According to Bessel can der Kolk, (231) after 9/11 the psychotherapy community of New York City came together to plan and implement a way to help the many people who had been traumatized by that event. What they found was that the majority of people never came to psychotherapy to deal with the feelings that arose from that experience. When asked what people decided to choose, they found that overwhelmingly, people chose body-based therapies, citing massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga and EMDR as their primary means of coping with the burdens of the trauma they had experienced.
This choice points to one of the fundamental issues found when working to help people heal from the wounds of trauma. Trauma happens in the body. At least initially, it is a physiological process played out on a mental/emotional stage.
This reality demands that the treatment for trauma be at least partially based on the treatment of the physical issues that surround trauma. Traditionally, psychotherapy or the “talking cure” as it was originally known, has sought to address trauma through the means available to it, nominally by addressing the story of trauma through words in a “top-down’ cognitively based method.
The issue with this treatment as the sole option to treat trauma is that trauma is by nature a wordless experience, both literally and figuratively. The normal means by which we translate our experience into words in the brain is bypassed when we experience an event that overwhelms our normal responses. We are, in the face of trauma, literally speechless.
When we work with the body to help regulate the physiological experience of trauma, we allow a person to confront the content of the trauma more effectively and completely when they do come to seek the services of psychotherapy.
Somatic therapy and psychotherapy are two halves of a necessary whole. When used in conjunction to work with and heal the effects of trauma in people, the outcome is one that allows the person affected to truly heal and move forth whole in mind and body.