3 Mind Body Approaches to Trauma Processing

healing approach

3 Mind Body Approaches to Trauma Processing

“Nothing records the effects of a sad life so graphically as the human body” 

Naguib Mahfouz

The body is where our trauma resides. Unmoving. Stuck. Unprocessed. Posttraumatic stress symptoms can captivate our entire being. 

We believe attention to somatic healing is a necessary part of trauma processing. Trauma is sensory, not logical. It’s felt. Our minds might not remember, but our bodies do. And we have to move through those feelings to gain resolution. A mentor once told me that trauma work was like driving through a dark tunnel towards the light on the other side, and the only way out is through.

There is no one right way to process through trauma, and one treatment approach does not fit all. We want to shed light on just a few ways we incorporate the body into trauma recovery. 


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) 

Did you know EMDR is incredibly attentive to the physical experience of trauma? It’s a way to let whatever physical symptoms associated with the traumatic experience come up and digest properly. I find that EMDR increases mindfulness of the body and fosters more connection to my client’s physical manifestation of trauma. And rather than numbing it out (easy to do, right?), we learn to find safety in being mindful and accepting of the sensations arising. 

During EMDR we ask our clients questions about where they experience the emotions, such as “What sensations come along with that?” or “Where are you noticing that in your body?”, all the while encouraging them to let whatever comes up come up. 

Massage 

As a massage therapist, I see trauma accumulate in the body and alter functionality. Muscles retain emotional reactions and stress which leads to increased tension and disrupts natural physiological processes. Trauma disconnects us from our bodies and it can feel unsafe to intentionally return to physical sensations. The feeling of powerlessness further divides our bodies from the mental and physical parts of our experience. 

That’s where massage therapy comes in! Touch is incredibly healing and reconnects us to the body. Massage offers a pathway for physical sensations and emotions to emerge, rebuilding connection to the self and individual needs. This experience can improve body image and decrease shame. Touch can start to be experienced with neutrality. The tendency to disassociate decreases and we reestablish a safe relationship with touch. I make sure to establish appropriate boundaries and comfort with my clients so that they can rebuild and define personal boundaries. When individuals start to feel more relaxed and connected with themselves, they can make more efficient progress in our therapeutic work.

Trauma Informed Yoga 

Yoga means “to yoke”. Where as trauma creates disconnection with the body, yoga reconnects. Yoga teaches us to be not only mindful, but non judgemental of our physical experience. My clients find that moving the body through different postures helps release and relieve stored up discomfort and tension. It’s a way to relearn physical safety. 

Yoga has benefits for our nervous system as well--it’s no secret trauma gets our nervous system all out of wack. We can start to feel on high alert all the time! Rather than operating from the sympathetic nervous system (think about the sympathetic nervous system as the one associated with increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure, and fight or flight mode), yoga engages our parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for slowing down those processes and down regulating the body. 

And much like massage, yoga helps us build awareness of our needs. We learn to listen to our bodies, rather than tune them out. We start to modify, and be gentle with ourselves as we move through poses. We learn to be safe again in our bodies. 

If you’re interested in trying any of these treatment approaches, contact one of our DHH counselors


Authored by: Anna Zapata, LPC and Rachel Tweed, LPC


Michael Primeaux