Trauma is among the most difficult conditions to treat. From shut-down clients to those who bristle at even the slightest intervention, working with trauma survivors demands equal parts care and decisiveness. Few master therapists know this better than Peter Levine, the creator of Somatic Experiencing. With over 40 years of experience treating trauma survivors, Levine has developed a proven approach to working with post-traumatic stress.
"Most therapists have an empathic presence," Levine says. "For many, they're the first people trauma survivors encounter who they feel understand and care about them, and they gain significant relief from that." The key ingredient here, Levine stresses, is empathy.
In this video clip from his 2014 Networker Symposium keynote address, "Trauma and the Unspoken Voice of the Body," Levine reads an excerpt from his book, In an Unspoken Voice, sharing a moving personal story about his own personal encounter with trauma and the simple remedy that helped him ward off post-traumatic stress.
Peter Levine, PhD, is the developer of Somatic Experiencing. He’s written a variety of books, including Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice. He’s the recipient of the USABP lifetime achievement award for his contribution to trauma.
As Levine's story shows, and studies confirm, sometimes the most profound interventions are the simplest gestures, like holding a hand, adopting a soothing voice, or reinforcing that a client isn't alone. "Defining PTSD," Levine says, "gave a voice to people who were really suffering and were otherwise diagnosed with, 'oh, it's all in your head.'"
Beyond just providing empathic presence, the tenets of Levine's Somatic Experiencing offer other concrete tools for alleviating trauma, including simple, body-oriented interventions you can practice today with your own clients.
"If we know how to access trauma," Levine says, "sometimes things that appear very severe can actually change literally in moments. When we get under the trauma radar and understand what our clients' bodies need, then trauma begins to dissolve."
To investigate trauma, we have to be able to talk in the language of the body and the brain." In this FREE CE video, Levine explains how you can do this in your own clinical work.
You might also enjoy our articles on Trauma. Or, read more about how trauma treatment has evolved over the past 25 years in Janina Fisher's "Putting the Pieces Together." or take a look at "The Long Shadow of Trauma," in which we confront why childhood abuse may be our number one public health issue.
Tags: post-traumatic stress disorder ptsd | Anxiety | childhood trauma | childhood traumas | Depression & Grief | early childhood trauma | Networker Symposium | PTSD | ptsd and depression | PTSD diagnosis | ptsd treatment | retraumatization | Symposium | Symposium 2014 | Trauma | trauma treatment