An Excerpt from a
Get the Applications in One Easy-to-Use Guide
by Ruth Buczynski, PhD
with Peter Levine, PhD
1. The importance of helping trauma patients feel safe
It’s hard to make progress when trauma patients don’t feel safe.
Here, Dr. Levine emphasizes the importance of safety in practice.
“First of all, it’s important that a person in trauma be able to get a sense that something has a beginning, middle and end – that there is an end.
Even more important is that you feel safe – that somebody is going to be there at your side, is going to take care of you, and that you will be reunited.
When a person is traumatized, almost nothing feels safe.
As therapists, we want to be able to convey, at least in the smallest amount, an island of safety – that there is a way to feel safe. Something has happened to you and you survived it.
Now, we’re going to go back and I’m going to pick up some of those pieces that you left behind, so you can be whole again.” (p.7-8)
2. Tools to help patients create safety on their own
Even if you make sessions a safe space for clients, they need tools to create that same sense of safety in the rest of their lives.
Here’s an exercise from Dr. Levine that could help.
“It’s important to help the client learn tools that they can use to help them feel relatively safe.
If the only place they feel safe is with you, the therapist, then when they leave, they start feeling completely dependent on the therapist.
We can help if we can give them even the smallest tools for self-soothing. Here is one that I just did in a case consultation – I often demonstrate a number of these with a client . . .
Take your right hand and put it here, under your left arm on the side of the heart.
Put the other hand on the shoulder. This is just to get the feeling of what this sensation is like, not just of your hands but of what is going on inside of your body.
Yet the container of the body is the outside of our body – our shoulders, the sides of our thorax… When we can feel our body as the container, then the emotions and the sensations do not feel as overwhelming – they’re being contained.
Another very simple tool for them to do is to just put their hand on their forehead and the other hand on their upper chest, and then wait.
They can do this with their eyes open or closed – whatever they feel more comfortable with. A lot of people like to do it with their eyes closed; others don’t feel safe enough.
Sometimes they will feel an energy flow, or a change in temperature…. I just ask them to keep their hands there – it could be just a few moments or it could be five or ten minutes – they keep their hands there until they feel some kind of a shift.
Then I have them take the upper hand here – keep the lower hand on the chest – and put this hand on the belly. Again, I ask them just to wait until there’s some shift – till there’s some flow.
Sometimes, if people are unable to sleep or they’re afraid they’re going to have nightmares, they can do simple positions like this. They fall into sleep much better, and often their dreams are much more useful.” (p. 9)
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