- A safe, non-judgmental atmosphere to express and feel all of your feelings
- Encouragement/guidance to bring attention to your physical and emotional experience (this is connected to the practice of mindfulness)
- Support to go at the pace that feels right/safe for you (there is no pressure to do anything mentioned below until you are ready, and the whole point of the work is to give you a sense of safety and control over your experience, so that eventually it can feel safe to experience the full range of human emotions and deal with life’s challenges without overwhelm)
- I may ask you to explore deeper what is going on for you in a different way than you might in normal conversation. To do so I may gently interrupt you to offer an awareness question or an experiment to support you getting new information and trying a new behavior or way of treating yourself, to promote actual change in the here and now, instead of staying in the realm of ideas (the Neo Cortex) for the whole session.
No prior experience necessary! Even if you feel nothing or numbness in your body or don’t feel in touch with your emotions or creativity, we can start where you are. This type of awareness takes practice, and all you need is the willingness to try. You can’t do it wrong!
[This structure is not rigid, and can be adapted depending on what you’re needing (and even thrown out if, for example, you are dealing with a crisis and need different, more immediate resources/support) ]
1) Mindfulness or body regulating/nervous system support exercise to become present (5-10 min)
2) Check-In (10-15 minutes): Sharing about your current life and what’s on your mind
3) Choosing a focus for the session: Picking one aspect of your experience (present or past) that you’d like to focus on (ex: a specific situation, relationship, memory, belief, emotional state, trauma, self-image, need, desire, pattern of behavior etc.)
4) Processing (35 minutes): Utilizing experiments to deepen our understanding of the complexities (and the different areas of the brain) involved in your session’s focus, we may explore:
- Body sensation, breath and movement/posture (and what the body desires to do when the conscious mind stops trying to make things happen), expressing defensive and mobilizing responses as well as calming and soothing the body, and engaging the 5 senses (touch, taste, smell, sound, sight)
- Creative/intuitive awareness/visualization (using colors, shapes, images, sensations, textures, sounds, words/phrases) to explore the experience you are having. This can include inner child work/self-parenting and visualizing yourself supporting you at a younger age [your “inner child”], safe place visualizations, and using your body awareness and visualization to help you make choices or choose a path for the future.
- Enact conversations between parts of yourself or with important people in your life (or those who have died or who were involved in a trauma), and role play
- Practice supportive self-touch to calm the body and to offer a physical experience of acceptance and compassion.
- Squeeze balls, ring out towels, stomp feet, exaggerate tension, hit a pillow with a tennis racket, push a pillow with me offering resistance, make expressive sounds, etc. to invite the energy of the body to express instead of being held inside
- Experiment relationally with me in the present moment by exploring boundaries (spatially in the room and with me), taking up space, eye contact, using your voice, being seen and supported
- Appropriate touch (always with your explicit consent) to offer support to, increase awareness of, or take over the work of a particular body part or emotion held in the body
4) Integration (10 minutes): Review what came up in the session and what would be helpful for you to practice/focus on in the coming week. Provide feedback of what worked and didn’t work and express needs or requests.
Ellis, M. (2014, January 4). “Mapping emotions in the body yields consistent global results.”Medical News Today. Retrieved fromhttp://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270738.
Hunter, M., & Struve, J. The ethical use of touch in psychotherapy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Levine, P. (2008). Healing trauma: A pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.
MacLean, P. D. (1985). Brain evolution relating to family, play, and the separation call. Archives of General Psychiatry, 42(4), 405-417.
Ogden, P. , Minton, K., & Pain, C. (2006). Trauma and the body: A sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.