Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” – Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.
Is recent or long-held trauma impacting your ability to feel safe, connect with others and live a full and satisfying life? Are you struggling with symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, relationship issues, lack of focus, heightened stress and/or physical discomforts, such as an autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, migraines or chronic pain? Maybe you feel isolated and/or unable to set appropriate boundaries. Perhaps, you feel responsible for the trauma or broken by it, and are suffering with shame, guilt, self-doubt and low self-esteem.
You may have tried talk-based forms of trauma therapy or PTSD treatment, but still feel stuck in a cycle of anxiety and/or depression, ruminating over the past, worried about the future and, perhaps, experiencing unwanted, intrusive memories of the trauma. As is often the case with unresolved trauma, you might vacillate between feeling lethargic, unmotivated and hopeless one moment, and irritable, hypervigilant or emotionally heightened the next. You may also feel triggered by certain people, places, events, sights, sounds and smells that cause distressing physical sensations, uncomfortable emotions and racing thoughts.
Regardless of how your trauma is manifesting, somatic therapy can help. Rather than just talking about the trauma and its aftereffects, therapeutic somatic approaches help (re)regulate a dysregulated nervous system, renegotiate the trauma experience and help you work through difficult thoughts and emotions, uncomfortable body sensations and even physical pain, feeling increasingly resourced and more able to move with ease and grace within the world.
Any event or situation that a person experiences as threatening affects the nervous system through the activation of the fight/flight/freeze response. This natural response to threat is designed to keep us safe and able to protect ourselves and/or others when presented with a threat. However, if the threat passes, yet the body hasn’t integrated, processed and released the activation caused by the frightening experience (or perceived frightening experience), trauma can get stuck in the body, causing lingering, distressing effects. Left unresolved, trauma can also develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Living with the aftereffects of trauma, whether that be through an accident, physical injury, invasive medical procedure, assault, abuse, childhood trauma or threatening experience of any kind, can be a disturbing, confusing and stressful experience. You may desperately want to get back to (or into) a regular, healthy routine and feel mentally, emotionally and physically balanced, especially if the trauma is impacting your ability to complete tasks, engage in healthy relationships and do the things you love. Both physical and emotional trauma (they often coexist) can take time to heal and can cause feelings of anxiety and/or depression until resolved.
It is also extremely common to feel fragmented after experiencing any kind of trauma. Trauma disrupts and disorganizes the nervous system. From guiding automated activities, such as waking, sleeping and breathing, to directing complex processes, such as thinking, reading, remembering, focusing and feeling emotions, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system plays a vital role in nearly every aspect of our health and wellbeing.
In order to finally and fully resolve trauma, a multi-faceted, holistic approach to healing is necessary, which is why, as an advanced Somatic Experiencing practitioner, trained directly by Dr. Peter Levine, and a highly experienced trauma therapist, I integrate body-oriented trauma therapies into the healing process.
Because trauma is stored in the body, it needs to be released through the body, which is why many standard forms of mental health therapy that focus predominantly on the mind, which can be useful at times, usually do not yield long-term results in treating trauma. Somatic therapy, however, incorporates the mind, body and spirit into therapeutic healing and works to treat and resolve trauma, PTSD and other mental and emotional health issues through a body-centric approach.
Somatic therapy focuses on body-oriented modalities, such as movement, breath work and meditation, as well as Somatic Experiencing, a highly effective, proven approach to treating trauma designed by Dr. Peter Levine. This advanced form of trauma therapy helps to build your resilience and capacity to be with the experience, allowing you to gradually and gently process the trauma rather than continue to suppress it. Although talk therapy will be part of the process, my approach to treating trauma works to alter how the body holds stress, tension and trauma, rather than solely trying to resolve the activation verbally.
In sessions, we can also incorporate trauma touch therapy (if you feel comfortable with gentle, noninvasive touch), which, in addition to a deep noticing and listening to you and of your body, posture, movements and responses, offers co-regulation, as my regulated nervous system can sync with yours. Touch is an important part of the human experience and can stimulate safety, warmth, connection and healing; however, in Western culture, touch is used and experienced far less than in the rest of the world.
Therapeutic touch not only helps to co-regulate and provide comfort and support, but can also help to gently realign the organs, which can be particularly effective if you’ve experienced trauma through physical injury, medical trauma, an accident or an assault and/or suffer from chronic pain. When using trauma touch therapy with clients and “holding” a particular organ, I can often physically feel a release of a built-up tension, helping to bring the body as a whole back online. Direct touch to the skin, too, can help to settle lingering fight-flight-freeze responses, releasing more tension and promoting trust.
With years in practice, I know that everyone has unique experiences, needs and goals, which is why we can draw from a variety of modalities to develop a tailored approach that works specifically for you.
Our bodies are highly intelligent and always trying to tell us something through sensations, reactions and responses. We, as humans—made up of mind, body and spirit—also have an incredible, inherent capacity to heal. Through somatic therapy and a holistic approach to treating trauma, you can regain and embrace (or maybe feel for the first time) the wholeness of your being. You can develop a deeper awareness of the mind-heart-body connection, at first coming into a neutral state, and eventually developing the resilience, capacity and skills needed to live a full and vibrant life.
I have been working with and supporting trauma survivors for well over a decade, and I have witnessed and deeply believe in the power of this highly therapeutic, healing work. With the compassionate support, practical guidance and skills of an experienced trauma therapist, it is possible to regulate your nervous system, renegotiate the trauma and foster a new and heightened level of mind-heart-body awareness.
If you’re in Boulder, CO or the surrounding area and are looking for holistic, effective and compassionate trauma and somatic therapy, please contact me to schedule an initial call. Be kind to yourself throughout this process and know that regardless of where you’re at right now, it is possible to heal from trauma and live with increased vibrancy, connection and ease.
Shanly Weber, MA, SEP is a certified Somatic Experiencing International practitioner, trained directly by Dr. Peter Levine. With more than a decade of advanced training, education and experience in Somatic Experiencing, Shanly has served as SE provider and currently offers support and SE consultations for Somatic Experiencing practitioners.