“I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening.”
— Peter A. Levine, PhD
Helen Bohan, Ba(Hons) in Counselling and Psychotherapy, is an accredited Somatic Experiencing® practitioner, trauma specialist and psychotherapist working in Cork City, Ireland. She is also an Open Floor Movement facilitator and an accredited 5Rhythms® teacher. She teaches workshops throughout Ireland and internationally.
Could You Be Suffering from Trauma or PTSD?
When you hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) do you think of a male soldier or someone recovering from horrific war experiences? While this is how PTSD is most well known, it is not an experience unique to soldiers. People in all walks of life can suffer from PTSD, and women are twice as likely to suffer from it — and they typically experience more severe symptoms.
PTSD and Trauma can result from any type of event. While war, car accidents, sexual and physical assault are common causes, PTSD can also result from verbal or emotional abuse. Especially when we are at our most vulnerable, such as when we are at a young age.
Any disturbing or traumatic event can fall under the category of PTSD if it results in particular symptoms.
When someone experiences PTSD, they do not merely remember the painful event — their body responds as if it’s happening all over again. This ignites the fight or flight response, releases stress hormones and causing a cascade of physical, mental and emotional symptoms. Over time, these repeated experiences can result in serious mental and physical health issues.
Do you have any of the signs and symptoms of PTSD or Trauma?
- Immune system problems and endocrine problems such as thyroid dysfunction
- IBS, colitis, and digestive issues
- Migraines, neck problems and persistent headaches
- Severe premenstrual syndrome
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
- Depression, feelings of impending doom
- Hyper-sensitivity – especially to light, sound and chemicals
- Exhaustion, chronic fatigue (CFS), or very low physical energy
- Feeling stuck or trapped in certain situations
- Panic attacks, anxiety and phobias
As a practitioner of Somatic Experiencing and Somatic Practice, my primary focus is on treating the underlying causes of these symptoms. Whether it be trauma, complex trauma, PTSD, or developmental trauma.
Using Somatic Experiencing to Calm Your Nervous System
Somatic Experiencing® is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application.
Dr Levine’s explorations into how animals deal with threat led to the development of Somatic Experiencing® (SE), which is highly effective in dealing with the effects of overwhelm on the nervous system.
The SE approach facilitates the organic release of traumatic shock and re-organisation, which are key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. The SE way of working is subtle, gentle, and is one of only a few trauma therapies which takes into account the client’s threshold so as not to cause overwhelm or re-traumatisation.
SE facilitates the completion of self-protective responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is done by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
Release Trauma through ‘Somatic Practice’
Although the primary way I work is via language to track the nervous system, another possible approach is to use a gentle, non-invasive, and fully-clothed style of touch therapy to release frozen and stuck states held in the body.
Somatic Practice ( table work) returns vitality to the body in a way that has to be experienced to be believed.
Children are born without an internal “map” for safety. The blueprint for that map comes from co-regulating in safety with their primary caregiver in the early weeks and first few months of life. Therefore, safety is learned, it is not in-built. When creation of the child’s internal safety blueprint has been disrupted, this can be repaired through touch.
Clients have a distinct sensory experience and may feel the effect of being touched through all the layers of their conscious and unconscious body-mind.
Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s difficult to put into words, because ‘touch’ lights up the sub-cortical (implicit) structures in the brain (the place in the brain where there are no words).
Excellent for all types of development and shock trauma, trauma touchwork particularly supports the release of in-utero and pre-verbal trauma – things you might not have any words for…or any mental awareness of…but you can feel there are places where trauma is stuck in your body.
“I completed a Ba(Hons) in Counselling and Psychotherapy in 2009, and completed a three-year Somatic Experiencing® training in 2017, I also
trained in Somatic Psychotherapy with Open Floor International and the Moving Center School in California. Presently I’m completing a developmental trauma training with Kathy Kain, Creator of Somatic Practice. I am particularly interested in the nonverbal conversations that happen in psychotherapy and in allowing the somatic narrative to emerge”.
Are you unsure whether you suffer from trauma or PTSD?
PTSD and trauma commonly go undiagnosed. Since PTSD is commonly associated with extreme experiences, the label can be off-putting — especially for many who tend to belittle their own traumatic experiences as ‘foolish’ or ‘childish’. However, your body does not need a label to suffer from symptoms. Left untreated, these are likely to continue. If you are unsure whether you have PTSD or Trauma, or you are unsure whether Somatic Experiencing can help in your situation, please know that doubts are very common. The best way to find out if it can help you is to arrange a consultation and see for yourself.