Treating Sexual Trauma
Stories such as Dr. Ford’s decades-old sexual trauma may be frozen in the mind and body. Traumatic experiences remain cocooned in the nervous system and are susceptible to the effects of brain chemistry. Imago therapists use core skills to be an empathetic, neutral listener. Trauma therapists employ these core skills AND an additional layer of resilience, patience, hopefulness, and strong boundaries. Trauma therapists gently hold space for their client’s emotional and embodied pain allowing the story to emerge organically.
How Trauma Appears
Trauma may obscure a client’s self-compassion resources. Self-compassion is further diminished when the account of the incident is not validated. Trauma affects thoughts, feelings, and body functions. These effects translate into interpersonal behaviors, among other things. The combined use of bodywork and talk therapy helps clients to release trapped emotional trauma.
Yoga and Trauma
I have learned from Dr. Van Der Kolk and from Dave Emerson, my Trauma Sensitive Yoga trainer, that sexual trauma is stored in the mind and the body. Traumatic experiences remain in the memory un-coded and undigested. For some people, traumatic experiences leak out into consciousness and appear as if the same event is occurring in the present over and over again. These traumatic experiences trigger a self-preservation mode to avoid the pain at any cost. The high price paid by adapting to sexual trauma through avoidance is the loss of stability in a relationship, the lack or excess of feeling bodily sensations, and the inability to inhabit your body as you chose. Dissociating to numb the pain seldom alleviates the suffering. Trauma compromises reality and symptoms such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse emerge from the darkness. Trauma Sensitive Yoga invites people with trauma to become attuned to their body and to safely connect to feelings, sensations, and grounding practices.
Imago and Trauma
One of the core building blocks in Imago Relationship Therapy is the creation of client safety. A well-attuned Imago Relationship Therapist creates safety with trauma victims by holding the space with caring and willingly entering counseling sessions unencumbered by pre-conceived judgments or ideas, or planned treatment protocols. Not knowing the healing path or treatment plan is a powerful force enabling the Imago Relationship Therapist to remain curious and to minimize any triggers.