- Therapy provides a safe place to be yourself. As problems increase, there is often a sense of isolation. When we feel alone, we are more easily overwhelmed by life. In therapy, you are not alone. You do not need to confront the wounds of the past or today's challenges by yourself. You have support.
- Therapy challenges your current structural patterns:
i. Thinking: What we believe about ourselves and the nature of the world developed early in life. For most of us we live as though what was true, is still true. This cuts us off from current strenghs and resources when they are needed most. Especially in stressful situations, we contract into old ineffective patterns of mind, emotion and relationship.
ii. Emotions activate internal patterns through the glandular system (chemical energy), nervous system (electrical energy) and body’s structure (physical energy). We actually can get addicted to the internal chemistry of anger, hurt, anxiety and depression. These emotions overwhelm the intellect and our good common sense learned over a lifetime. When emotions have not been integrated (experienced, expressed, understood, embodied), these patterns constrict the body and the mind leading to chronic tension and obsessive thinking. In the therapeutic relationship, emotions can be safely felt and expressed. They can become a resource, not something to be avoided.
iii. Physically, the body holds against difficult emotions and beliefs of insufficiency by a hardened chest that protects the heart or a chaotic, upset stomach that prevents us from taking in that which nourishes us or a locked pelvis that blocks our passion or tension in the legs that leaves us feeling ungrounded or frozen shoulders that get in the way of reaching out to give or to receive help or a pain in the neck that separates the wisdom of the head from the values of the heart. My approach to therapy helps you reconnect in your body so that you can tolerate and integrate difficult emotions, re-evaluate who you see yourself to be, allowing compassion, forgiveness and love for self and others to be shared freely.
iv. Relationship: When young, aspects of ourselves were welcomed into the world. Other parts of our who we were was ignored, criticized, rejected, punished. The latter became disowned, hidden in the unconscious, in the body, in 'acting out' behaviors. A depressed mother may not be able to tolerate your sadness; an angry father may not be able to tolerate your fear; an overwhelmed family may not be able to see you in a way that afirms the truth of your life. In the therapeutic relationship all of who you are is welcome. Disowned parts are invited in, leading over time to the experience of being more whole.
v. Spirit: In our best selves, we all feel connected to something greater than our individual self. It may be family or a religion; a social movement, a trade or profession; to our citizenship, gender or race; to God or spirit or nature. We find resources in that connection. We are a part of a greater whole. Drawing on that expanded sense of Self, we can find courage, resiliancy, strength and peace. When appropriate, techniques are shared and practiced that can increase your connection to and your feeling a part of that greater, more inclusive self.
- Therapy helps you have access to your strengths in difficult situations.
- Therapy provides a doorway through which your sense of what is possible expands.
- Therapy is a process by which you can "become the change you want to see in the world". (borrowed from Mahatma Ghandi)
a. Relational: We live in a relational world. We are born in relationship, first literally through another body, then to those who care for us in our infancy. In those early months and years, we see ourselves and the world through the eyes of others. Over our first 20 years or so, we establish a relationship with our selves. Our relationships continue expand over the course of our lives; yet often, we continue to live with attitudes and beliefs established in those early relationships…..”Is the world a safe place? Will I be loved? Can my love be received? Will anyone notice that I am here?..." The goal of a somatic-relational therapist is to use the therapeutic relationship to open to the truth of what is available today, rather than to continue to live in the limitations of the past.
b. Somatic: We are in a physical body. Some would say we are a physical body, others that we have a body. Our relationship with our bodies can be a source of pleasure and a source of pain. Emotional pain is ‘felt’ in the same part of the brain as physical pain. The body can also be a source of support for the life and a wellspring of information about the life. Enriching the relationship with your body to shift from pain to pleasure, from isolation to connection, from closed to open, from one energetic state to another is a focus of the somatic-relational therapist.Why is exploring my childhood important?
We are born into an environment that is limited and limiting. We adapt to that environment in order to make the best of it. In that adapting, we develop those strengths and resources that are tolerated, perhaps welcomed, sometimes even celebrated in that environmtent. Sometimes we must develop strategies simply to survive. Aspects of ourselves that are potential personal strengths and internal resources, but that find no fertile ground in which to grow, go undeveloped. If mother is depressed, perhaps it is intolerable for you to be sad; if father is angry, perhaps you remain quiet, never finding your voice; if parents are missing, chaotic, disconnected, perhaps you grow up too quickly, losing access to the playful, joyful innerchild. We make decisions about the nature of the world and our place in it based on those early environments. As adults, the environment is often very different, our options certainly are; yet, we can be stuck in those old decisions and our life limited as a result.
How do you work with the body?
With most clients I use body awareness and basic grounding exercises. With some clients I use movement exploration and emotionally expressive exercises. What happens with any individual client really depends on that client's needs and timing.
a. Awareness – Explore patterns of contraction (protection) and openness (vulnerability) and the cost and benefit of each. Simply notice what you sense in your body in difficult and in comfortable situations. Then use the body as a way to shift from one energetic (emotional pattern, thinking pattern, stress pattern) to one more useful and more true.
b. Finding your movement - From unconscious with certain people or when certain issues come up to conscious, giving you more control of your body and emotions. Exploring how you hold yourself and how you transition from open to closed; and from closed to open.
c. Explore exercises to help you ground. Exercises to help you discharge stress and emotion. Exercises to help you become aware of patterns of tension in your body and their function .
Why do people go to therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?