Our Approach: Understanding Trauma Through a Somatic Lens

genell-howell-450By Genell Howell, MA, CSAC

Primary Therapist

When we hear the word trauma we often associate it with endangering events. According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a detrimental event such as an accident, rape or natural disaster. While trauma is commonly associated with major life events, it may also include a continuum of smaller traumas. Smaller traumas encapsulate anything that creates a dysregulation of our autonomic nervous system and fosters a fight or flight response in individuals. Simply put, when we are presented with an unwanted stimulus such as being bullied by a classmate, our bodies react in a fight or flight response. This response encompasses a range of emotions from irritation to rage and worry to panic. Through a Somatic Experiencing (SE) lens we transfer these small and large traumas into our bodies. Over time, the build-up of these experiences manifest in our lives as anxiety, depression, and isolation.

Somatic Experiencing aims to instill greater mindfulness and “felt sensation” as a way to let go of the previously held traumas while creating  greater resiliency. It is a form of trauma therapy created by Dr. Peter Levine that was based on his insight of the biological organism’s capacity to heal itself when provided the right conditions. Thus, Somatic Experiencing is a mindfulness approach that supports the body and mind in a holistic manner. By bringing more solidity, resource, clarity, and general ease in the body, we learn to stay grounded during various states of challenging activity such as extreme stress from past traumatic experiences.

At Pacific Quest we structure our treatment around the Five Pillars of Health. One of those pillars involves helping to integrate a greater body-mind connection. I feel extremely grateful that I can bring my expertise in SE to the clients I serve as we build on the five pillars of health. SE allows clients to tap into their “felt sensation” by allowing a greater sense of resiliency and self-regulation along with facilitating the ability to recognize and heal harder to manage emotions on a deeper level. At Pacific Quest, I’ve found that the integration of Somatic Experiencing and the five pillars model is seamless. Additionally, the holistic approach affords students the ability to get out of their heads where anxiety, depression, and negative limiting thoughts reside and get into a present moment experience which increases their sense of self worth and overall resiliency.  

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