Complementary Mind-Body Approaches to Trauma Therapy
As a trauma therapist, I know that trauma is complex. For many trauma survivors, there is no such thing as “one and done.” A trauma survivor may experience one or more traumatic events, but the events themselves leave a lasting impact. Trauma impacts our mind-body connection. Trauma disconnects your heart, mind, and spirit from your body. In doing so, trauma causes survivors to second guess themselves, to doubt if they are lovable, to view emotional expression as dangerous, and to feel betrayed by their bodies. One of the reasons these thoughts and feelings arise is because of physiological responses to trauma.
Physiological responses refer to the various ways your body responds to events, people, places, things, thoughts, and feelings. Some examples include increased heart rate, sweatiness, shallow breathing, increase or decrease in your tone, and gut-wrenching sensations in your stomach. You may also experience images or flashes of previous traumas, insomnia, restlessness, racing thoughts, and changes in your appetite. These responses are your body’s way of telling you that it is concerned, and it’s a way of asking you do to something about the concern. For some trauma survivors, these physiological responses feel overwhelming or even debilitating. Because of this, trauma therapy is often combined with complementary mind-body tools.
Complementary Mind-Body Approaches to Trauma Therapy for Trauma Survivors
First things first, before the grammar gurus correct my spelling the term complementary is spelled correctly as it refers to complementary medicine. Now, what do I mean by complementary mind-body approaches? Complementary mind-body approaches are tools people use in addition to trauma therapy to help calm their nervous system when physiological responses arise. In other words, they are things that people do outside of therapy to calm themselves. At R.I.S.E, these tools are modeled and practiced in during sessions. This modeling lays the groundwork for expanded self-care outside of trauma therapy.
Breathing is a big deal. Breath is one of the first things that change when triggers arise. This is because our fight or flight system is activated when we are triggered. Our body then begins to prepare for danger by changing circulation in the body. In preparation for danger, our breathing becomes short, quick, and shallow. The beautiful thing about our breath is that we can change its impact on our bodies. This is done by first bringing your attention to your breath. Afterward, you can activate the calming part of your nervous system using deep breathing. I use many breathing techniques in trauma therapy, but two have been consistently helpful for clients: diaphragmatic breathing and stair-step breathing.
Do you know what else is a big deal? Movement. As an integrative trauma therapist, I know that the impact of trauma extends beyond our thoughts and feelings. As a mind-body therapist, I know that physiological responses impact the body. Many trauma therapists refer to this as trauma being stuck on the body. This is because our nervous system and muscles hold the imprint of trauma. Because of this, many trauma therapists recommend movement to release the tension this causes on the body. Complementary mind-body movement approaches include drumming, yoga, massage, chiropractic care, rolfing, dance, and self-massage.
As a black therapist, I know many black folks have used herbs and plant medicine for healing. For many, this will ring true, and for others, this may spark curiosity. As an integrative therapist, I believe that the Earth offers many opportunities for healing, including plants. While there are many herbs, there are two herbs that clients at R.I.S.E find helpful to calm physiological responses.
One of helpful herb is Lavender. There has been extensive research about calming effects of lavender. Research shows that lavender promotes relaxation, decreases insomnia, and reduces anxiety. Another helpful herb is Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that can be found in many forms, such as root, powder, tinctures, and gummies. Research shows that ashwagandha reduces inflammation, decreases stress, stabilizes mood, improves sleep, and more.
A Black therapists take on why complementary mind-body approaches to trauma therapy are a big deal
So, why are complementary approaches a big deal? Because therapy is one hour. As an integrative therapist and mind-body therapist, I understand that life goes on outside of the therapy room and that it is imperative to have in-the-moment tools. Here’s the thing when we are triggered, physiological responses appear. These responses are our bodies’ signals to let us know that something is concerning. It is how the body activates our internal alarm system. But the activation of this alarm system means that our body is under stress. Stress causes inflammation, impacts our bodily functioning, and weakens our immune system.
Learning how to recognize these signals provides an opportunity for trauma survivors to respond to them using calming techniques. But the truth is many trauma survivors feel that they cannot control their responses and that they are incapable of calming themselves. While this may feel real, this is false. You are capable of calming yourself and meeting your needs. Because of trauma, it hasn’t always been comfortable to do so. But you aren’t fragile. Trauma has convinced you that you are the enemy. But, the truth is you are a warrior.
Reclaim your Power with Trauma Therapy using Mind-Body skills in Pikesville, MD
As a mind-body medicine trained, trauma therapist at my Baltimore, MD counseling practice, I have worked with many Black folks who have experienced trauma. As a trauma therapist, I know that before reaching out for help you’ve done other things to reach healing. Sometimes these things include movement, breath work, herbal medicine, and other complementary and alternative methods. I am here to remind you that trauma therapy at R.I.S.E. is not about eliminating healthy practices, but rather incorporating them to personalize your therapy journey.
Likely, you, your family, your friends, or your ancestors have been using mind-body skills before the term was created. This I know and understand. I want to acknowledge the healing you’ve been accomplishing. Then, together we’ll work to identify ways to add new holistic skills to your healing journey. Throughout our work together, we will find ways for you to honor yourself, honor those before you, forgive yourself, and forgive others. Make the first step to get started with using mind-body skills in trauma therapy in Pikesville, MD.
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Other services at Revitalizing Inner Self Essence in Pikesville, MD
I know that choosing a therapist is about finding someone that you believe will see you. I want to assure you that as a Black queer therapist, I am dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming, and personalized environment for your healing process. Together, we will help you reconnect with your feelings and true essence. At my Baltimore-area practice, I specialize in helping survivors of domestic violence and homicide begin healing. I also teach licensed masters social workers how to use holistic skills in trauma therapy. If you have further questions about me or my practice, please contact me.