By: Sandra Lehmann, Trauma Counselor at The Meadows
I am currently going through the professional training program on Somatic Experiencing ® (SE) – a psychobiological method for the resolution and healing of trauma. I was struck by what the trainer taught us regarding the concept of society being addicted to the “red vortex.” The red vortex represents trauma and intensity (think the evening news). In the training, we learn how people get sucked into the red vortex as they reach the edges of intense experiences and that reliving the intensity of what happened in that experience is not healing. The trainer spoke about how it is not our fault that we are red addicted; we are born into a society that is inherently disconnected from our true nature, which is to live in harmony with nature and one another. SE therapy helps the patient reconnect with their body’s inherent ability to heal.
A key point of SE is that after we have a traumatic experience we tend to live in extremes – either avoiding intensity by trying to feel good all the time (think addiction), or living out intense experiences that activate the nervous system similar to the original trauma. In the SE training, we are taught to move towards the “blue vortex” first – feeling safe and socially connected – before moving towards the red. This back and forth movement gets lost in trauma.
The goal of SE is to increase our flexibility to move back and forth between both the pleasure and pain life offers and to have resiliency so we can be present to what is happening in the here and now. By being in the here and now, we have an embodied experience which allows us to be present for self and others. Imagine what the world would look like if we each learn to be that engaged in our own process so we can connect with others in such an open way.
To learn more about Somatic Experiencing® and how it can improve your life, contact The Meadows at 800-244-4949 with your questions, and start receiving the help you need.
Shelley's Corner: A Series on Emotional Trauma, Addiction, and Healing
Dr. Shelley Uram is a Harvard trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. As a Meadows' Senior Fellow, Dr. Uram conducts patient lectures and provides ongoing training and consultation to the treatment staff at The Meadows.
Welcome to Shelley’s Corner! Each week, you can find me here sharing some interesting information and ideas. Any feedback or ideas about topics are most welcomed!
Claudia Black, Senior Fellow at The Meadows, and I just returned from Boston from the 25th Annual International Trauma Conference. In my opinion, this is THE BEST trauma conference that I attend each year. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who is also a Senior Fellow at The Meadows, scours the planet each year looking for the latest and best trauma research. If he thinks the research will ultimately be valuable to trauma clients or clinicians, he welcomes these innovators to participate in his conference.
This year’s speakers updated us on the latest information concerning cutting edge theory and treatment practices. For example, the founder of Sensori-motor Psychotherapy, Pat Ogden, lectured and presented some film clips of clients working with her techniques. Her general approach to treating trauma is releasing the remnants, or “shadows,” of trauma that have been locked into our bodies. When it is released, not only does the body become freer and more spontaneous, but, likewise, our emotions can become much more comfortable.
At The Meadows, Pat Ogden’s Sensori-motor Psychotherapy is one of the trauma techniques many of our counselors utilize. We use this form of therapy, in conjunction with Pia Mellody’s Model, along with several other interventions that help heal our bodies and minds from trauma and addiction. It is my opinion that this whole package is unbeatable for helping people heal.
I’ll be back next week with some ideas about practices you can do on your own that may be helpful for many of you!
Shelley Uram, M.D.
© Shelley Uram 2014
From the opening keynote, “Understanding Trauma Through The Lens of the Polyvagal Theory” by Stephen Porges, Ph.D., to integration of trauma treatment model in clinical practice, the conference examined how trauma affects psychological and biological processes, and how the damage caused by overwhelming life experiences can be reversed. “The study of trauma has probably been the single most fertile area in helping to develop a deep understanding of the relationship among the emotional, cognitive, social and biological forces that shape human development,” said Conference Director, Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD.
“The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute would like to express its appreciation to The Meadows for their continued support of this conference and their continued work in trauma and addiction treatment,” said Dr. van der Kolk, one of the world's foremost authorities on post-traumatic stress disorder and other related disorders, Senior Fellow at The Meadows, and Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute.
Dr. Uram and Dr. Black presented a dynamic workshop entitled "Trauma and Addicted Family Systems: A Multidimensional Perspective," during which Dr. Black explained how adverse childhood experiences and blatant violence contribute to both addiction and co-occurring disorders. She also discussed shame screens, which are created in response to internalized shame-based messages. Dr. Uram translated this information into simple-to-understand neurobiological concepts, explaining how they ultimately impact the family system and most other aspects of life.
Dr. Black is a renowned author and trainer internationally recognized for her pioneering and contemporary work with family systems and addictive disorders. She is the author of several seminal books in the addictions field, most notably It Will Never Happen to Me and Straight Talk. Dr. Uram, a Harvard-trained, triple board-certified psychiatrist, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She speaks nationally and internationally, and is best known for transforming the complexity of the brain and traumatology into interesting and easily understandable explanations.
“Dr. Uram and I thoroughly enjoyed offering a full day’s workshop to clinicians from all over the country at this year’s trauma conference,” said Dr. Black. “As I discussed trauma as it exists in the context of families impacted by addiction, Dr. Uram offered the biological overlay to the experiences I spoke about. The audience was extremely enthusiastic about our presentation,” she adds. “I then stayed for the remaining three days of the trauma conference, and as fascinating as it was to listen to predominantly research-based presentations, I must honestly say what I came away with is how The Meadows has done a wonderful job of approaching trauma from what is called the ‘bottom’s up, top down’ perspective. We incorporate trauma therapies that offer regulation to the dysregulated brain stem and limbic system, making it possible for the client to use the widely respected cognitive behavioral methodologies. It was exciting to hear the research that was presented validate our treatment approach.”
The Meadows is an industry leader in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. To learn more about The Meadows’ work with trauma and addiction contact an intake coordinator at 800-244-4949.
Claudia Black, Ph.D., one of the world-renown Senior Fellows at The Meadows, spent this spring traveling and speaking across the country, frequently discussing what it is The Meadows and their sister programs treat, and that is trauma and addictions.
Here is a snippet of Dr. Black’s message:
Christopher says he remembers his first drink so well. He got sick as a dog; his head was spinning, and it was oblivion. He was 12, and he loved it. He was in his own bubble, and no one was ever going to hurt him again. No one was ever going to have the power to make him feel bad about himself. No one could ever get close enough to him for them to make a difference in his life. Alcohol and other drugs became his protector.
Deanna says she had loving parents, but at school, the kids began to pick on her, and she was bullied throughout the following years. She didn’t tell anyone, and in high school she began cutting on herself and then found her parents’ pills. She didn’t know why they had meds, but that didn’t matter to her − they just helped to dull her pain.
Jason was a first responder, an EMT and a firefighter. He had spent ten years, responding to people in crisis, and he was in his fourth year of work when he was the only one of his team of six to make it out of a burning building alive after being trapped for several hours. Until that time, he would have considered himself a normal drinker, in fact, a light drinker. Today, he can’t seem to get enough.
Chris, Deanna, and Jason are addicted, and each is a trauma survivor.
Definition of trauma: the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in your feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable.
Not that long ago when we thought of trauma we thought of natural disasters—fires that rampage acres, hurricanes and tornadoes, or shootings on our college campuses, movie theatres, elementary schools, or acts of terrorism. It may come with the experience of war, rape, a car accident or the burning of the family home.
These are thought of as Big T traumas. They are very horrific situations that frequently lead to trauma responses, some as severe as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But of all the people who experience trauma only 30% have PTSD, but nonetheless they may still suffer other trauma responses.
Little t traumas can be just as damaging as a Big T trauma, especially because they tend to occur over time and build upon each other. Examples would be ongoing emotional abuse or neglect, experiences of shame, humiliation, being left out, bullied or ridiculed and feeling not cared for.
The trauma that occurs in the family system can be both blatant and subtle. What is most significant is that it is chronic. It can include both Big T, and little T traumas Psychological effects are most likely to be most severe if the trauma is:
We know the impact can be ameliorated by existence of a support system at the time of the trauma. This is why we see some children show greater resilience than others. Even within the same family system, some children more than others are able to garner support and experience greater protection.
It’s common for someone to minimize their experience because someone else has a greater horror story. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event and the subsequent beliefs you internalize about yourself and the world. Your experience is not negated by someone else’s experience. They have theirs, and you have yours. Whether or not the trauma is acute or chronic, Big T or Little t, within the family system or not, the defenses developed are often what we are addressing when confronted with addictions, codependency, repetitive hurtful relationships, anxiety and depression.
For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.
The trauma treatment program at The Meadows can help you create a life of recovery, peace and healing. We have helped over 45,000 clients to date, through workshops and inpatient treatment programs. To learn more about the trauma workshops and treatment programs at The Meadows, call us at 800-244-4949 or visit this page for more information.
When working with a horse in a therapy session push and pull equate to assertive and passive. When horses communicate, it is through pushing. Boundaries are demonstrated through pushes in body language. A horse can push another away with an assertive look or swing a rear end around in a gesture to kick. Getting needs met is demonstrated by moving near and leaning toward or pushing into.
Horses don’t pull at each other. The closest thing to a pull to a horse is one calling out to another vocally. So what is the push about and what does that have to do with a therapeutic encounter?
During a therapeutic equine session a Participant often needs to move the horse in order to accomplish the task. Given that there is no halter or rope available this can present a challenge. More than 90% of the time the Participant tries “pulling” the horse by:
This type of “pulling” is coercive, indirect and passive.
All of these things are done in front of the horse. There is no pressure/push for the horse to respond to. It’s a passive way, a least invasive attempt to convince or appeal enough to the animal that it may want to move toward them.
How often to do we pull when direct communication would be so much more effective?
Other than literally pulling with a rope, a horse does not register a pull as pressure. It is just something occurring in the space at the moment that has no direct affect on its current state of being. Looking at how they communicate gives us a clue to healthy communication. The push is a natural pressure toward. It communicates intent in an assertive clear way. Participants push a horse by:
A push does not occur directly in front of the horse. It happens from the shoulders back. The most obvious difference is the feeling associated with a push. Although initially uncertainty is common, practicing it causes an internal shift. Moving with strength and intention creates energy. This is energy and pressure that the horse can clearly feel and will respond to. The horse now understands what you are saying and can move accordingly.
Learning how to push a horse changes the way Participants ask for needs and wants. It is a tangible way to experience healthy communication in a safe place.