Myth #1: You have to talk about your trauma in order to heal it.
As a trauma-informed therapist, I have never had a client walk through the door asking to work on their trauma. The effects of trauma are long lasting and varied and may show up as anxiety, depression, trust issues and relationship problems as well as other mental health issues. Sometimes it becomes clear that the current situation is a reminder or a trigger than unleashes memories or emotions from the past whereas at other times we may work purely in the present moment- on what is here and now, integrating different parts of the self (our internal voices), finding new ways of seeing, responding or experiencing the current situation.
A good trauma therapist will STOP you from going into the gory details of your trauma. Because that will most likely re-traumatise you and reinforce those pathways in your brain.....
This myth is particularly damaging as not all psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors have been trained in a brain-wise approach that is informed by the latest research in the neurobiology of trauma. This is why some therapists make it explicit that they are trauma-informed i.e. they know that trauma and traumatic stress are stored in the nervous system and that talking about it without using a body based approach can do more harm than good.
I remember being surprised when I first started working with clients because we never actually spoke about the trauma or what may or may not have happened in the past that is still having an impact on their present moment experience. Instead we talk/ move/ draw about relationships, work issues and pretty much anything else that is brought into the session or arises out of the therapeutic process. In those days I was working intuitively and learning to trust the process which basically involves creating a space in which a client can tune into the answers that they need and find their own personal medicine. However, any doubts I may have had about the process (or my intuitive abilities) faded as I began to get some further training and professional development in trauma-informed approaches to working with traumatised children and adults.
In every training I attend, they advocate a bottom-up approach which basically means start with the body i.e. you have to get clients into their body, to feel their body, to breathe and move as part of the treatment for trauma. Of course this approach seems radical to everyone else in the room (mostly talk therapists/ counsellors/ psychologists) except for me and all the other dance movement therapists, somatic and body based practitioners out there!!
So once more, here was a reminder of one of my core beliefs and motivating forces in my life.
Movement is medicine and sometimes (more often than not!) moving the body is much more beneficial than talking!
Another thought that occurs to me as I write this is that our natural tendency to NOT talk about our most painful and traumatic life experiences is probably the best natural protective mechanism that prevents us from constantly re-traumatising ourselves (we do this in many other ways instead!)......Once you do decide to embark on the healing journey, it is essential to find the right person to work with and remember that you should never feel like you HAVE to talk about what happened to you.....
On the other hand, once you have processed and integrated your experience, you may well choose to share your story to inspire others- if you flick through my blog posts you will find one about a client who wrote a book about her healing journey.
Here are some links if you are interested to read more:
Stress: It's Not in Your Head, It's in Your Nervous System
Is You Therapist "Trauma-Informed"? (And Why It Matters)
Healing From Trauma Step By Step
Although my clients may not have walked through the door intending to work through their trauma, they were nonetheless inexplicably drawn to working with me without necessarily knowing the reason why.....
Perhaps that's you?
If you feel a strange inner call or are curious to know more about working with me (in person or online), please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.