Trauma Informed Bodywork: What is it?

Everywhere you turn, “trauma-informed” seems to be the newest buzzword. You may find yourself asking, “What does trauma-informed mean and exactly how does that apply to me?

According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), trauma informed care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of trauma. There are several key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. They are: 1.) Safety, 2.) Trustworthiness, 3.) Collaboration, 4.) Client empowerment, choice and voice and 5.) Recognition of differing cultural and gender issues.

There is a strong interrelation between trauma and symptoms of trauma such as depression and anxiety. Recent studies by the likes of Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, Dr. Peter Levine as well as others have shown the usefulness of massage as a complementary treatment for people who have been exposed to trauma. Massage therapy in fact, can provide clients a safe approach to dealing with trauma and stressors. Trauma informed massage invites clients to experience safe touch, relaxation, comfort, tension relief and conscious attention. Trauma informed massage gives clients a voice in receiving healthy and collaborative touch. Bodywork can be a very powerful adjunct to psychotherapy. Trauma can lead to dissociative numbing, which leads to a trauma survivor disconnecting from their body. With reconnection being a primary goal, bodywork can be a valuable tool towards this end. Bodywork for trauma survivors can facilitate the process of acceptance and reintegration with their body and help to feel more present.

Working with a skilled, compassionate and mindful bodyworker can help rebuild a trauma survivor’s sense of trust and reconnect them with both the possibility of healthy touch and rebuilding genuine caring, empowering relationships. Maintaining a trauma-informed practice is critical in honoring each client’s journey. With knowledge, skill and intuition, the bodyworker’s contribution can be vital to the trauma survivor.

Anne Harrison LMSW, LMT owns Divine Massage and Bodywork, located within the Boise Wholistic Wellness Collective. Additionally, she is a practicing psychotherapist at Emmett Counseling and Psychiatric Services. She believes that trauma can be lodged within the body and that with mindful bodywork, these lingering traumas can be released. Anne is also an US Army veteran and works with people from all walks of life who are on the path to recovering from trauma.

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