My budding passion for somatic therapy began in the late nineties, where in the process of my own healing I had an intuitive knowing that the body played a larger role in our psychology. I discovered books connecting trauma to the body such as Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine and Anatomy of the Spirit by Carloyn Myss, but there were not many. At the time in psychology there was a huge gap between the mind and body, but the research in the past 20 years has exploded with front runners, such as Bessel van der Kulk, Stephen Porges, Pat Ogden, Kathy Kain, Daniel Siegel, and Peter Levine whose approaches I draw from.
From this passion and self-discovery in my own healing, I began my under studies at Antioch University of Santa Barbara earning a Bachelors in Psychology. Then continued on to graduate in 2010 from the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, California receiving my masters degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Somatic therapy.
I began seeing adult clients in San Francisco as a trainee in 2009 at the Center for Somatic Psychotherapy. In 2012, I moved to Ojai, California and continued my education as an intern treating elementary and middle school aged children working for the Ojai Unified School District. I then transitioned to The New Beginnings Center in Camarillo, California where I was supervised by therapists who were certified in Somatic Experiencing, DBT, Gestalt, and Certified Specialists for Eating Disorders. It was during this time that I honed my skills sets to effectively treat trauma and related disorders. I completed my hours there and became a licensed marriage and family therapist moving on to open my own private practice in West Ventura where I currently practice.
Somatic psychology is becoming more well-known, and often people have many questions about the approach. I would like to say a little more about how I practice and the somatic lens I use to give you a better understanding.
I see the body as a vast warehouse of memories, emotions, and lived experiences, not simply a vehicle that gets you to and from places, but rather an intimately wired neural network of communicated experiences gained and felt through the senses. The body plays an essential role in healing and provides many avenues for change to occur. In particular, when a traumatic event happens our bodies activate an inherent and intelligent survival response to protect us from the life threatening event. However, when the overwhelming situation ends the body can become stuck and continue to engage in a survival stress response of fight, flight or freeze, hijacking us from coping with daily stressors. When our nervous systems are caught in the stress response, this interrupts the body’s natural ability to return to a balanced state of health and the window of our capacity to cope narrows greatly.
This window is also know as the Window of Tolerance (WOT), a term coined by Dan Siegel. I work with clients to educate them on how to identify when the stress response is activated and if they have left the Window of Tolerance and are entering into a state of over-activation or under-activation. (Please see the related articles section for more information on this topic.) We will also practice body awareness by developing what Eugene Gendlin calls the “felt-sense.” Gaining awareness of the inner sensations in the body is a doorway to understanding the stress response and providing you with an increased ability to change to greater or lesser degrees your physiological reactions that can cause great discomfort. We will work on developing tools to regulate your nervous system in order to find more comfort in your physical body and ease in your ability to regulate your emotions. When a person isn’t overwhelmed by uncomfortable sensations or emotions, and ideally experiencing a greater sense of clarity, ease, and calm he or she can and often do benefit in all areas of life.
Most if not all of us have experienced trauma in our lives. However the difference of developing a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is how resilient a person is to a life threatening event or conditions. Resilience is determined by multiple factors, such as personal beliefs and attitudes, genetic vulnerabilities, a history of prior traumas, life circumstances, and the degree of support a person has to navigate life stressors. In other words, not all individuals who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD. Somatic therapy aims to support the body and regulating the stress response that can lead to PTSD when left untreated.