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Why I Do Somatic Psychotherapy for Trauma in San Diego

Why I do Somatic Psychotherapy for Trauma in San Diego

Why Somatic Psychotherapy in San Diego?  

I often hear from friends and clients they “can’t imagine doing my job all day, every day”.  

They are curious why I decided to focus on Trauma Therapy.  

 

The answer I used to give still applies- I find the brain and its capacity to heal endlessly fascinating.  

However, as I continue to do my own work and healing, I understand better why I am doing this work.  

 

I want to heal, I want to live life differently AND I want that for you, too.  

 

My Trauma Journey

My trauma journey started at birth.  I only recently became aware of how much my birth experience affected my functioning and was still in my body.  

Even now, thinking about that, feels a little “woo woo” to the sciency part of me, but I can’t deny my experience.  

My mom and I had a horrible experience during my birth.  

I was breech, the labor was very long, and eventually I was pulled out with forceps not breathing.   My mom was very injured during the process and almost didn’t survive.  

I’m not really sure when my mom first held me, but it was quite a while after my birth.

She was told she couldn’t pick me up or hold me for the first six weeks of my life because of her injuries.  

She held me anyway but probably not as often as she wanted to.

 

I was in kindergarten when the next big event happened.  

My babysitter’s son was just back from Vietnam, I am from the stone ages, and during a flashback he pulled a knife on me and was going to cut off my ears.

 In this memory I can’t really remember what he looked like or the knife.  

It is like I see the event from a perspective above and outside of myself.  

It is like I am floating near the ceiling and in the opposite corner of where I actually stood.

I see a small girl with huge eyes, hands over her ears, frozen, and terrified.  

She is backed into a corner with a grown man crouching and coming at her.

I don’t see his wild eyes but I can feel them from my place near the ceiling. 

 

What Happened Next 

I was lucky.   I had loving parents.  My mom quit her job and stayed home with us the next day.  

However, those parents struggled with mental health issues.  My dad had PTSD from Vietnam.  My mom had chronic health issues and depression.  

I was really anxious, all the time.  My mom tells me that at 3 years old I made up songs about my dad dying and being unable to calm down without talking to him.

It was constant fear that my mom was going to die and my dad worked so far from home.  What would happen to us?

It felt like it was my responsibility to take care of mom (to keep her healthy) and my younger sisters (to keep them safe).  I worried a lot.  

  In second grade, my teacher talked to my mom about how anxious I was.  

In the bad old days, people thought going to therapy would ruin your life, that you wouldn’t be able to get a good job, your future would be doomed.  

That was the last thing my parents wanted for me.  

I learned I had to mask my anxiety so that I didn’t cause others to worry about me or let them know there was something wrong with me.  

If something was wrong with me I might be taken away.

I couldn’t talk about it and I couldn’t show that I felt it.

 

I Felt Like I Would Always Be Anxious

  In high school I developed health issues.  In college I went in to see if there was something wrong with my brain because I couldn’t remember basic things.  

I was convinced I had a physical issue.   Eventually I developed an autoimmune disease.

Bessel van der Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps the Score” and that made perfect sense.  

It was when I got the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease that a friend who was also a therapist told me about Gabor Maté’s work “When the Body Says No” and Compassionate Inquiry.  

This changed everything for me and my clients. 

With Gabor’s work it felt like there was a path to healing that made sense to me and was accessible.  

 

ACEs : Adverse Childhood Experiences

As I began learning more, I came across the ACEs study.

Here we had a large scientific study showing a connection between adverse experiences and the negative effects on physical and mental health.  

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study is something everyone should know about.  

It was conducted by Vincent Felitti, Head of Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventative Medicine in San Diego, and Robert Anda, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention researcher.  

They analyzed the records of more than 17,000 patients and found ten commonly reported Adverse Childhood Experiences that predict a wide range of psychological, medical, and functional problems.  

 

The ACEs consist of three kinds of abuse:  

Sexual, Physical, and Emotional

 

Two kinds of neglect:  

Emotional and Physical  

 

Five kinds of household dysfunction:  

Parents divorce or separation

 Witnessing a mother or stepmother being treated violently

Living with a household member addicted to alcohol or other drugs

A household member suicidal or mentally ill

At least one household member in jail  

 

These researchers found that nearly 2/3 of adults had experienced at least one of these events!  

They also found if you experienced one event, you usually experienced more than one.  

The study indicated, the more events experienced, the greater the likelihood of experiencing a disorders such as:

Type 2 diabetes, Cancer, heart disease, some types of asthma, stroke, autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and the list goes on.  

Use the link above to see the full study.  

 

Conclusions Drawn From This Study

ACEs are cumulative risk factors for many of the top leading causes of death in the U.S with no regard to income, race, education, or access to care.

 

Some conclusions drawn from this study are:  

Time often does not heal the wounds, we just learn to hide the pain.  

The earlier the Adverse Event happens, the harder it is to make sense of it, especially when the child lacks an empathetic other to offer support.  

We often treat the smoke and not the fire.  We medicate for the symptoms but don’t get to the root of the issue.  So the symptoms keep coming back.

 

The original research was done with mostly upper-middle-class,

white, college educated adults, with good jobs and health insurance.  

Outcomes are often worse for other demographic groups.

 

Woah, that feels really gloom and doomy! Yet, we know there is a lot we can do once we understand what is going on and why.   

 

Compassionate Inquiry for Trauma

With a better understanding of my experiences and how those experiences had impacted my life, I was looking for change.

I wanted a different relationship with myself and how I interacted in the world.   I didn’t feel very safe and I wanted to be able to be open with others.    

What I wanted the most was to learn how to love myself as I am.   My nervous system wanted a break.  

I was already a therapist working mostly with people who also experienced trauma when I became certified in Compassionate Inquiry.  

It took two years but was so worth it!    

 

Finding Safety and Support

The people that I worked with in my cohort are so important to me even now.  

These amazing humans created safety and used CI with such skill that I was able to work through things I had forgotten.  

 

CI is a somatic therapy and my body was able to let go of so much of the bracing it had been holding thanks to having a safe person to work with.  

Less than a year into the program I got a blood test back showing improved markers for my autoimmune disease and I’ve been maintaining those gains.  

More than that, I feel so changed.   I am not the same person I was before the CI work.  

 

Brainspotting: Another Somatic Psychotherapy for Trauma

Another powerful tool for Trauma is brainspotting.  

You can read more about that modality in my brainspotting blog and on my brainspotting page. 

  As a quick summary, this modality was born out of EMDR and uses what we know about trauma, the body, and the brain to process trauma events.  

The belief is where we look makes a difference and that we can access our limbic system through our eyes.   It is powerful stuff!  

 

I was able to do four intense sessions about my fear of being seen and here I am, producing content that isn’t perfect.

My reason for putting this out there is the hope it reaches the people who need this kind of help.  

I hope that my humanity and authenticity come through.  

I hope you see my passion for helping and feel my conviction that no one is too broken or beyond help.  

 

Working with Me: Somatic Psychotherapy for Trauma

I wish I could say the few things above were the extent of trauma for me.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  

The point is, I know trauma.   I’m not completely over all the things I’ve experienced in my life.  I’m still a work in progress.

I want you to know I understand what it feels like to carry trauma in your body.  

I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts.  

I know panic attacks.   I’ve had insomnia.   The struggle to get out of bed was very real.

 I lost all motivation to do things, felt hopeless and afraid, like nothing.

 Numb would have been something.

I scared myself. 

 

I’ve also come out the other side.  

I found a really good therapist who helped me start to move out of the pain and fear.  

Finding Somatic Psychotherapy and EMDR, taught me to trust my body and brain.  

 

It is hard to start therapy and find someone you trust.  

I know what it is like to cry during every session for nearly two years.  

Then there is the experience of the “ah-ha” moment making connections about beliefs, sensations, and experiences.  

I’ve been able to use coping skills to navigate life more effectively and from my adult self, rather than an injured part.  

Looking back and seeing how far I’ve come, it is almost unbelievable.  

I want that for you.  

 

How I Can Help 

There isn’t one set plan for my clients.   We meet to see if I am a good fit for you and if you are a good fit for me.  

I’m not the therapist for everyone.  

We talk about your goals for therapy.  In session, I trust my gut as I read what your body and brain say they need in that particular session.  

You and I develop a client plan and I hold myself accountable about progressing toward your goals.  We allow the wisdom of your mind, body, and brain guide how we get there.  

There might be sessions just focusing on somatic interventions, brainspotting, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, or Compassionate Inquiry.   We might bring in mindfulness or art therapy interventions.  

I always bring in compassion and most of the time humor.   Trauma therapy is hard.   No one wants to be in the worst events of their life again.  

My goal is to make therapy feel safe and something that is manageable.  If it is kinda’ fun, that is a bonus.  

It also needs to be worth it.  I don’t want you in therapy forever.  If you are, I’m not doing my job.  

So even at the start we will talk about how we know it is time for you to quit therapy.  

What will your life look like when that time has come?  

I want you to get to that place.  

I believe you can.  

 

Next Steps

If this resonates with you and is the kind of therapy you have been looking for use the button at the top of this page to book a free 15 minute consultation or schedule a session.  

To find out more, check out the rest of my website.   Feel free to schedule a consultation so we can determine if I am your therapist.  

Regardless of if you work with me or someone else, I want you to know that Healing is Possible.  

I thought I would always feel anxious, depressed, and fearful.  

With the work I have done, with such talented people, my life has changed and I am living from a more authentic place.  

Life is too short to stay stuck in pain.  

Do this for yourself.  

You are worth it!

Warm regards,  

Shay