Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the most prominent trainers, therapists, researchers and writers in the field of trauma and its impact. He was in our area this past weekend with hundreds of therapists, social workers, educators and many other professionals in attendance for this two-day training. Dr. Van Der Kolk worked through some of the principles in his book, The Body Keeps the Score.
Diane Wagenhals (my fellow blogger) and I were both privileged to attend this training. We have known of Dr. Van Der Kolk for many years. He presented a lot of information as he shared with the audience so much of his own history, some historical aspects of trauma treatment, lots of research and how the body responds to traumatic events.
There was much to glean from this training but as I reflect on what was presented, I think of two general concepts. One is the power of trauma in the body. He showed videos of therapy with trauma-impacted individuals that were both emotional and insightful. Traumatic events are so powerfully connected to the body and the brain that it can be absolutely life-dominating. As we understand more about this and develop a lens for this impact to the body we recognize how much of illness, disease, addictions and destructive behavior can be tracked to the impact of trauma. It is sobering to think of how many people around us are living an internal existence of turmoil that is undetectable in normal life.
A second major point was the value of somatosensory coping interventions to those who have been trauma-impacted. Dr. Van Der Kolk spoke a great deal about body posture, EMDR, tapping, yoga and other body movement interventions that can help even some of the most difficult traumatic experiences and memories. This too was not new to us, but the credibility of the research and interventions were very compelling.
As I left this training, I thought a lot about the holiday season that we are currently entering. For some it is a season of losses, difficult memories and sickness. I think it is so important to be attuned to those lives in your sphere of influence and be aware of individuals who are highly anxious, depressed, suicidal, grieving or addicted. They may be reliving some aspects of their past traumas and they may be attempting to cope with the impact of trauma in their body. It will be important for them to find ways to activate their bodies and participate in activities as a means to cope. They should also see a trauma-informed therapist who can provide them with options for coping and recovery.
I appreciate so much the experts in this field who give us greater insight into how trauma effects our brain and bodies. There is so much more to be learned and listening to professionals like Dr. Van Der Kolk deepens our knowledge and our compassion.