Somatic therapy with children
One of the most difficult challenges that parents face is helping a child recover from a traumatic event or a series of intensely stressful experiences. If your child appears not to bounce back, you may feel frightened or helpless, frustrated or inadequate to solve the problem. You may empathize with your child’s pain or anxiety to the point of feeling overwhelmed yourself.
Let me reassure you that your child has a natural, innate ability to heal, both emotionally and physically. I can help your child connect with this healing potential, also called resiliency, and can support you to become a healing resource for your child.
While we don’t always know the original cause of symptoms, we do know when something is wrong. As Peter Levine and Maggie Kline report in their 2006 book Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes, “Young children often tell us that they are traumatized through their play, sleep patterns, altered activity levels, exaggerated emotional responses (fear and anger), and somatic complaints such as tummy or head aches and regression to an earlier developmental level that may feel safer.”
My expertise is specific to working with symptoms of trauma and/or accumulated stress. These can be associated with, but are not limited to:
- Birth trauma
- Invasive medical procedures or surgery
- Accidents and falls
- Violent acts or attacks
- Sexual molestation
- Loss, including death, divorce or separation from a loved one
- Witness to frightening events
- Environmental stressors
An important part of somatic therapy is for children and parents to learn together about the effects of trauma and stress, how our bodies respond to danger, and how to channel the powerful energy of these survival responses in healthy ways.
I meet each child where s/he is, listening with curiosity, and engaging through play. My first goal is to establish a trusting relationship in which your child feels safe and free to express thoughts and feelings. I emphasize strengths, and help your child connect to a positive sense of self.
Working in collaboration with you, as an active participant in the process, we focus attention on the wholesome coping skills your child already has, and on developing new ones. We explore both resources and areas of distress through a variety of body-mind exercises and games, drawing, fantasy play and various techniques to balance the nervous system.
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress stem from an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which has become over-activated or shutdown or swinging between these states. An essential part of the healing process is skilled touch, which can be highly beneficial for retraining your child’s nervous system. When using gentle and attuned touch, I will include you as another set of hands, and teach you techniques that you can practice at home.
For young children and babies, sessions take place with one or more parents present. From time to time, I will meet with parents alone to assess the child’s needs and progress, to address what is happening in the family, and to provide any additional support as appropriate. I usually meet with teens alone after an initial family session, and include parents in occasional meetings as needed. I also invite siblings to sessions, if and when it makes sense to do so.
I look forward to helping your child and family move through the disturbance that trauma or prolonged stress can cause. Somatic therapy brings the nervous system into a balanced flow between states of activity and rest. As this happens, emotions become more regulated. Symptoms of agitation or collapse resolve, and your child returns to his/her natural condition of playfulness and receptivity.