Trauma Healing

Guest Contributor: George Lough, Ph.D.

As a psychotherapist for thirty years I’ve used a variety of techniques to help people find relief from depression, anxiety, relationship problems and other symptoms related to emotional stress and trauma.

Recently I’ve begun integrating Somatic Experiencing ™ (SE) techniques into my psychotherapy practice to help my clients increase the speed and depth of their healing from traumatic experiences. The word “trauma” comes from the Greek word for “wound.” When psychotherapists speak of trauma they are referring to emotional wounds that can cause symptoms such as anxiety, depression, numbness to experience, emotional shutting down, temper outbursts and relationship problems.

Trauma can be of two types: shock trauma and developmental trauma. Shock trauma results from distressing incidents such as a fall, surgery, a car accident, or being the victim of a crime or a natural disaster. Developmental trauma refers to having had a childhood history fraught with family dysfunction, neglect and/or abuse.

We experience traumas as a threat to our survival, but we are unable to complete the natural fight or flight response, so the shock and fear from the event stay lodged in our body’s nervous system.  Over time, with life’s stresses and traumas stacking up, our system gets over-loaded and we may develop symptoms.

Traditional psychotherapy has us share our feelings and retell our stories to get insight into our conflicts and symptoms. But simply narrating what has happened to us and achieving cognitive understanding may not be enough to help us get to the root of the problem. SE, on the other hand, encourages clients to be aware of the bodily sensations associated with the held tension and to recognize and support the discharge of that tension. This gives clients the opportunity to gently and gradually integrate the emotions associated with the trauma. In this way clients experience a reduction in symptoms, as well as get the benefit of a more regulated and resilient nervous system.

To learn more about SE visit The following books provide good introductions to SE: Out of the Trauma Vortex, Into the Healing Vortex by Gina Ross (how to do SE for yourself) ; Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine (research, theory and case studies); Crash Course by Diane Poole Heller and Larry Heller (a self-help book for recovery from automobile accidents).

© 2010 by George Lough, Ph.D. (
12444 Ventura Bl., #206, Studio City, CA 91604


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