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If you're struggling to cope after experiencing trauma, you're not alone.
It's common to feel like you're not the person you used to be. But there are ways to start calming down your brain and body. Somatic techniques can be a helpful way to begin to open up and process what you're feeling.
In this episode of Therapy Talks, Summer Forlenza joins Barb Egan to chat about somatic techniques for healing trauma, “Socratic questioning,” and how post traumatic growth can help you access gratitude.
The world is opening up again after the pandemic and everyone is reacting in their own way. Some of us are feeling excited, while others may be feeling anxious or scared. No matter how you're feeling, it's important to remember that nobody is doing their greatest right now. This is a time of change and growth, so it's normal to feel like your values and priorities have shifted.
While it's natural to focus on the negative after trauma, Summer and Barb remind us of the importance of remembering that post-traumatic growth is possible.
In This Episode:
Summer Forlenza is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in treating complex trauma and eating disorders. Summer is also a mental health educator who helps folks to better understand trauma, the mind body connection, and how to build better relationships with their body, brain, and fellow humans.
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Disclaimer: Therapy Talks does NOT provide medical services or professional counseling, and it is NOT a substitute for professional medical care.
Hi everyone, it's Barb Egan and on today's Therapy Talks podcast, we have on Summer Forlenza, a California therapist specializing in trauma, and we have summer back on today to talk about post-traumatic growth complex P T D somatic therapy and what that means, giving us some strategies to calm the body, integrate the mind, and help you to not feel so overwhelmed.
Stuck whether you're getting retried from past trauma, feeling overwhelmed and just integrating into the present a little bit more mindfulness, meditation and some practical strategies as well as resources. Some just came out with,
I've been doing a lot of Making a lot of content, talking a lot about a somatic approach to trauma therapy. Complex trauma and trauma, which I know is something we discussed before. So we could maybe explore that. Sure. I love that. Yeah, and we talked a lot. I think last time it was a lot about like trauma and eating disorders.
So feel free to touch on that. Go there, somatic. I love that. Just what you're seeing and especially as more and more people I guess, or as the world is opening up more, what are you seeing or what is coming up more? I think there's unique things happening in the world right now because it's like on some parts there obviously opening up from the pandemic is it's still a process.
But there was also this thing that was starting before that of the mental health opening up of lessening the stigma a little bit more, a little bit more. And still we have a ways to go, but. There's like a few of these things going on of opening up about mental health and talking about certain things.
It's not like trauma is all of a sudden new to us. It's just maybe we're talking about it or understanding it in a different way and people are seeking help and then we're all coming out of a collective trauma of the world and that can retrigger personal stuff, personal traumas in us. Have you been seeing stuff similar like that?
Yeah. Not only in my clients, but also for me too. It's been such a, And maybe we could talk a little bit about this. But it's interesting cuz I have some clients who are just Ready to be back in the world and ready to be engaging with people in person. And then I have others who are chronically ill or immunocompromised, can't get vaccinated, are really nervous about what's going on, and feel even more constrained than they ever have.
So it is. It's just quite a, It's quite a time. How do you gauge that? As a therapist, what are some tools, or even just as a friend or any listeners, because everyone has different comfort levels and just by airing on the side of caution, probably nobody's doing. Their greatest ever right now,
I think that's kinda safe to say. . It's not happening in 22. Yeah. , that's a, I literally, when I supervise the grad students at the university and I just encourage them, I'm like, This is probably the best position or the best career to go into coming out of a global pandemic. Nobody is doing well. Like we all I think everybody could benefit from counseling anyway.
I've always said that, but then you add what just. Is going on or our state of the world or the last couple years and it's yeah, nobody's like doing that great . Yeah. And it's, but then at the same time, it's so interesting cuz there's this I think maybe self-imposed pressure a lot of folks are putting on themselves to get back to what things were like before.
And it's interesting because I. When you think about the state of the world today, it's not only the shifting ever changing pandemic that we're in, it's also the war in Ukraine and the political crises in our country, and at least in the States, and. There's just so many pressures on so many people, and it's just really fascinating to see.
I don't know how people's values have changed, how their priorities have changed, but then we also feel somewhat of a pressure to go back and I don't know that we ever are gonna go back. I think it's just gonna keep changing. Yeah. Yeah. And that reminds me because we're gonna highlight a lot of trauma.
You're a trauma therapist. Can you talk about, before we even dive into more trauma posttraumatic growth, what is that? Oh, I love that you asked that . Cause I love talking about this. So my little caveat that I always give before I talk about posttraumatic growth is that you don't have to experience it.
If you go through trauma. You don't need to experience growth as a part of your healing, and not everybody does, sometimes when we talk about posttraumatic growth, I get a little pushback from folks who are like, Don't tell me to make something positive out of my trauma, and I don't want to. Impose that on anybody.
However, I have found that for lots of the people I've worked with and for myself, being able to experience some positives and some growth is, what's the right word that I'm looking for? It's. It's like very meaningful, right? It like can help you to attach some meaning to what you went through. When I think about post traumatic growth, a lot of times what we'll see is a deeper sense of meaning and connection to the world and other people.
More compassion and connection to other humans who are going through hard things, right? When you go through something really intense and awful, it, I think, open. For you, an awareness of Oh, this is what it can be like , right? And so you have more empathy for other people. You also can have more gratitude and perspective on what actually matters.
This is really common, I think, for people who experience trauma, to have the version of you who exist afterwards be very different from who existed before. It's like this different person, a different identity, a different set of values different lifestyle a lot of the time, and there's some grieving that's attached to that process.
A lot of times we miss who we used to be and we have to grieve them a little bit. But this new version of us is also can be somebody who. Is more in tune with reality. I think that sounds right. Oh, and bad things can happen without for no reason and what a gift it is to be alive and healthy and with people I care about today.
And I think that gratitude. Just a stronger connection to that, that can mean a lot to people. How does somebody tap into that? Because we hear about gratitude all the time, but sometimes it loses its weight because it's like, Oh, that's so fluffy, or That doesn't work. Or it's Oh, just take a breath.
mean Neurologically and physically in your brain and chemically in your body. It actually does help when there's signs back by that. But the average person would just be like, Ugh, and I can get that way too. I'm like, Oh, just take a breath. Oh, just journal. Oh, don't tell a . I feel that like I get annoyed.
I'm like, Don't tell me to take a breath with my like husbands. He's Okay, just calm down, take a breath. But what do you know
But accessing gratitude. It's interesting cuz I think about and I think this is another aspect of post traumatic growth for people, like an enhanced sense of mindfulness or awareness, right? Of the present. When you experience trauma, it's such a visceral and. Like you're so in that moment, a lot of times there's dissociation can be a piece of it, but it's so overwhelmingly this is e the only thing that's happening right now.
And afterwards when you're healing, you can also bring that awareness of where am I? When am I, What's happening right now? More easily? Because you're like, Oh, it's not, that's not happening right now, and so that mindfulness muscle and that like awareness of the present.
It's funny, one of the things I've had clients do before, if they're going through a really tough time in their life and when everything feels bad and nothing's going and everything's hard one of the things I will do is I'm like, okay. If, even if it's okay, you're sitting on the couch at the end of the day, you put on your favorite show and you have 30 minutes for that.
Or maybe you're walking in the dog and you have two minutes in the sunshine or something. Like just take a pause, look around and be like, Okay, this doesn't suck right now. like this currently does not suck, so I'm just gonna be here with this. You. Yes. I'm just gonna be present. So what would be an example that you work in that you've seen of post traumatic growth, like in real life with real people? One of the things that I see in people is a better and deeper. Respect for connection to their relationships with other people. And one of the things I think about this, and I'll even like maybe talk about myself as an example of this, right?
Before, so my kind of big. Trauma was illness. I got very sick. I was sick for about three years, beginning in my twenties. And the person I was before I got sick, cared a lot about achievements, cared a lot about school, cared a lot about looking good, cared a lot about prestige, things like that.
And after, when I got sick, all of that was taken away, right? You can't go to school, you can't work, you can't do anything. You're just sick. And on the other side of it, now the things that I care about are so different, right? The most important things in my life now are my relationships with other people.
And whether that's my family or my friends, even my relationship with myself being connected to the present moment, feeling presence and enjoying good things while they're happening. . And in a way that I just didn't even have the presence to do that before. Cause I was just so scattered. Right now, do you think, what you said earlier about coming out of this pandemic in this post pandemic world that we're in, and it's Wow, we feel this pressure to get back to how things were before, and then even how you just said that, that kind of reminds me of a scarcity mindset or the doing mindset of a trauma response.
What do you think about that? Yeah. That's this is something I like think about sometimes, right? That like scarcity mindset and which is the sense of oh, there's not enough. It's gonna run out. There aren't good enough good things in the world for everybody.
Things like that. And I think there's people who come by that set of beliefs very honestly. They have a lot of experiences where there's not enough or where they are disconnected. And I think especially like that scarcity mindset, we can apply it to relationships. And I know there were so many people during the pandemic who were so deeply isolated who maybe hadn't, maybe most of their relationships were in the office or at school or in these like third places, right?
We talk about you have like home and work and whatever these third places and. When that was all taken away, they re there wasn't as much because those relationships weren't very deeply connected. They didn't stick during the pandemic right. When we were all working from home and away from each other.
And I know that's something that I see in clients and hear from folks who are struggling and trying to come back to the world is like, How do I connect to people? Are people even gonna stick around? Can I trust that my relationships, I can rely on them and depend on them? And like I said, people come by that very honestly.
So when I'm approaching that with people I really try to take like a Socratic perspective and like some questioning of let's explore, let's check it out. Because it can be really jarring if you're like, Oh no, that's not true. People are like, Oh no, but that's my experience.
It's pretty true . That's my truth. Yeah. What are some of the questions like for people who are listening and they're like, Oh, what is Socratic questioning? Or what are some questions that they could ask themselves to even get curious? Yeah, so Socratic questioning is just, it's like a form of teaching, but you don't make any statements.
You just ask questions, right? So you just explore what the person in front of you is saying. And I think it's a pretty common technique I use with clients, right? Just to better understand their perspective, where they're coming from, like following their train of thought all the way through to the end.
So questions that people who are listening might ask themselves about their beliefs, about their experiences. When did I first start to believe this? What makes this feel true? Is there any evidence that this isn't true? I love that. When did I first like go back to the history? When did I first start to feel this?
And that's a big one for me. That sometimes gets me in my tracks that almost I'm going down this rabbit hole where you can feel yourself spiraling. And it's almost like you bump into something and it's like a mini aha moment of, Oh, I was in third grade, I was sitting in this and the teacher said this to me.
Or you can almost go back to. Who said that or where you were. And it's a past, so it's a past trauma being retriggered in the present. And to be able to kinda, It's like that tab on a computer that's open and you finally find it and you're like, Oh, wow. Yeah. And now that's keeping me from being able to do my research and do all my other stuff on my current computer in the present.
Ah. And then the cool thing about when we can find that moment is that, cause then we can say, Okay, so this thing that feels true was true then, right? Maybe in third grade. Like it was true that if my teacher didn't approve of me, I wasn't gonna get to go out to recess or something like that, right? Like maybe I needed that approval in order to have things that I wanted.
Is that still true now? That's the question we ask a lot. It. Is that still true? When you're 28, 42, however old you are, do you still need people's approval to be able to have freedom and do the things you want? And then you just see what happens when you ask that question. . Yeah. And I love it cuz it's so curious like you said, it's not putting a statement, it's getting curious of kind of these questions, Is it still true?
And I think validating that at one point it was, and it served a purpose. . Yeah. Yeah. I think we have to do that, because at least the part of my perspective is we need to. The past versions of ourselves who came by these beliefs, honestly. They deserve our respect and they deserve recognition for what they had to go through.
And a lot of times if we try to just push past and be like, Oh, that was, I was just a kid. That's, kids think all kinds of things. We can really I dunno I really to not talk down to those younger versions of ourselves and respect them for what they had to go through and how they had to figure out how to survive it.
Doing the best they could with what they had at the time, yeah. So let's say you're working with someone, and again, for our listeners who maybe haven't heard you on before, can you give a little bit about your background and what you like to work in and just your story, and then we can dive into.
Therapy with summer looks like . Cool. Sounds good. So I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. So I have a private practice out here. I work with folks all over the states virtually. And I graduated from Pepperdine with a master's in clinical psychology. I knew when I went to graduate school that I wanted to focus on trauma because of my own lived experience of trauma.
And I just knew that was something I needed to learn more about and wanted to focus on. And so while I was in graduate school, I got trained in EMDR therapy, which is my favorite modality for treating trauma. It's so cool. . Maybe we can talk about it more for folks who don't know about it. And then ever since then, I've also been exploring and just deepening my connection to somatic approaches to psychotherapy and.
Trying to take the hierarchy out of the therapy room, right? So not showing up as the expert, but as another human who's with like kind of a witness and a guide to your own process. When I'm not doing therapy, I'm a content creator now, so I'm always putting out stuff on Instagram and interacting with people there, answering questions.
I've just started teaching online, so doing workshops and just wrote a workbook that just came out, like actually literally today, . Which is exciting. And really, part of what I wanna do is just Some of the information that I learned in grad school and in my career, just more accessible to lay people who don't have this background.
Cuz I know it was really life changing to me to learn so much of this and I wished I'd had a way to learn it, before without gonna grad school. . Yes. Yes. That's awesome. So what are your workbook what are some of those workshops, workbooks? What are they? What do you like to, So right now Yeah, like really focusing on trauma education and somatic techniques to managing big emotions, overwhelm from home.
So they're all really made as a compliment to therapy. None of them are a substitute for therapy. But the workbook that just came out today is just full of. I think we covered like 40 different somatic techniques that help you to, if you're feeling very anxious, very overwhelmed, come back down into a state of being present and grounded.
We've just got tons of options in there lots of worksheets to help you figure out what ones are gonna work best for you and how to develop a routine around them. Really all designed with the mindset of like wanting to serve people who. Are in that kind of like overwhelmed, anxious, frantic place in, when you're coming out of trauma, you don't know what to do next.
You don't know how to feel any better. And you need like practical, actionable steps to start taking. Okay. Tell us more. I'm like, you got me . I wanna learn more. What are some of these techniques? Yeah okay, let me like, look at my book. I have it right here. We, so we cover a couple d. Types of techniques.
One of my favorites, actually, let's talk about this. So one of my favorites are techniques that are connected to bilateral stimulation, which is a part of EMDR therapy, right? So EMDR stands for eye Movement, Desensitization and reprocessing. Really long name. The basics is that it's a trauma reprocessing therapy.
And part of the way that EMDR works is through bilateral stimulation, which is just a fancy word for stimulating. Left side of your body. Right side of your body in a rhythmic pattern. So one way that we do this in EMDR therapy is through eye movements, right? So your therapist might put their fingers a couple inches from your face, move their hand back and forth, and you'll follow them with your eyes, right?
But we can also do this other ways. So the butterfly is one of my very favorites. I teach this to most people, like first or second session. And it basically just looks like crossing your hands over your body, putting your fingers right under your collarbones, and then I say medium pressure, slow pace.
You push in. I'm gonna exaggerate with my hands if people are watching the video, but they don't have to go this high, nice and slow while you take some deep breaths. And a lot of folks will notice quite quickly that their shoulders drop a little, their breath might deepen pretty naturally,
and you don't need to do this for very long especially at the beginning. Sometimes it can be hard to tolerate some of these techniques for a long period of time. So I always recommend start with 30 seconds if that's where you're at. Two minutes, if that's where you're. And then I also like to teach people some of the signs that your body is relaxing and that what you're doing is working right, So your shoulders dropping a little bit is one of them.
You're gonna notice this in any yoga video or meditation video you ever watch from now on. But a swallow reflex when you swallow, that's a sign that your body is relaxing and calming down. You hear yogis do this all the time when they're teaching . And then also sometimes your posture will improve a little, so you naturally will sit up a little more straight.
A little more with dignity is how meditation teachers talk about it sometimes sitting with dignity. And yeah, these are some of the signs that what you're doing is working and that this is a technique that works for you. So the butterfly hug I love because you don't need anything. You can do it re anywhere in the world and it tends to work rather quickly for people.
Yeah, that one's one of my favorites. Oh, that's really neat. So when would you suggest people doing them? Like how could you catch. Before you get too overwhelmed to the point of I don't know what to do, so I'm not gonna do anything. What are some markers that we could look for to then implement something like the butterfly hug or some deep breaths?
Yeah. There's a couple thoughts I have on that. The first is, if you know that anxiety overwhelm trauma, Are in your life right now. Then I like to encourage folks to have some sort of daily ritual or routine that incorporates techniques like this. So that might be in the morning, you wake up, you have some water, you set a timer for two minutes, and you butterfly hug, you stretch.
You just get connected to your body for a little bit. Again, you don't have to do this for really long periods of time for you to see a benefit. So that's one piece is just to start to have this be a regular practice in your day. The other piece is, and I think this is a part of somatic therapy in general, is just connecting a little bit more to your body, right?
And starting to know what are the signs that my body, cuz your body's different from anyone else's, that my body is getting overwhelmed or that I'm. Past the point of my ability to focus and be present with what's happening. Especially with our phones and stuff now, if you notice that you're just like frantically switching off between apps, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, whatever, switch 'em off really fast.
That might be a sign if you know when people's legs are like bouncing . If you're sitting in a chair and your leg is just bouncing really vigorously, that might be a sign. If you're feeling really distracted, like you have some work to get done, and you just cannot focus on it for the life of you. If you're getting like angry with people, if you're irritable , right?
If someone's trying to, just says something gentle to you and you feel really annoyed, that also might be a sign. So I always tell people, this is something you gotta investigate about yourself, cuz it's gonna show up differently for everyone. I also encourage people to prep ahead of time for when you're overwhelmed, because part of what happens in our brain when we are overwhelmed or really anxious or triggered is where there's less activity in our prefrontal cortex, right?
And more activity in our limbic system where our amygdala, like the fear center. Our brain lives. And when that's happening it's cuz we're in survival mode, right? Our brain has detected there's some sort of threat that we need to be ready to defend ourselves against. And I always tell people, our brain does not differentiate between physical and emotional threats.
It reacts to them the same way. So your boss being mad at you you feeling really rushed and like worried that people are gonna be upset cuz you're gonna be late or something like that. Might be experienced the same way as like a physical threat. So when you're in that state, you don't have access to all of the prefrontal cortex.
That just means that you don't have access to logical thinking language. A lot of the time it's hard to express yourself. Long term goals and planning, all of that's up here and we lose that. And Then it's really hard, like you're saying in that moment, to know what to do to feel better because you've lost the part of your brain that's gonna help you figure that out.
So I always encourage people to have a note on their phone or something on their mirror that has four, three to five different options for things that might work for you. So it says butterfly hug. It says Jump up and down for a minute. , it says get an ice pack from the freezer, put it on your chest and take a big breath.
Whatever works for. That way you don't have to come up with it. You can just look at your list and be like, Okay, I'm just gonna do this right now and then I'll make decisions. Yeah, that's so good. So that when you're in that moment of overwhelm, you don't have that added pressure on yourself to think cognitively.
Cuz you probably can't, It's not your fault, you're not going crazy. It's how we're designed. . , but you can't think of rationally. Okay, maybe I'll try Butterfly hug. Oh, I'll go on this app and do a meditation. I'll do some deep breaths. Oh, I'll message this friend. I'll go for a walk. We just don't think like that or speak to ourselves like that.
Nice. Calmly. So you, I'll need to prepare for, It's like practice before a game or studying before a test. You have it somewhere accessible, like you said on your phone that you can go to. You're reassured that you've put in some prep work, you can go to it and you have that. You don't have to think about it in the moment.
Yes, that is exactly what I want people to do. And I also encourage folks on that little list to have a name of a couple people that you can call or text or reach out to for support because that, getting, there's this aspect of co-regulation of being with somebody who's calm and grounded. Even just talking to somebody who's common, grounded, that helps your body to become more common grounded too.
So that's always one of the best ones. I have a like a free download for folks that kind of lays out okay, what are the things that might trigger me? What are some, like a bunch of different options for things you can do. Put down the names of people who can support you. Yeah, and that's free.
And I have people download it, printed out and use that. Just to have, that way you don't have to reinvent the wheel. . Yeah. So where can our listeners find that? Or they can find that? Where can I find that ? Yeah. The best place would probably be my Instagram. There's a link in my bio there and it has links to all the different stuff that I do.
I'm working on transferring that over to my new Like hub for all of my courses and things like that, but I'm doing about a million projects all at the same time. one by one, but on Instagram is where that one lives for the most part. And maybe we can connect it to this podcast episode or something too.
Definitely will do. Definitely. Yes. Yes. What is your Instagram again? Just so our listeners can listen or hear that It's some, the therapist, a period between the words. Okay. Some the therapist, summer dot the dot therapist. Okay, great. So Soma, these techniques, like the butterfly hug, you said they're somatic techniques.
What does that mean? Question. When I talk about this, I say, Okay, so somatic psychotherapy, psyche means mind. and soma means body. So somatic is body based and psychotherapy is mind therapy. So when we're doing somatic psychotherapy, we're taking a mind body approach to the way that we're working and. This to me feels like the only way I could ever do therapy from now on , just because the more that we learn about the connection between the nervous system and the brain and the body, the more we learn that there is really no separation ever at any time between the mind and the body.
They are always connected, and so I find it really essential to look at them both as we're processing our thoughts, our feelings, our relationships. Our reactions to the world, we have to look at both. Wow. So where does that come from? Like why is that a modality researched, evidence based in therapy?
It's interesting. So when I think about this question, I think about somatic psychotherapy being a little bit newer than some of the other techniques we might hear in therapy, right? So a lot of times when you're searching, when you're just Google What's good therapy? Or you're gonna hear about cognitive behavioral therapy, C B T and that's very A lot of it anyway is very much based on thoughts, right?
We're gonna question our thoughts, we're gonna change them, we're gonna add into them, we're gonna get curious about them. And I think what our field was noticing is that works really well for lots of people, right? There's also a lot of people who find themselves just going in circles are feelings.
They're just hitting their head against the wall with some of those techniques. And they get really frustrating and disheartening. You're like, Yeah, you're doing it and that's not working. Yeah. I don't feel different. Sure. I can know that thought's not true, but that doesn't change how it feels.
And I don't actually know as much about the history of what brought somatics into psychotherapy. But I know that it's been, it's much more, I see it a lot more in newly trained therapists who are like coming into the field who are taking this approach. And I think that's because we are also learning more about trauma and the body.
And how it impacts us. And we're recognizing that just working with our thoughts a lot of times isn't enough for traumatized people. Because trauma happens in our body, it's expressed in our body, and when we are disconnected from that, it's very hard to have any movement and change. Yeah, I completely agree.
And so many I have a great team of therapists at my practice, live counseling and the newer ones, especially being a supervisor with grad students and and newer therapists that are doing these different types of trainings. Like we have some that are. I've done the somatic trainings and it's two years.
This isn't Oh, just go to a weekend workshop. Like this is intense stuff that really is research and really does work and help your body and your mind integrate and connect. Same with emdr, like that year long, very intensive training and supervision that goes along with it. These aren't.
Oftentimes people hear these things and it's Oh, the butterfly kiss and put your pants here. Take some deep breaths. How really is that gonna work? But it absolutely is. So research and the training behind it is actually quite intense. It's not just, again, a little course in grad school, like these are intense trainings and supervision associated with it.
They are very much research and evidence based. Yes. And yeah, EMDR training is something that takes place over the course of six full days, and then you're in supervision and then you have to get all these hours. And then even as a therapist now who's been using EMDR for five years, I still go to consultation really regularly, and I talk to other people and I have other people look at the client's cases that I'm working with because they're very.
In depth. And you're so right. Like even though these might be techniques that seem more new and I think to a lot of people who are outside of the field, it might even seem like really weird. You're like, What? You want me move my eyes while I'm thinking about this thing? . But there is so much quality evidence that shows that it works.
And sometimes it's just about getting people over the hump of I'll tell people, Okay, some of the things I ask you to do might sound weird, but just go with it. See how it feels , you ever do it with them so that they can see some benefit, like even the butterfly kiss or the butterfly hug, for example.
Like starting out, like rate your overwhelming anxiety or your energy level, whatever out of 10, do it and then have them rate it to see if it goes down. Like how do you help them know that, hey, this is working for. I love that rating scale. We use a ton of rating scales in in emdr, right? That's one of the ways we track whether or not what we're doing is working zero to 10, zero to seven.
We have all these tra, these scales. What I tend to do in session with clients is have them do a body scan, right? So we'll scan through the body, we'll notice what sensations are present. So maybe my leg is really rest. That's a common one. Maybe I'm fiddling with my fingers a lot. Maybe my heart is just like pumping.
I feel a really tight, twisty feeling here. Then we'll use the butterfly hug. We'll take a few minutes, we'll take some breaths and then we'll scan again and we'll see if it's changed. And one of the reasons I love doing that in therapy is because it helps to build that mind muscle, that mind body connection, muscle, right?
It becomes a little more intuitive the more we do it. More easy to find and describe the sensations. Okay. Yeah. Because like you said with these, just even how you walked us through that was really helpful and I felt my own body just go down yeah, literally as you said, my shoulders went down more and that was a really helpful cue.
Are there quite a bit of different types of somatic techniques so that different bodies react or respond differently? Yes, totally. And there's different techniques that we use for different things that are happening in our body too, right? So one of the things that we think about is, are you. In a state of anxiety or hyper arousal, right?
If we're looking at like this window of tolerance idea where we're in the green, in the middle zone, we're regulated, we have access to our brain, we feel common present, we're grounded, right? When we're in a state of hyper arousal, we're anxious. Fidgety, restless, distracted. And then when we're, The other side of that is a state of hypo arousal, that's when we're shut down, lethargic, apathetic.
We have no energy. And those are really different feeling states, right? That state of anxiety versus almost a state of depression on the other side. And I would totally use different techniques to help people get back to that state of being regulated depending on where they're at and how they're presenting.
One of my, I've had clients come to session, they're pretty dissociated. They're really struggling to be present. And so I'll say, Okay, do you have any ice cream in your freezer? I have ice cream. Let's go both. Go get some ice cream. And then we sit and we eat ice cream together. And that is actually upregulating because there's that cold sensation.
There is the taste that you can anchor to as a sensation. And a lot of times we have a little ice cream. We talk a little and they will perk up and be more present. We could do the same thing with an ice pack just holding it on a wrist or on the chest. We might, some clients, I'll have them like shake their hands really vigorously.
Or shake, their body or jump up and down just to bring energy in. Whereas, so if you're coming from a place of like low energy, we might try stuff like that. Whereas if you're coming from a place of I have too much energy in my body, . I like ant calm down. We might do a little bit of getting energy out through some similar techniques of shaking or twisting or jumping.
But then we're gonna come to a place where we're doing some self soothing techniques. So we might do some big breaths. The butterfly hug. We might hold something like a warm cup of coffee or tea and feel the warmth of that while we breathe. We might use aromatherapy, so maybe they have perfumes or oils or candles that smell in a ni, like they smell a way that feels like calming down to them.
All kinds. There is so many options, and that's really empowering because it like the co, I love cognitive behavioral therapy. I love targeting the thought patterns, but I will, Big disclaimer, it's not for everybody at all times and I've been there too. It's like it, if I could just think rationally, I wouldn't be in this, I know that, or I know what I'm thinking is not rational.
Feels so real and I feel it in my body. And so I need to go to a body technique, a somatic technique, to help me first release that. So then maybe I can go back and rewire some of my thought patterns if I need to. But if I go right to there it's just like a rock and a har and a a round. Pig in a square hole.
Yes. Like you're trying to jam it. It's just not working and it's so frustrating. And then you get even more guilt and shame on yourself and frustration at yourself And what's wrong with me? Why can't I do it? This is supposed to work. And I see people come in all the time with that. Cuz I am a C B T specialist.
I work a lot out of C B T, but I believe so heavily in somatic work, in emdr. I was an athlete, I think it's really important to be really in tune with your body and more often than not, my body tells me something's up before my mind ever clues in cause I'm stubborn as hell and I'll just
and it is amazing that work of release. So if someone's listening today and they're like, Yeah, I've tried, traditional talk therapy or C B T, that's when that a lot of people recognize or hear and they're, that they're like hitting that wall. What would you encourage them to do? What could be a next step?
Great question. I like to encourage people to look for a therapist who's going to take a somatic approach, and there's a couple of like key words that you can look for that'll help you know whether or not a therapist is gonna work that. So one would be, you can look for someone who's trained in internal family systems therapy.
We've talked about, I don't know, I think we might have talked about this in our last episode. It's so cool. And there's innately this somatic component to it, right? We find the part in our body before we do anything else, . So I would look for maybe an IFS therapist. You can look for an EMDR therapist, even if you don't necessarily.
Feel like you have trauma or you need to reprocess trauma. An EMDR therapist is gonna have a somatic approach and they're gonna be able to do things like a body scan, the butterfly hug and help you connect to the body. You also might look for a somatic experiencing practitioner. Sensory motor psychotherapy is another one.
Yeah, these are some of the keywords I encourage people to look for. You can also, I always tell people when you're trying to find a therapist and you have someone, you're gonna call them and do your consultation, ask them questions, right? Treat this like you're interviewing us for a job. Cuz that's what's happening, right?
You're deciding whether or not you're gonna hire us. So some of the questions I might ask is, I'm interested in a more somatic approach to therapy. Is that something that you do? Is that something you have experience with? How do you approach anxiety? How do you approach trauma? And then wait till you find somebody, Keep looking, till you find someone who's gonna give you that different approach.
Because you're right, like C B T is awesome. And also, just like EMDR is not for everyone, C B T isn't for everyone. And it's great that we have therapists who do all different kinds of work. And if you've tried, one doesn't work. There's so many of us who have different approaches that we can try next.
And the right fit with your therapist is so important. Not just that somatic approach or CBT approach, but the right fit with that person. That therapist is huge to reintegrate into that body and that mind experience of safety, of empathy, of validation, and I think there's so much healing that goes on just by co-regulating with a safe therapist or safe person.
Yes. That's what the research really shows us, right? Is the most important thing out of anything that's happening in therapy is how connected and how safe you feel with your therapist. So they could be the most highly trained, skilled therapist in the whole world, but it doesn't matter because if your brain and body don't feel calm and safe with them, it's not gonna work.
right? Those techniques aren't gonna work. They're not gonna settle. Yeah. And so that's the biggest piece is like before, we can look for therapists who take a certain approach, but look for someone who you, , who you respect, who you feel good with. That is the most important thing. And so summer, you are working a lot in trauma eating disorders, complex P T S D.
Tell us about that. Like you as a therapist, what you're seeing, what therapy with summer, some of the therapists looks like . Yeah, so much. It's funny because, I, on Instagram and online I teach a lot of really practical skills and I do that in therapy, right? We'll do some skills based stuff, but the vast majority of my approach is really relational.
For complex trauma in particular, one of the areas of life that gets. Really rattled is our relationships with people. And there's a sense of, I don't know how to trust people. And so my biggest priority every day at work is to show up with curiosity, with compassion, feeling calm and grounded myself.
But curiosity and compassion are like the foundations, right? Let me find the pain point and empathize with you. Let's get curious about what's happening in your life. Is it working? Is this, are you liking this? Do you want it to be different? Does it feel possible to be different? I. And again, we might we'll do some skills stuff, but the majority of it is let's be together.
I'm someone who is just fully focused on you, who wants to understand your life and your experiences and what you want for the future, and who trusts that you are actually more of an expert on your life than I ever could be, and. I think that sometimes surprises people, right? They expect that because of my online approach where I'm very educational and I teach a lot that it would be very much the same way in therapy.
And I'm always telling people therapy is a totally different ballgame from teaching about mental health. They are really different parts of me, , right? My teachers help and my therapist self are very different. Yeah. And when you're working in, let's say, complex trauma, complex ptsd, what is that complex?
PTSD is trauma that occurs repeatedly over the period of years, most often in our developmental years. Though it can occur when you're an adult as well. So this is what you would think about for maybe a kid who grows up in an abusive home. A child who grows up with a chronic illness or a really severe disease someone who's bullied repeatedly all throughout school, right?
So you're not having one traumatic experience, you're having trauma. All the time repeatedly as your brain and body are developing. And what we're finding is that the presentation of complex PTSD that repeated re-traumatization is different from the presentation of what kind of classic post-traumatic stress disorder of you have a car accident, or you are a victim of a crime, or you're a veteran, right?
And you have this one period of your life that's separate from other parts. And in complex ptsd, we see really big difficulties regulating emotions, right? Feeling emotions. We see a lot of dissociation, so a lot of disconnection from the body and from the brain. We see really disrupted relationships.
So a lot of times these folks are really struggling to communicate in healthy ways, express their emotions and needs, feel safe with other people. Identify whether or not people are safe, right? Pick up on cues for that. And sometimes folks will say, when we're looking at things like borderline personality disorder, maybe that's actually complex ptsd, right?
We've put a different label on it, . But I think that, when we look at those kinds of symptoms and emotions and relationships, those are the primary places that we're gonna see affected in complex ptsd. So if someone's hearing that, Cause as we were starting out chatting, we're saying, we're kind, we're seeing that we're coming out of this post pandemic atmosphere in the world, that we're all coming out of this collective trauma or still walking through it.
But at the same time, there's like this. Awakening of mental health that more people are talking about it or seeking therapy or resources or just more open about it. And it's not like trauma's new or just all of a sudden started happening more in our day and age. It's been there. It's just maybe we have different understanding or wording or opening or talking about it now.
So if someone's hearing these words like complex PTSD or trauma even, that's a hard word, that could be really harsh to hear. How will they know, or what are some signs to encourage someone to say, Hey, maybe what happened to you was that, Or we can use this wording not to put a label on you, but to actually give you some knowledge and empowerment, to seek some help.
Or Strat or some of these strategies like these somatic techniques or therapy or resources, like you said, these supplemental resources that you've provided. . What are some signs that people are like, Oh, maybe that's what I experienced? Good question. So the things I want people to be curious about when they're trying to determine, was that just like a bad thing that happened that really sucked
Or was that trauma right? Like how can I tell the difference? The difference is not even like what type of event it was, right? Because two people can go through the same exact experience and one person can leave, not traumatized, and the other person can leave Traumat. So we're gonna take away any idea about what counts as trauma and what, how bad something needs to be for it to count as trauma.
And instead, we're gonna get curious about how your brain and body reacted to the thing that happened. So trauma is an event that is, Overwhelming by very nature, right? You are almost very consistent, like very common for folks to be trapped and helpless while something is happening, right? You cannot engage in any of your defense mechanisms.
You can't fight it, you can't run away. It doesn't work. So a lot of times you're forced into that third option, which is to freeze and just freeze and hope that it goes away quickly. So there's a lot of like tightness and tension. Even when I talk about it, I always go my shoulders go up and it's freeze you.
And this can happen, in when you experience violence and some of those things we might think of as trauma more classically. But this can also happen. The examples I've given before, bullying being singled out by a teacher and yelled at in front of the class, having an emotionally abusive parent not getting your physical needs met as a kid, right?
So maybe you're hungry or cold all the time. And what happens when we feel really overwhelmed and we're helpless to change? What's happening to us is our brain and body are flooded with stress chemicals and they are not mobilized, right? They don't actually get this to do anything. So if all this cortisol and adrenaline, which usually would give us energy and focus, but they don't have anything to do cuz we're frozen.
And so when we think about trauma memories, a lot of times the details are gonna feel slightly fuzzy. So we might have really clear blips of moments like, Oh, I remember the look on their face when they said this, or, I remember the room that I was in, or something like that. But we're gonna have trouble putting it all together as a story.
We're gonna have trouble telling it in a chronological, linear way that's not universal, but it's a common experience. We also will notice, when you, are you doing everything you can to avoid thinking about that thing ? Are you avoiding people, places, and things that remind you of what happened?
That avoidance is a really big trauma symptom. Along with intrusive memories of it. So are you having nightmares about what happens? Is it popping into your brain when you wish that it wouldn't? At times when of really inconvenience Sometimes. And when you think about it, do you feel as if you're there again?
Does your body maybe not You physically believe that you're four again or something, but is your body reacting in the same way as if it were happening right now? Those are all, those are some of the ways we can differentiate between that was a negative experience and it impacted me, versus this is a traumatic experience that has changed my body and my brain.
Yeah. Yeah. That's huge. Yeah. Yeah. And so when someone resonates with that or they hear parts of that say, Okay, yeah, I think I wanna learn more, what are some practical steps you can suggest? And it can be some of your stuff too, . Yeah. It can definitely follow me on Instagram cuz I'm teaching there every day.
All about how trauma shows up and what we can do and how to find a good trauma therapist to work with. There's also some books you can check out if you. Have a more scientific mind or you like to know a lot of details you could check out. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel VanDerKolk, which is a really deep dive into trauma.
And the body. And the brain. But I've also heard, I haven't read this one yet, but I've heard really good things about it didn't start with You, it's Oprah and I can't remember the other author of that book. But it's more of a layman's version. I hear of The Body Keeps The Score, helps you understand your connection to trauma and how it shows up in your life.
And then I would also, my ultimate recommendation for anyone with trauma is to find a good trauma therapist, . I get asked on Instagram all the time, Okay, but what do I do about it? What do I do about it? And I'm like, You go to therapy, , You work with one. You work one on one or in a group setting with someone who can give you individualized support because there's nothing universal in trauma.
Or in trauma treatment, it's always gonna be individualized. And so that's what I ultimately recommend at the end of the day. Yeah. Okay. And so if someone's listening to this, they wanna learn more about you or your resources, so follow you on Instagram, summer dot the dot therapist. How about your website or where they could find more there?
You can find email@example.com. Pretty simple. And on there I also have links to my online school that I'm developing, so that's where you can find my workshops, my workbook. And I'm gonna continuously be updating that space. Awesome. Okay. So good. That's fantastic. That's really exciting to hear about what you're releasing.
Thank you for doing it such important work too. And to put it out for people to just be more empowered. Absolutely. And thank you for the butterfly hug. That is a good one. So people, Yeah. I love that one. . I teach my kids that too. I think that's so good. Yes, I know. I tried to get, I, my husband's a teacher, he teaches fourth grade and I teach 'em all kinds of things to do with the kids , that it's so important.
It's so great. Oh Summer, thank you so much for Ha coming on again and sharing your wisdom and expertise and you just, yeah, you radiate that. That's why I wanted to start with posttraumatic growth because you just really radiate hope and growth for people of meeting them where they're at, that they're not stuck there or frustrated with themselves or this isn't working for me.
But you, just like you said, with those somatic techniques, even, there's so many different kinds for so many different bodies in your story, and it seems like you just really honor people in that way and meet them where they're at. So thank you for that, that work you're doing. Thank you. Thank you for seeing that and for naming it cuz that's my goal.
You know it's always cool when it gets picked up that way. ? Yes. Oh enjoy California and thank you again for coming on. Thank you so much, Barb. I so appreciate this time with you. Oh, likewise.