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- Ella Jolly, Social Worker
New York City

Trauma-Informed Massage and Bodywork: What is it and Who’s it For?

Trauma has become quite the buzzword of late, with even Oprah doing a “60 Minutes” special in March 2018 on the effects of childhood trauma.

Studies and impacts that have long been explored by many pioneers in the field are now finally bubbling to the mainstream surface. We’re beginning to understand that trauma encompasses more than a major one-time event (such as a car accident or assault), and is something that can be experienced whether you’re a teacher, chef, financial analyst, tech innovator, climate futurist, artist or army vet.

Unprocessed trauma lives in our body — as deep as the nervous system itself. As Peter Levine PhD, trauma specialist and creator of Somatic Experiencing, says, “Trauma is a highly activated, incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time.”

It’s a physiological experience that deeply influences how we experience our body, the state of our nervous system, how well or resilient we feel, and how we think, emote and behave.

After five years practicing bodywork, the time felt right to delve deeper into my understanding of what trauma can be, how it can manifest (physically, emotionally), and how to work with it more skillfully and sensitively as a bodyworker.

I’ve had the great fortune to study with Kathy Kain and Stephen Terrell, two long-time experts in the field of trauma and how to work with trauma through touch. I completed Kathy Kain’s intensive Touch Skills for Trauma training in 2017, and continued on to study the impacts of Developmental Trauma (defined as on-going trauma from in utero to age 5) with Kathy and Stephen.

Sage Hayes LMT, SEP wrote an excellent, easy-to-read summary of trauma and massage in a recent issue of Massage Magazine. Click here to check it out. It will help answer the questions of what trauma is, how it can manifest, and what trauma-informed massage and bodywork means.

Who do I tend to use a trauma-informed approach with?

In short, everyone. Even if you do not appear to have much in the way of unresolved trauma in your system, I bring knowledge of the nervous system and ability to attune to the state of yours to every session (because we all have a nervous system, after all).

I find my trauma-informed massage and bodywork approach best suited for people who:
– Are working with a talk therapist and feel ready to include the body in their healing process.
– Experience persistent, systemic pain and tension.
– Feel “numbed out” and disconnected from their body.
– Consider themselves a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
– Experience anxiety, depression, PTSD, C-PTSD, or burn-out.
– Have had adverse reactions to more traditional forms of massage and bodywork (e.g. flare ups, pain during or after).
– Are wanting to heal from an old injury or surgery with an associated emotional component (e.g. sadness, grief, anger).
– Have tried All.The.Things to resolve their pain, and are open to a new approach.

If any of the above ring true for you, email me to learn more about how my specific Trauma-Informed Massage and Bodywork might help you along your healing journey. It would be an honor to speak with you.

Gently yours,

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