and take responsibility for your life and your investment in your mental wellness. You do not want to rely on your therapist your whole adult life who would only validate your old story, but you want to start living fully embraced and skilled for any life challenges.
You want to transform, heal, and live with content, and this is yours and my focus in a session. Also, stopping a sessions doesn’t mean you can’t go back. You can always stop, you can always pause. Life happens, and things change, and just because you felt better for months doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily need help again in the future when life triggers you.
You might know deep down that you can’t do it alone as well. Also, imagine what would it be like to give your self an opportunity to heal and invest in your self so you can have connection, love, fulfillment, and purpose? Imagine being proud of yourself. So, let’s get you there!