In recent years, researchers and clinicians have supported advances in understanding the effects of trauma on both mind and body that have greatly expanded our range of clinical tools and opened new possibilities for dramatically improved outcomes and deeper healing. One of these tools is Dr Stephen W. Porges’ Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) a five-day intervention designed to improve social communication by regulating physiological state and enhancing our ability to process human speech. “Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. It is designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. It stimulates nervous system regulation by exercising and systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music to retune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage” (Associate Manual Safe & Sound Protocol, 2017, page 1). Initially, the program was called the Sound Sensitivity Program and was recommended as a tool for clinicians working with clients having auditory sensitivities (hypersensitivity), social/communication difficulties and/or problems with regulating behavioral state (inattention, behavioral dysregulation). With case studies and research in hand, Porges changed the name when he realized the autonomic system impact beyond auditory sensitivity—he saw SSP’s impact on anxiety, trauma and social communication. When done in the right context, SSP can enable trauma survivors to socially engage in and benefit from psychotherapy (experiencing attunement, co-regulation, etc.)
I wondered a few years ago how it might be possible that the fetus could know "the flavour of the relationship with the mother" while immersed in a liquid environment, given that the introduction of sweet substances into the amniotic fluid led to an increase in deglutition (swallowing), while the intro- duction of bitter substances led to a reduction. I believe the answer lies in Ludwig Jacobson's (1813) vomeronasal organ, which is situated just above the incisors and is capable of transducing the aroma of substances in liquid solutions into taste in the embryonal-fetal period. This organ atrophies after birth, but, during our intrauterine time, it permits us to know the flavor of the primary object relationship, which is ‘a mirror taste’, which is to say that it already informs us of a primary intercorporeity that may prepare the ground for later subjectivity and intersubjectivity, and even psychopathology. This sense of a primary intercorporeity lead me to consider corporeity’s place in general in psychotherapy and how it interacts with what I consider to be the two main ingredients in the psychotherapeutic setting, namely the relationship (between therapist and client) and therapeutic embodied activation. What is Corporeity in Psychotherapy?
People often find themselves stuck in emotional states where they feel unhappy, anxious or depressed. They know what they feel but they are unaware of their own behavioral patterns that keep them immobilized there. Over and over they focus on their frustrations; they wish things were different. They wait for the bad feeling to go away. The more they focus on their frustrations, however, the more they find themselves stuck. They ask themselves, "What in the world is going wrong? Why won't it change?" They continually repeat the same behaviors with the same results. For me, I ask, "Who’ calling the shots?" Too often the answer is the neurology and hormonal chemistry of a child or adolescent who did not get recognition, confirmation, or encouragement. This youngster did not have a parent or guardian who knew how to provide a healthy role model of how to handle difficult, compromising situations. These youths saw inappropriate models or none at all. They did not necessarily feel safe or protected. As a result, they developed coping mechanisms that were the best they could manage for their age, knowledge, and resources. Often these coping mechanisms were the same as those of the parent with whom they used to identify —their dominant role model. These patterns are evolved or are created during developmental times when intellectual ability is not fully developed, when knowledge of situations is limited, when freedom of choice is restricted, and when alternatives are not available. These coping mechanisms then generalized to other situations; as time went by, when challenging, threatening, or hurtful events presented themselves, these environmental stimuli triggered the learned psychophysical protective coping mechanisms from deep in the unconscious mind. Those somatic-emotional patterns habitually, and quite automatically, jumped out and took charge. Their familiarity overrode any conscious awareness of either their happening or their origin. One might even have an intellectual sense of this pattern but the pressure is on and when push comes to shove the patterns are reenacted without the ability to control them. Let me share some examples with you.
Babies and children can often be our greatest teachers in life. They remind us of our deep human connection to each other and to the world. An Integrative Approach to Treating Babies and Children, edited by John Wilks, persuades us to listen to everyone’s own “baby history.” In other words, Wilks has us look into the history of our birth in order to have a greater understanding of its effects on our adult life. Wilks suggests in the introduction that, “One of the major themes in this book is that it is much more important for us to create the right space in ourselves and in our clinic setting to work with babies rather than what we ‘do’ to a baby” (16).
Through Windows of Opportunity, by neuroaffective psychotherapist Marianne Bentzen, and child psychologist and psychotherapist Susan Hart, is based on the presentations of four international leading psychotherapists concerning different neuroaffective approaches to child psychotherapy at a 2012 conference in Copenhagen. These presentations revolve around how the relationship between therapist and child can aid the child in overcoming traumas and insecure attachments in life by fostering a sense of emotional attunement and tolerance that stimulates development and change processes.
n this article, I propose that there are fundamental limitations to current scientific mainstream methods of writing about therapeutic processes that in fact hinder our ability to both write about our therapeutic process and to learn from other clinicians’ and researchers’ writings.
Hopefully, with good work and practice, with learning ‘on the job’, with learning from one’s mistakes, and by doing some ‘outcome’ studies or research, and thus getting useful feed-back from our clients, our peers, our supervisors, our mentors, etc., we will improve our skill-set. Working in different places, under different conditions, with different client groups, and with people from different cultures, we are able to hone our basic training, natural abilities, our skills: this is the ‘craft’ component of our work. We can only get better by doing more.
Elizabeth E. Bader's recent publication, The Psychology and Neurobiology of Mediation (in The Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution) is now available for SPT Readers. Elizabeth looks at mediation in terms of the nervous system's response to threat and challenge (what she calls the IDR cycle--inflation, deflation, and realistic resolution). She explores the links between the psychological and neurobiological dimensions of mediation and integrates the work of Stephen Porges (Polyvagal Theory) and Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing). She notes a distinct feature of mediation is that those involved experience both threat and safety responses simultaneously.
Join Pedram Shojai, OMD, for his free screening of Vitality. According to Jayson and Mira Calton, founders of Calton Nutrition, "this movie shares ways to increase...
Dr. Siegel defines the mind as an embodied and relational, self-organizing emergent process that regulates the flow of energy and information both within and between. His definition of mind is full of his own language that he develops throughout the book.