"The imprint of the trauma is in the limbic system and in the brainstem: in our animal brains, not our thinking brains. Words cannot integrate the disorganized sensations and action patterns that come from the core imprint of trauma."- Bessel van der Kolk, 2004
We now know that talk therapy alone does not effectively treat past trauma; in fact, it can actually make things worse. Because of how the experience of trauma is registered in the brain, body-focused treatments are far more effective. When the sufferer experiences a flashback or a traumatic memory, the “feeling brain” is activated and the “thinking brain” starts to shut down. As a result, there’s no way for the sufferer to recognize at that moment that the traumatic experience is over and in the past. For that to happen, emotional and body responses must be noticed and calmed (regulated) and the rational part of the brain must be coaxed to come back online. For trauma to be effectively processed both parts of the brain must be active at the same time.
Trauma Treatment Model
My treatment model for past trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is based on understanding the neurobiology of trauma and addressing that through use of mindfulness and body centered approaches. Calming the body and learning to regulate body and emotional responses to the trauma through Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and relaxation techniques is essential before any effort to talk about the trauma can occur; otherwise, the sufferer risks being retraumatized each time he/she tells the story. A sense of being safe in the here and now is necessary for further trauma processing to occur.
I also use a technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a strategy that has been proven by research to be very effective in treating PTSD.