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Healing Trauma through Somatic Experiencing and Gestalt Therapy

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Develop a basic understanding of Somatic Experiencing®, a short-term approach to healing trauma, and the use of Gestalt Therapy in trauma resolution.
Dr. Bob Witchel

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Healing Trauma through Somatic Experiencing and Gestalt Therapy

  1. 1. Healing Trauma through Somatic Experiencing and Gestalt Intervention Strategies Dr. Bob Witchel, Licensed Psychologist, NCC Department of Counseling, IUP Private Practice, Pittsburgh 2014 PA Counseling Association Conference “TOGETHER: Empowerment through Collaboration” November 8, 2014
  2. 2. •Develop a basic understanding of Somatic Experiencing®, a short-term approach to healing trauma, and the use of Gestalt Therapy in trauma resolution. Workshop Objectives
  3. 3. •Examine the dynamics of how the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) prepares to meet a threat with orienting, flight, fight, and freeze responses, and after the threat is passed or survived, the ANS may not return to a normal, balanced state, often resulting in trauma. Workshop Objectives
  4. 4. •Identify the value of a counseling process that includes,(a) review- ing the events surrounding the incident, resulting in trauma and, (b) working with a person’s body by focusing on (re)developing body awareness, body acceptance and body integrity. Workshop Objectives
  5. 5. Do you believe: •frightening or life threatening situations “cause” trauma. or •trauma results from a highly activated incomplete body response to threat. Franklin Regional H.S.
  6. 6. Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine) is based on the observation that animals in the wild, though routinely threatened, are rarely traumatized. Animals know how to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors.Animals have a built-in ''immunity'' to trauma enabling them to return to normal after a highly ''charged'‘ life-threatening experience.
  7. 7. Although humans are born with virtually the same regulatory mechanisms as animals, the function of these instinctive systems is often overridden or inhibited by, among other things, the ''rational'' portion of our brains.
  8. 8. “Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the event itself. They arise when residual energy from the experience is not discharged from the body. This energy remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds.” Peter Levine, PhD Katrina -Immobilization Flight –From WTC
  9. 9. The brain of the traumatized person continues to respond as if the person is still in the life threatening event. Somatic Experiencing breaks the conditioned behavior and symptoms of ANS activation.
  10. 10. Case Example
  11. 11. Organismic self-regulation I regulate myself according to needs that arise from my natural functioning– sleepwhen I feel sleepy eat when I’m hungry bathroomwhen bladder is full defend myself when under attack Self-regulation can be interfered with by upbringing, schooling, social forces, and environments that are hostile or offer limited support – feel sleepybut can’t sleep; have to pay attention in school feel hungrybut family makes intrusivecomments about my eating habits need to go to bathroombut I believe boss will get angry if I leavemeeting brought up to believe all physical violence is unacceptable Gestalt Therapy Basics
  12. 12. Gestalt therapy actively supports a return to organismic self-regulation by identifyingand exploringthe shouldsand should notsthat you’ve learned, and how they disrupt organismic self-regulation (we are born with). Gestalt Therapy Basics
  13. 13. When organismic self-regulation is disrupted Gestalt Therapy Basics Anxiety (a signal from the body that something is WRONG) Mental Health Professionals and Others (including self, family, friends) too often interrupt the Anxiety (with drugs, forced relaxation) Increased Anxiety
  14. 14. Gestalt Therapy Basics •Change occurs when you become more fully what you are (anxious), NOT when you try to become what you are not (cover-up anxiety) •Change does not occur through force or pressure but through abandoning what you would like to becomeand through being more fully invested in who and what you are BE THE ANXIETY! WHAT WOULD IT SAY IF IT HAD A VOICE? The Paradoxical Theory of Change, Arnold Beisser, M.D.
  15. 15. Through awareness of and experimenting with bodily sensations, feelings, desires, and assumptions, the person’s range of choices about how they live their lives, especially how they engage others and themselves, will be enhanced.
  16. 16. Event or threat Fight, flight, or freeze
  17. 17. Focus on the client’s “here and now” Increase awarenessof what client is experiencing and doing now Promote direct experiencing rather than the abstractness of talking about situations Rather than talk about a childhood trauma the client is encouraged to become the hurt child Gestalt Therapy Basics
  18. 18. Remember the threatening experience; who was there? What happened? Notice where you go to recover from the threatening experience (your bedroom?);did you tell anyone? Then I want you (at the age you are today) to visit yourself in that place you went to recover from the threat; have a conversation, support your younger self to express feelings about what happened. (Music) An Experience Recall a memory from your childhood or teen years when you felt threatened; Close your eyes
  19. 19. The Truth About Our Childhood
  20. 20. The truth about childhood is stored up in our body, and lives in the depth of our soul;
  21. 21. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perceptions shamed and confused, our body tricked with medication
  22. 22. But our soul never forgets Because we are one; one whole soul and one whole body.
  23. 23. Someday our body will present its bill The wounded and lost child is only in hiding;
  24. 24. Ultimately, our deepest self will accept no compromise or excuses; it will not stop fermenting or contaminating us until we stop evading the truth.
  25. 25. (Posted on a bulletin board of the First Nation center, Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada); Moose Factory is the site of the oldest(1673)English settlement in Ontario and home of the Moose Cree First Nation.

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