top of page

My Approach

Creating Internal Safety after Complex Trauma & Chronic Illness

I personally know how difficult, isolating, and even debilitating it can be to try to heal from complex trauma and chronic illness at the same time. I have taken dozens of healing-based programs over the years, but sadly never found one that focuses on recovery from both. This really lit a fire in me to create a holistic program that offers deep support for those who have lived years or even decades suffering in mind AND body simultaneously, to be able to start feeling safety and hope again in every area of life.

I have combined my years of studies in Somatic Experiencing, Traumatic Stress Studies, Polyvagal Theory, Somatic Attachment Theory, Somatic Inner Child/Parts Work, Trauma-Informed Coaching, and Early and Developmental Trauma to create a program that is holistic in nature and dedicated to helping you find safety again in every area of life that is directly affected by complex trauma and/or chronic illness. If you’re curious to read more about each of these modalities, I have shared a bit about each one on this page! Or if you are interested in learning about my eight week program for complex trauma and/or chronic illness recovery, "The Heal & Thrive Method," click the link below to read more. 

Image by Mason Dahl
Image by Hannah Busing

Read more on these six modalities below.

Modalities that I use to help clients build their internal sense of safety:

1) Understanding and Regulating Your Nervous System with Polyvagal Theory

2) Creating Safety in Your Body with Somatic Experiencing 

3) Creating Safety in Relationships with Somatic Attachment Work 

4) Healing Childhood Relational Trauma with Somatic Parts Work 

5) Somatic Boundary Setting to Design Your Life around Recovery

6) Trauma-informed Chronic Illness/Pain Support

REGULATING YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM (WITH POLYVAGAL THEORY)

Dr. Stephen Porges proposed the Polyvagal Theory, which describes the three main states that we experience in our autonomic nervous system, at a subconscious level, all throughout the day:

IMMOBILIZATION/COLLAPSE (DORSAL VAGAL STATE)

  • This is our nervous system state where we often feel apathy, hopelessness, being shut down, fuzziness, disconnection, incapability, exhaustion, difficulty thinking or speaking, numbness, aloneness, fogginess, helplessness, walling up, not being in our bodies, floating, blankness, depression, etc.

MOBILIZATION/FIGHT OR FLIGHT (SYMPATHETIC STATE)

  • This is our nervous system state where we often feel anxiety, fear, panic, rage, worry, frustration, time-consciousness, anger, urgency, tension, restlessness, rapid heart rate, lots of heat, clenching, buzzing, needing to move, rushing, difficulty focusing, racing thoughts, etc.

SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT/SAFETY (VENTRAL VAGAL STATE)

  • This is our nervous system state wher we often feel pleasure, well-being, connection, flow, open-heartedness, engagement, curiosity, passion, steadiness, capability, happiness, contentment, hope, warmth, relaxation, compassion, etc.

Our immobilization (dorsal) and mobilization (sympathetic) responses show up very consistently (or even all of the time) when we've experienced complex trauma, which can make it very difficult to be in the present moment or enjoy our lives. Understanding these states and how they are trying to protect us helps us to befriend our nervous system and start to gain control over how we feel. This allows for us to spend more and more time in our Ventral state, where we feel a strong internal sense of safety and can enjoy connection with ourselves, others, and the world around us!

Image by Roberto Nickson
Image by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden

CREATING SAFETY IN YOUR BODY (WITH SOMATIC EXPERIENCING)

When we experience any type of trauma in our lifetime (attachment, early developmental, physical, medical, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, etc.) and we do not have the safety and support needed to effectively process through it, the trauma then becomes suppressed and stored in our bodies.

 

Somatic Experiencing, developed by Dr. Peter Levine, is a phenomenal approach in which we can use simple somatic regulating tools to help our bodies release the stored traumatic stress in small, titrated ways. Our nervous systems can then start to function from a place of rest, ease, and connection - rather than fight/flight, shutdown, or freeze.

 

It is this release of trauma that helps us to feel safer in our minds and bodies. And this is so important because if we do not have a foundation of safety within our own mind/body, it is impossible for us to feel safe in the world, safe with others, or even safe with ourselves. Somatic work gives us the tools to gain this safety back for ourselves, even if we have lived years or even decades without it!

Somatic Experiencing is a very gentle approach that does not require us to rehash or continually revisit our traumas in order to heal. It gives our bodies agency to heal in a way that is not too much or too overwhelming for our systems - and often even feels good! It is one of the most cutting-edge trauma healing modalities that I am proud to be able to teach others to implement in their daily lives. 

CREATING SAFETY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS (WITH SOMATIC ATTACHMENT WORK)

The experience of complex trauma causes our nervous systems to be primarily dominated by our states of dysregulation: fight/flight, freeze, or shut down. Spending most or all of our time in these survival states makes it difficult or even impossible to connect with others in an embodied way (i.e. in a way that feels safe, good, meaningful, and fulfilling). This is because in order to connect with people in an embodied way, we must be in our Social Engagement state of our nervous system, also known as our Ventral Vagal state. This is the state in which our nervous system is sending cues that we are safe in our environment and in our bodies, so it is okay and good to connect with others. 

 

In addition, if we have experienced relational trauma specifically, our nervous system learns to protect us against further relational pain via survival states that start to show up when we try to get closer to others in our adult lives. These survival patterns are usually from childhood and get stored sub-cortically, meaning that they are below our conscious awareness and show up automatically (via the nervous system) in our adult relationships, until we are able to heal at the nervous system level.

 

These survival states in action can look like starting to feel really unsafe when people get close (avoidant attachment), starting to feel really unsafe when people take space or start to move away (anxious/ambivalent attachment), or feeling like you really want people close but then when they are, finding ways to push them away (disorganized attachment).  

 

What is amazing about somatic work and healing our nervous systems is that it allows us to move out of these survival states and towards safe and secure attachments in our lives, where we feel both safe by ourselves and safe when people are close. This is also what allows us to feel fully seen and known, and experience intimacy in ways that we maybe have always longed for but our systems have not had the safety to step towards previously.

Image by Jakob Owens
Image by Charlein Gracia

HEALING CHILDHOOD RELATIONAL TRAUMA (WITH SOMATIC PARTS WORK)

When we go through traumatizing experiences as children without enough safety or support, the trauma gets suppressed and stored in our bodies at that specific age (thus creating younger parts that stay with us as we get older). We are then left to relive that experience over and over in our bodies as adults - and as a result, we often feel the same in all our present situations/circumstances as we did when we were young. This can cause us to feel small, incapable, terrified, emotionally immature, unqualified, ashamed, lonely, etc. very often in our adult lives and with other people, without knowing why or how to shift the experience.

 

Somatic work helps us to regulate our nervous systems so that we can finally be present for and attune with our younger selves around the trauma(s) they experienced throughout life. This allows our inner child(ren) to start to feel safe enough in the present moment to communicate and feel what they were unable to talk about or process in the moment as the trauma(s) were happening - thus allowing the trauma(s) to be healed and these parts of ourselves to finally be unburdened and free.

 

Somatic parts work is so different than traditional inner child work within a talk therapy context because it does not happen in the mind - the work and the healing happens entirely in the body and nervous system. It is so crucial to approach parts work from this angle because our traumatized younger selves show up in our bodily sensations and in nervous system dysregulation, so helping them to regulate is of the utmost importance (and is very often what was missing in the first place). So if you have tried inner child work before or parts work and found it ineffective or difficult to connect to it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you! When we approach it from a somatic lens, connection with ourselves and our parts starts to happen with ease. 

DESIGNING YOUR LIFE FOR RECOVERY (WITH SOMATIC BOUNDARY SETTING)

Another very common component of the experience of complex trauma is not having enough safety to fully accept and/or express our truest and most authentic selves. This means that our nervous systems had to adapt to these trauma(s) by causing us to separate from our needs, limits, desires, passions, personality, and internal truths in order to protect ourselves. This is an absolutely brilliant survival strategy.

 

The difficulty, though, is that as we move into adulthood and haven’t yet healed from these traumas somatically (in our body), we will then find it just as challenging to know what we actually need and want in relationships, in our purpose, in our free time, in our community, etc. 

 

Somatic work allows us to start coming into contact with what we've always felt, thought, believed, needed, etc. but did not have enough safety to be or express throughout our lives. This is how we can start to trust our internal knowing that was always right, but was suppressed for a time due to our complex trauma(s).

 

Once our truth becomes more and more embodied in this way, we are then able to take small somatic steps to express our wants, needs, boundaries, etc. in whatever ways are most supportive. We are also able to get more and more clear on exactly what we are wanting in every area of life (relationships, purpose, free time, etc.) and are able to set boundaries and take action steps to start to make it happen! Being able to do this consistently is what leads to creating the full and meaningful life we have always desired!

Image by Precious Madubuike
Image by Faruk Tokluoğlu

TRAUMA-INFORMED CHRONIC ILLNESS/PAIN SUPPORT

It is unfortunately incredibly common for the experiences of complex trauma and chronic illness/pain to go hand-in-hand. This is because complex trauma causes us to live in long-term states of survival, which takes away energy from our body’s basic functioning in order to maintain the fight/flight, shut down, and freeze responses. This means that our digestive system can become compromised, our immune system can become weakened, our hormone and stress levels can start to suffer, and so many other physiological issues can result.

 

So one of the most important components of the chronic illness/pain recovery journey is learning how to consistently come out of these survival states and back into our Ventral Vagal state, also known as our Rest/Digest/Heal state within our nervous system. As you can probably tell from the name, consistently being in our Rest/Digest/Heal state is what is needed for our bodies to start to recover from long-term pain/illness syndromes. 

 

However if we have experienced long-term pain or illness in our bodies, this creates another trauma in and of itself - because feeling unwell in our bodies and internal experience very frequently is an inherently traumatic experience. With illness, we don’t always have Context around why it is happening, Choice around when we get to feel better, or Connection with others as it is happening - and these three C’s are necessary for any person to not become traumatized by an experience or situation. 

 

So with that said, a huge part of the chronic illness/pain support work that I do with others is addressing the trauma response that shows up anytime a physical symptom or pain arises (or if it is there all the time). The quicker we can catch the trauma response and regulate our nervous systems, the sooner we can come back into our Rest/Digest/Heal state, which then gives our body the most optimal conditions for healing. Staying in this state is also crucial for maintaining continued connection with others, which is a massive part of chronic illness/pain recovery, as being lonely or isolated causes further dysregulation and makes it much harder to heal and feel safe/supported along the way.

Curious to hear how others described their experience in working with me? Feel free to click the Testimonials tab below to find out more!

Image by Vince Fleming
bottom of page