As Therapists We Don't Require Good Self-Care, We Require Extraordinary Self-Care.
The whole trying to take care of the world thing is a big job. Just because we know what good self-care looks like and teach clients how to care for themselves, does not mean we do the work of self-care on our own behalf, or do so consistently. This is one reason I dove into the three-year Somatic Experiencing training all those years ago. I knew my body and mind were taking a beating and at the same time, I had a deep respect for what the body/mind connection could accomplish in terms of promoting healing and wellbeing. Working somatically, both on the professional and personal level, is one way I build resiliency into my nervous system and my body. Somatic work now forms a cornerstone for caring for both my clients and myself.
What is Somatic Experiencing?
Specifically, Somatic Experiencing tracks the subtle sensations of the body to facilitate the release of trauma shock, the primary driver in the formation of PTSD, as well as early developmental attachment wounds and trauma. The underlying viewpoint of SE suggests the body holds all the experiences it has encountered, sometimes becoming stuck in the overwhelm of fight, flight, and freeze response. In SE, supporting the completion of incomplete survival responses in the body forms the basis of healing.
Did I mention I’m an Anxiety Reduction Specialist?
Somatic Experiencing is a huge part of how I work with Anxious Folk.
But why does any of this matter to therapists?
True enough, Somatic Experiencing is a great tool for helping to identify sensation in the body, for creating more safety and capacity around feeling uncomfortable or strong sensations without becoming overwhelmed. We could even say SE is a form of desensitization therapy, lowering the level of anxiety overall while acclimating us to strong and potentially overwhelming sensation. Somatic Experiencing can be a powerful teacher regarding how to self-soothe appropriately, even in the most difficult situations. So, right there, it’s a great therapy for anxious clinicians. In fact, it’s the bomb for developing a deeper capacity for self-soothing, self-regulation, and building resiliency. What works for the people I work with works for clinicians, too.
Many therapists Carry a great deal of Unresolved trauma in their nervous systems.
And then there’s the powerful impact of Vicarious Trauma.
When we talk about therapist burnout, it’s much more significant than just being tired and needing a vacation. A little more yoga, another glass of wine, or a weekend in Santa Barbara, is not going to cut it. And it’s so important to address. Burnout is the primary way therapists trip up and run amok with the BBS. Burned out, we lose our ability to be awake to ourselves, our boundaries may soften, and our decisions may falter. It’s one of the biggest professional liability risks we can encounter. Not to mention, it can drive you out of the field you once loved. Burnout can wreck havoc in your relationships at home. It can take your body down, as well.
Somatic Experiencing Is an ideal therapy for therapists.
If many therapists are generally wired to the anxious caretaking side of life, as I suspect is true, then any form of self care that lowers the physical and emotional impact of anxiety, lowers the level of anxiety overall, empowers one to be able not only tolerate their feelings of anxiety, but to flow with them, and helps smooth out the nervous system is going to be highly valuable for therapists on the personal level.
As Wounded Healers we’ve been engaged in our personal work for a long time. We’ve landed in a rich field of professional work and study that not only encourages and allows us to grow over the course of a lifetime, but also requires it. Doing the work of healing the manner our experience has been stored in the body and is impacting us on a daily basis is a huge bonus for therapists and care providers of all kinds. It’s not as if we haven’t been awake to and working “our stuff” for years. We have, but if we’ve only done so through insight oriented talk therapy, we may be missing out on the profound, juicy way our bodies can facilitate release, healing, and wellbeing. When it comes to releasing trauma from the body, Somatic Experiencing is much more laser in its approach than talk therapy ever could be or was designed to be. Both are supremely valuable. Immensely so. One, SE, can be remarkable at finishing the task and dealing with those hard to reach areas for more complete healing.
What if you have a talk therapist you love and trust already?
Somatic Experiencing can form your primary healing modality, can be the work you are doing for this moment to deal with specific issues, and can also be an adjunct therapy in addition to your traditional talk therapy. Any of these applications are very common, viable, and rewarding.
If you have questions about Somatic Experiencing and how it might benefit you in your healing and self-care, as well as sharpen your own clinical skills, please give me a call. I love to talk about it. Obviously! In fact, it’s hard to stop talking about. I have to admit, I’m biased. In my experience, anyone with a nervous system is going to benefit from some Somatic Experiencing support. It’s just what our bodies find delicious. I love working with therapists and interns. If you’d like to try it on for size, even for a session or two, I have some spots on my calendar for you now.