How Body-Based Therapy for Trauma Is More Effective Than Talking Therapy
There is no one right treatment for trauma. While talking therapy for trauma can help you process your experiences, body-based therapy for trauma can be more effective. Modalities such as somatic experience therapy and EMDR therapy are body-based therapies. This means that they're more effective for treating trauma because of how much the body is impacted by traumatic experiences.
Dr Kelly Savery shares her own experience with talking therapy and how EMDR therapy for trauma ultimately helped her more. But we want to acknowledge that everyone's traumatic experiences are different. As a result, every trauma survivor has their own story and their own way of processing what happened.
What Is Body-Based Therapy for Trauma?
Body-based therapy moves beyond talking therapy. It uses interventions that are based on the physical self which bypasses the pre-frontal cortex and allows you to process your traumatic experiences where they are felt most - in the body. Trauma prevents the brain from accurately processing other experiences and gets disrupted and stuck, therefore being stored improperly.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is one form of body-based therapy. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to help you reprogram your brain into how it processes the trauma you've experienced. An EMDR therapist uses finger movements, tapping, and auditory stimulation while you think of the traumatic experience.
EMDR therapy provides a safe place to reconnect to the traumatic experience in a controlled environment. The external stimulation allows the brain to re-interpret the experience and the thoughts and feelings you have surrounding that experience.
Reframing thoughts such as "I deserved it" to "I am worthy and in control of my life" is the goal of EMDR therapy for trauma. You'll be asked how you feel after each session of EMDR therapy.
Somatic experience therapy is another form of body-based therapy for trauma. Somatic experience therapy helps you get unstuck from thoughts and feelings related to a past traumatic experience.
It helps you reprocess the traumatic experience in a way that allows you to self-regulate your mental and physical health, which was affected by the traumatic experience. Somatic experience therapy introduces aspects of the trauma that you've experienced and then connects it to your physical self with things like shifting your posture or changing your breathing pattern from shallow to deep. It helps you find safety in your body, a place that no longer feels safe after you've experienced something traumatic.
Talking Therapy for Trauma - How Effective Is It?
Talking therapy is one way to treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but it's not the only way. Talking therapy can be a very effective form of therapy for people who've experienced trauma, but because it's so cerebral it can only go so far. It can be done in addition to body-based therapy to help you process and understand not only what happened but why you feel the way you do after the traumatic event.
Talking therapy for trauma can be helpful to sort through the memories of the experience, but it doesn't allow the effect that the memory has on your body to move through your nervous system the way body-based therapy for trauma does. This is because the memory isn't stored in the cognitive part of your brain. Therefore, it needs to be treated on a physical level to regulate your nervous system, which becomes dysregulated when you've experienced trauma.
EMDR Therapy for Trauma - Dr Kelly Savery's Story
When Dr Kelly Savery was a baby, she had an operation that meant that she had casts on both legs in casts all over her body. This accident limited her mobility as she grew up and it affected her relationship with her body and physical activity.
She was afraid to exercise, causing her body to be less physically fit and healthy than she wanted. Dr Kelly Savery was always afraid that something bad would happen if she was too physical. So she deliberately kept herself from exerting her body physically to avoid future bodily trauma.
Talking therapy got her to a place where she could understand what happened and make sense of the things that happened to her. At the same time, she found herself unable to make changes. She was stuck. Talking therapy alone wasn't helping her connect to her body and reconcile the traumatic experience from her childhood.
When she had EMDR therapy for trauma, she was able to work through the body sensations that were holding her back to take that next step. It wasn't until she had talking therapy that she realized how much the accident and her experience being in casts as a child affected her. But then she had EMDR therapy and processed out some of the bodily sensations and immediately after noticed a difference in her ability to work out and push herself physically. EMDR therapy for trauma helped her move forward with her life and reclaim her body.
Her story demonstrates how talking therapy for trauma wasn't enough for her to move past the traumatic experience and makes the changes she wanted to in her life. For her, EMDR therapy helped her process her body-based trauma on a physical level that talking therapy was unable to do.
How Body-Based Therapy Can Help You Process Trauma
Dr Kelly Savery's story is one example of how body-based therapy for trauma can help process traumatic experiences on a physical level. Her trauma, which left physical reminders of the experience, was best processed through EMDR therapy for trauma.
Not everyone's experience is the same, but we believe that body-based therapy combined with talking therapy for trauma is the most effective way to treat PTSD.
If you or someone you know has experienced trauma and haven't found the right sort of therapy to process what happened, we at Taproot Psychology are here to help. We offer both talking therapy and EMDR therapy for trauma. Contact us to set up a free consultation to see how trauma therapy at Taproot Psychology could be right for you.