Trauma

I have had a long-term interest in how human beings recover from trauma. I did my Psychology Honours Research into the impact of stillbirth and neonatal death on mothers from an attachment and meaning-making perspective. I really like the broad definition of trauma I came across that defined it as something that happens to us that render us incapable of making sense of the world.

When I worked on the PTSD program for Vietnam Veterans I was trained in what was then considered the best evidence-based therapy for PTSD which was imaginal exposure, in which the client deliberately re-lives the trauma several times. The hope is that each time lessons the level of physiological arousal in the body in association with the trauma memory. Over the last 2 decades, there has been increasing understanding that trauma/PTSD is a psychophysiological process in the body, resulting from the body’s hardwired biological response to threat.

Currently, all of the leading specialists in trauma (including Pat Ogden, Peter Levine and Babette Rothschild), agree that best practice in working with trauma necessitates working somatically. Physiologically, our bodies are designed to fight or flee when faced with danger, maximising our chance of survival. If the danger is short-lived our biological system can return to a sense of safety relatively quickly. However, if the danger becomes extensive or prolonged (e.g. in child abuse) or it is impossible to fight or flee (e.g. if you are injured or trapped) then physiologically you go into a freeze state (or collapse) in order to survive. In other words the fight/flight response gets trapped in the body and the trauma remains unresolved. Often clients who present with depression, anxiety and anger have underlying unresolved trauma.

Radix is a body-centred psychotherapy where practitioners are taught how to read and work with the physiological responses and breathing patterns in order to release stuck emotions. Therefore, Radix therapists are well equipped to access the underlying fear (and other emotions), as well as the cut-off fight or flight defence responses, allowing them to be expressed and released, restoring equilibrium for the client.

It is vital that clients are taught ways to regulate their emotions and self-soothe prior to embarking on what may be referred to as trauma focussed work. One of the benefits of process oriented approaches (both Hakomi and Radix) is that clients do not delve into trauma material before they are ready to. Safety is paramount in this regard.

 

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