For a description of the services I offer, click on any of the titles below. You’ll also find a handy link to request a consultation.
Trauma can be divided into two main categories:
1. Events that are almost always traumatic no matter who experiences them: war, severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse, rape or assault, catastrophic injuries and illnesses and loss of a loved one.
2. Events that can be traumatizing but that we may not think of as traumatic: minor car accidents, invasive medical and dental procedures, falls and other “minor” injuries, natural disasters, illnesses, sudden loud noises, birth, abandonment, accidental poisoning, prolonged immobilization.
Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented psychotherapy that offers help in healing trauma. Peter Levine, the developer of SE, observed that animals in the wild survive by their inborn immunity to trauma. He discovered that human beings have the same natural healing abilities, but that our more highly developed brains actual get in the way of our instinctive processes. Somatic Experiencing helps us access our own natural healing ability.
Peter Levine points out, “Human responses to threat are primarily instinctive and biological and secondarily, psychological and cognitive. They comprise 3 innate action plans: fight, flight, freeze. These 3 responses are common to all mammals.”
But unless we’re able to discharge the fight-or-flight energy our bodies mobilize in response to trauma, we may remain stuck in the “freeze” state, not unlike a car whose accelerator and brakes are being floored at the same time. The effects of our traumatic experiences remain lodged in our bodies, creating emotional and often, physical distress.
Somatic Experiencing focuses on the individual learning to pay attention to the “felt sense,” to bring awareness to the physical sensations that accompany painful emotions or memories. Trauma is healed through the process of discharging trapped survival energy.
I’m 33 and have suffered from insomnia since adolescence. I tried every old and new “cure,” every herbal or pharmaceutical “solution” over my 20-year struggle with insomnia. It was not until I started doing Somatic Experiencing with Ellen that I found true, healthy and lasting relief from insomnia.
Click here to read more of Michael P.’s SE success story
Visit traumahealing.com for more information about SE
Francine Shapiro, MD, discovered by accident in the late l980s that when she moved her eyes in a certain way, negative feelings associated with disturbing memories diminished. She continued experimenting, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was born.
‘During sessions, the patient is asked to recall painful memories and pay attention to upsetting feelings or negative beliefs about herself. The patient then watches the therapist’s finger moving back and forth, listens through headphones to tones alternating from ear to ear or experiences vibrations going from hand to hand. Whatever the stimulus, EMDR activates both sides of the brain. The patient is encouraged to notice whatever comes up without judgment, to follow the chain of associations. EMDR assists the body and mind in processing traumas that have been blocked off.
It’s not understood exactly how EMDR works. One explanation is that the technique accesses an innate information-processing system, similar to the one we experience during REM sleep when our eyes dart back and forth underneath our eyelids. Much research indicates that sleep plays an important role in our process of integrating emotional learning from our day. Another theory is that when one part of your brain is in memory and one part in the present, there is safety in being grounded in the here and now.
For more information, visit EMDR.com.
After working for many years with people who have experienced trauma and other trauma workers, I became interested in understanding the impact of this work on the helping person. For seven years, a colleague of mine, Dr. Ned Rodriguez, and I led groups for the Victim Advocates from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, focusing on vicarious trauma and self care.
Vicarious trauma was first named and described in l990 by psychologists Laurie Anne Pearlman and I.L. McAnn. Other specialists have given the condition other names, such as Compassion Fatigue, or Secondary Trauma.
Vicarious trauma can be defined as the effects of bearing witness to the suffering of trauma survivors. The trauma worker’s empathic connection with clients and their traumatic experiences is transformative. It is impossible not to be affected by what we hear. It’s normal to be horrified, angry, sad, to feel vulnerable. We often have mental pictures of what has been described to us. Those pictures are very real.
Vicarious trauma is unavoidable, because we listen with empathy, we bear witness with feelings and we feel compassion and responsibility. These effects are an inescapable part of trauma work.
Noticing changes in ourselves is crucial. Social withdrawal, despair, cynicism, hopelessness, and post-traumatic stress symptoms can all be warning signs of vicarious trauma. With awareness, we trauma workers can learn to sustain our effectiveness in treating others by taking care of ourselves.
In helping couples discover how to find satisfaction in their relationships, I’ve learned that each couple comes needing different kinds of help.
Some couples need to learn how to fight and make up after a fight. Some may need to learn how to be more vulnerable and open when there is conflict. Others need practice listening to and empathizing with each other. Many times, issues from childhood interfere with the ability to connect in healthy and satisfying ways with one’s partner.
I believe strongly that in many relationships, learning to accept differences, rather than trying to resolve them or change the other person, is the key to happiness. Couples often need help differentiating issues that can be resolved and those that can’t, things that can be changed and things that can’t. Developing friendship and respect are also important ingredients in a satisfying and healthy relationship.
I have a great interest in how male and female sex role expectations and training and biology affect relationships and enjoy working with straight couples as well as lesbian and gay couples.
TRM is very similar to SE and is focused on resiliency.
BSP (Brain Spotting)
David Grand explains that “BSP allows us to harness the brain’s natural ability for self-scanning, so we can activate, locate and process the sources of trauma and distress in the body.” This is done through the eyes. It is a very powerful way of working.