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Understanding Trauma: Insights from Bessel van der Kolk's Body-Centric Approach

Updated: May 1

Trauma in the Body | Los Angeles Therapist Elevate Mental Health in Ventura County California

What do we need to know to understand trauma?

In the realm of mental health, trauma stands as an elusive, yet frequent culprit of psychological turmoil. One expert in the field, psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, expands our understanding of trauma by exploring it's significance beyond the mind. His pioneering approach underlines trauma's impact on the body. The gravity of his work lies in the notion that our bodies invariably bear the brunt of our traumatic experiences, marking a profound shift in perceiving and addressing trauma.

Trauma: A Body Keeps the Score

In his ground-breaking work "The Body Keeps the Score", van der Kolk proposes that trauma leaves a physical imprint on our bodies altering our body chemistry, modifying our brain responses, and interfering with our capacity for joy and pleasure. Simply, our bodies remember trauma and react accordingly.

Consider the scenario of war veterans who return home physically unscathed, yet tormented by invisible wounds. Conventional approach categorizes these as mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Van der Kolk begs to differ. These psychological reactions may simply be outward manifestations of deep-rooted bodily responses to trauma.

Navigating the Terrain of Body-Centric Therapy

The key to decoding the mystery of trauma, according to van der Kolk, resides in the body. By focusing on the body's perceptions and experiences, mental health professionals can help bring relief to individuals battling the aftermath of traumatic events. Here are a few practical strategies rooted in this body-centric approach.

1. Somatic Therapy

Techniques such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy can help patients gain awareness of their physical sensations and the connections between distressing thoughts or memories and bodily reactions. Through practicing mindfulness, patients can learn to manage their bodies' responses and reduce their trauma symptoms.

2. EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique form of therapy that can help patients reprocess traumatic memories, changing the way these memories are stored with less distressing emotions and bodily sensations.

3. Yoga and Mindfulness Practices

Fostering a better connection between the mind and the body through yoga or meditation can be integral in healing trauma. Tuning into the body with love and acceptance can exceedingly help to calm the nervous system, relieving trauma0related physiological responses.

4. Trauma-Informed Talk Therapies

Recognize that the language of trauma is often not verbal. Trauma informed therapies can aid patients to join the disconnected dots between their body sensations and psychological distress.

Power of Connection: Attachment and Networking

Van der Kolk endorses the significance of human connection in trauma recovery. Building supportive relationships, within communities or between mental health professionals and clients, is fundamental to fostering a sense of safety.

Whether you are a therapist treating trauma patients or a person seeking solace from persistent traumatic memories, consider these methods steeped in Bessel van der Kolk's wisdom His body-centric approach can shed new light on how we understand and handle trauma, delivering a profound impact on the journey to recovery.

Trauma can leave indelible impressions on your body, but it doesn't have to define you. The body does keep the score, but with support and understanding, it's possible to move towards a new narrative, where you are not a victim of your past, but a survivor, steering towards a more harmonious future.

Remember, you are not alone in your journey towards healing. It's okay to ask for help. In fact, that's why we exist!

If you're in the Los Angeles, Ventura County, Santa Barbara or surrounding areas, we would be happy to get you connected with one of our licensed therapists. If you are outside of California then consider searching "therapist near me" to guide you to an experienced therapist experience in trauma work.

Your Team at Elevate Mental Health


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