When it comes to treating trauma, the body needs to be involved for full feeling and healing to occur. Simply moving the body in a natural fashion through walking or using space to concretize and represent relational closeness, distance, power or lack thereof, can bring emotions out of hiding and into the therapeutic milieu. When we move, our limbic system engages. Simply walking across the room kickstarts a cascade of body chemicals. Movement is a warm up to feeling. RTR allows for such natural movement to occur within the context of a group, being simultaneously personal and interpersonal.
Someone whose emotions are frozen or split off can freeze all over again if they are asked to describe what they are feeling. That’s because what they are feeling may be partially unavailable to them on a conscious level. The last thing we want to do in treating PTSD is to put a client on the spot and ask them to come up with feelings that they do not have easy access to, after all no one likes feeling stupid. Telling a therapist who is staring at you waiting for an answer that you simply don’t have, is tough. And all too often clients faced with this dilemma try to come up with answers. In their confusion and with the pressure of the moment, they may even try to come up with a plausible description of what they are feeling - even if they aren’t exactly sure what it is. Or even worse, they may adopt the interpretation of the therapist as their own, they swallow it (or us) whole, rather than to take that important pause to make sure what we’re saying feels right for them. RTR spares the client this experience, it does not ask them to describe a feeling unless they are first feeling it.
RTR is a psycho-educational model that offers clients a sort of menu of experiential options from which they can choose, un-choose and re-choose what they identify with. Clients are asked not to sit and talk but to move and feel. Clients are moved seamlessly through a choice process that helps them to hone on what might be going on inside of them alongside others who are doing the same thing. Group members have a very special gift to give each other, companionship and identification on the path of recovery. At any given moment they may well have more hope and healing to offer each other, than a therapist may be able to offer them. RTR mines and makes use of these potentials for connection and collaboration. It may be easier to identify with and absorb an emotional message from a peer, who shares the same emotional healing space, than a more distanced message from a staff member who has the whole group to consider. There is a freedom to feel in RTR, to choose, to sink into and be a part of a healing wave that the group is co-creating, to access healing and support from others organically and to give it as well. The job of the therapist through this process lies as much in keeping the process safe and flowing as to be the imparter of truth or knowledge. Truth or knowledge can come from any corner of the room.
Emotions and sense memories are stored in the limbic system. Therefore clients need to engage in healing from trauma and its related effects such as numbing, dissociation, loss of neuro-modulation and emotional constriction experientially. Their bodies need to wake up and feel so that the mind/body and heart can heal.
RTR is psycho-educational. It allows clients to wrap their minds around the fallout of trauma and to learn skills of emotional literacy, self-regulation and repair within a relational context. Sociometry, RTR’s theoretical base, is a healing process that can help clients modulate and regulate intense emotions without becoming flooded. Through many moments of connection with self and others; frozen or split off emotional experience can be translated into language, right sized and shared, templating new ways to experience the self and the self in relation. RTR also uses journaling and guided imagery so that clients can absorb the skills of self regulation while being soothed, lulled and “held” in a relaxed and open state. Guided imageries can also be taken home as part of an aftercare tool kit so that the treatment experience can be transitioned to the home. Journaling is another skill that can be adopted in treatment and made portable, it is an “at your fingertips” tool through which to translate feelings into words so that they can be reflected upon rather than acted out without awareness.
Neuroscience and attachment theories have clearly demonstrated that emotion is a physiological as well as a mental phenomenon, and therefore the body as well as the mind needs to be involved in therapy. Experiential forms of therapy have become a treatment of choice in dealing with issues related to relational trauma. I have created a hybrid of experiential processes that simultaneously educate and heal that I call Psycho Social Metrics. They are based on J.L. Moreno’s triadic system of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. Used in treating relational trauma and PTSD, RTR is designed to be easily incorporated into existing programs, regardless of length stay and can be used in outpatient settings, group and one-to-one practices. One of the primary issues that treatment centers face when incorporating experiential work into their curriculum, is how to do so with safety. Relational Trauma Repair (RTR) can easily fit into existing programming so that experiential work can be trauma-informed.
For more information on the RTR January training log onto:
THE CYCLE OF EXPERIENTIAL HEALING