Is Something Keeping You From Feeling Your Best In Life?
Do you get overwhelmed easily and often feel really tired? Maybe you struggle with sleep, digestive issues, or deal with an impaired immune system response. Or perhaps you have trouble regulating emotions or reducing discomfort or tension in your body, leaving you too drained to keep up with responsibilities at work and at home.
Do you struggle with developing and sustaining meaningful relationships? You may often feel like you’re on the outside looking in, missing out on satisfying social interactions or feeling disconnected from relationships. In an effort to counteract this feeling, you may have resorted to people-pleasing, social isolation, or pretending you don’t really need anyone, but this has only made you feel farther removed.
Have you been feeling lonely, unfulfilled, and unmotivated for a long time? Perhaps a constant sense of anxiety is keeping you stuck in your head, making it difficult to be present and leading you to over-analyze situations. Or maybe you have become numb or detached, and you can’t remember the last time you felt a genuine sense of joy and ease.
In your quest to feel better, you may have tried a variety of approaches and consulted with therapists, nutritionists, shamans, and/or energy healers. Yet, something is still getting in the way of you feeling whole. You may wonder if your childhood—where you experienced traumatic events like neglect, abuse, or abandonment—has anything to do with how you feel about yourself and the world. All you want is to feel safe and at peace, without worrying that you’ll get hijacked by distressing physical, mental, or emotional symptoms.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Somatic Experiencing and the benefits this treatment approach has provided for people dealing with trauma. Are you wondering if this approach could also help you heal your deep-seated wounds from early childhood?
Developmental Trauma Has Extensive Consequences
There is a marked difference between shock trauma and traumatic experiences during early childhood (age 0-18). Typically, shock trauma is a single, horrific event that puts a person in a deep state of dysregulation—a serious vehicle accident or going to war and seeing your friend getting hurt or killed. Developmental trauma, on the other hand, happens over a long time and its impact isn’t as immediately recognizable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of U.S. adults have had at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) in their lives, and some had four or more. ACEs range from child neglect (emotional, physical) to domestic challenges (substance abuse or mental illness in the household, parental separation or divorce, domestic violence) to child abuse (psychological, physical, sexual).
(If you would like to find out if you may be struggling with the effects of developmental trauma, please read the post “Do You Have Developmental Trauma? – Here’s How You Know” on our blog.)
Early childhood trauma carries a variety of potential risks, affecting all of your biological systems—brain development, cognition, behavior, emotions, relationships, and physical and mental health. More importantly, untreated childhood trauma negatively impacts your nervous system’s ability to regulate, making it difficult for you to maintain an internal balance and a positive sense of self. It also predisposes you to develop PTSD if you experience other traumatic events in your life.
If you’re struggling with some of the effects of developmental trauma, we can help. We work with you at the biological and nervous system level through the lens of somatic therapy coupled with Co-Regulating Touch.
Co-Regulating Touch Helps Heal The Wounds Of Childhood Trauma
Many of our clients seek us out because they have heard of Somatic Experiencing, but they’re not familiar with Co-Regulating Touch. While Somatic Experiencing is mainly used to treat shock trauma, Co-Regulating Touch is particularly effective for healing developmental trauma because it addresses the underlying strain on the nervous system. Often, an imbalance has developed in early childhood because parental co-regulation—the behaviors of a parent that express love and that soothe a baby when the child is too young to self-regulate their own nervous system—was missing or inconsistent.
Co-Regulating Touch aims to help you heal this lack of balance. It is called “bottom-up work” because it is body-based treatment, versus “top-down work”, which is mind-based. That means, unlike Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which teaches you to pay attention to your thought patterns, Co-Regulating Touch helps you learn to listen to your body with more attunement and know-how. To that end, we aim to educate you about your nervous system and motivate you to learn concrete somatic-based self-regulation skills that you can practice at home.
Once we have determined that you are suffering from developmental trauma, we begin with taking a “body record” to get a picture of your overall physical health. Typically, we’ll ask questions about your nutrition, movement practices (activity level), if you have had a recent fall or motor vehicle accident, if you’re dealing with a chronic condition, etc. This is an important part of somatic therapy because trauma isn’t just a mental/emotional issue.
During sessions, a trauma therapist will first do a verbal check-in with you, finding out how your body feels in the moment and what is happening or has happened in your body since your last session. Then, we’ll have you lie face-up on a massage table to begin the therapeutic touch part of your session.
Co-Regulating Touch begins with focusing on very specific places in your body: holding the kidneys, brain stem, and ankles. This therapeutic touch is passive, meaning that the practitioner will not move their hands around like a massage therapist would. The goal is to increase resilience and balance in your nervous system and, at the same time, help you develop what we call a “safety map.” It will give you an idea of what safety actually feels like in your body without having to do anything for it. Just through the contact and the relational feel between you and the practitioner, you get to experience relief and relaxation, being at ease, calm, less reactive, and more grounded.
Our practice has been offering somatic therapy since 2008, with a focus on Co-Regulating Touch since 2016. During this time, we have helped our clients experience powerful changes in their lives. We want you to heal from (not just cope with) the negative effects of developmental trauma. Healing from trauma is possible: reclaiming joy and pleasure, meaningful connection with self and others, and more ease, confidence, and peace await you.
Maybe you’re curious about somatic trauma therapy and Co-Regulating Touch, but you still have questions…
Why would somatic-based therapy be able to help me when talk therapy didn’t?
When you deal with early childhood trauma, talking about the issues isn’t helpful because the healing needs to take place at the biological, nervous system level. Developmental trauma happens in a preverbal, non-cognitive state (from age 0-3) and these first years of life are crucial for the development of everything that makes up the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings.
When things are not ideal in childhood, the nervous system can’t develop optimally. It’s like your nervous system is built on a house of cards—an insecure foundation. As a result, you can’t be as resilient as you want to be, or it’s hard for you to feel connected in everyday life and experience joy and a sense of peace. Somatic-based Co-Regulating Touch therapy helps heal childhood trauma because it rebuilds your nervous system from the ground up, creating a stronger architecture.
Why do you focus on the kidneys and the brainstem as touchpoints?
The brainstem is the first part of the brain that develops in utero when a baby is growing inside the womb—it’s primal. And the adrenal system manages your stress response and sits right atop the kidneys. When you’re in a state of arousal as your body responds to an event, your biological system pumps out cortisol and adrenaline, two key stress hormones. Early childhood trauma negatively impacts the kidney adrenal system and the brainstem from effectively functioning.
When we hold the kidneys and the brainstem, it allows us to address the major parts of the regulatory system in your body. The idea is that by touching the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), we encourage your nervous system to do what it knows how to do innately—come into balance.
What if I don’t want you to touch me?
Everything we do is collaborative and consent-based. We will never do anything you don’t want us to do. Every time we touch you, we’ll ask permission; and if you’re feeling uncomfortable, we’ll stop as soon as you tell us.
We will also help you to be ready for table work (the Co-Regulating Touch phase of therapy) in a paced-out, gentle way. And you will be in charge of that pacing (not us!) because we want you to feel safe continuing the treatment.
How long will therapy take?
This isn’t a question easily answered because every person’s situation is different. We usually ask our clients to give us a minimum of four sessions to experience something different happening in their life and body and then decide if they’d like to continue.
If they do, the course of treatment typically goes on for a while, especially when issues are connected to early childhood trauma. Generally, the older a person is, the more ingrained those trauma patterns have become, and the longer it will take to work through them and heal—perhaps six months of doing weekly or biweekly sessions and then switching to monthly or even quarterly sessions.
You Can Heal From Childhood Trauma!
If you’re interested in learning more or trying somatic-based trauma therapy, make your first appointment for a Co-Regulation Touch session.