How does trauma therapy work?


Trauma focused therapy works by allowing you to re-experience past traumatic experiences in a safe and supportive environment. By centring on your body, you let yourself express the body sensations you are feeling in the moment.


Letting yourself feel and express what you are feeling in the moment sounds simple enough, yet if it's done consistently and with sufficient intensity, you can trace your current feelings and body sensations back to past events and experiences. 

In doing this, repeatedly you slowly desensitise the charge attached to certain feelings, places, people or events.  When that happens many of your trauma symptoms will diminish or disappear.

Speak with a therapist. It's

easy, safe and confidential.

Where do I start?


The emotion focused and body processing part of trauma therapy starts with talking about how you’re feeling in the present. As you talk about what’s concerning you, certain body sensations begin to surface.


You might not be aware of the growing or increasing sensations initially. The therapist picks it up and will gently guide you (with words or silence) to allow yourself to feel and express the body sensations in whatever way feels right for you.


For some people, this is easy to do. For others, it can be more difficult. Your ability to identify and feel your current feelings will depend on how you learnt to cope in the past.


Learning how to feel.


Please do not be alarmed if you feel numb or cannot contact and identify your feelings at first. Learning how to go into feeling takes time and commitment.


In the beginning, allowing yourself to stay with very uncomfortable body sensations takes practice. It's not something that people in many cultures usually do.


It takes time for you to feel safe enough to let the sensations attached to the old painful or traumatic experiences surface. That's is normal when starting and emotion focused or somatic (body focused) trauma therapy. It’s the same for everyone.


Connection and insight.


At first, you might feel exhausted by your sessions. But over time, as you allow yourself to stay with uncomfortable or painful body sensations, you'll begin to feel better and better after your sessions. The best ways to describe this is relaxed, grounded and centred.


IIf you are able to stay with the sensations long enough to trace them back to their source, you'll get a natural understanding of the events and experiences in a way you’ve never understood them before. It goes right back to childhood and for some people the womb and conception.

These insights offer you an in-depth understanding of how you had to adapt in the past to survive. It helps you know what you must now do in the present to allow the real you to emerge. 

Lessen or eliminate pain.

Often just allowing yourself to safely feel the uncomfortable body sensations that accompany a traumatic experience can automatically result in some behavioural changes. These usually tend to be more the automatic, unconscious, coping mechanisms. That's still a great result as these are often what drives your symptoms.


For example, one man’s nightly teeth grinding stopped by the third session. A woman's constant sighing ceased within two months although neither person entered therapy for these reasons.


Still, it's not enough to feel the pain and gain insights, though. The point of therapy is to act on these insights. When you’re ready, if you haven't already done so, you’ll be supported to make these changes yourself.


Your insights will help you know what behaviours and actions in the present you want to modify. That means taking responsibility for yourself and your life. For some people, this can take time.

Integration of the past into the present is how emotion focustrauma therapy works.


It’s tough to change your life if you're continually defending against painful feelings from the past. When you allow yourself to stay with and feel your uncomfortable feelings you and your life are no longer held back by the pain.

Once you know what happened in the past and you’ve experienced and integrated the feelings that are attached to painful memories, you become conscious of what's going on inside you.


Unconscious pain no longer drives you. That means you’re no longer acting or reacting from defences or default behaviours that are clouded by unresolved feelings.


You have choices. That makes it easier to implement changes in the present. No matter how challenging and uncomfortable that might be.


A new perspective.


Your patterns of behaviour evolved from the experiences you lived through as an infant and child. Whether you're aware of it or not, you've lived through experiences that often exceeded your ability to cope comfortably.


That had an effect on your physical, emotional and psychological well-being. It caused you to create defences and coping behaviours to navigate and survive in the world and relationships.


Being unaware of your subconscious pain and subsequently, your coping responses mean that you tend to act habitually. You respond in ways that perpetuate your suffering, without realising it.


When you allow yourself to experience feelings from unresolved past events and circumstances, you no longer need to defend against that pain. You’re free to act differently in the present.


You’ll become self-aware and less reactive. You become emotionally healthy with new choices available to you. You become you.

How does trauma therapy work?

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© 2015  Jamillon Centre - updated August 2020