We explain two main challenges experienced in integrating the methodology of the emerging fields of Trauma Touch Therapy and Somatic Movement Education into a clinical setting, and exciting implications for future work with refugees and asylum seekers. Awareness of sensation and movement play a critical role, both in the completion of incomplete trauma responses to resolve trauma and in developing self-regulation. The sense perception of movement and touch develop simultaneously in the womb, long before other senses. By exploring these sensations, we help refugees build a felt sense of safety, comfort and belonging which
creates a capacity in their body for curiosity, resilience and a deeper sense of self. By examining the physiology of the sensory and motor divisions of the nervous system, we explain how and why our methodology is applied to working with both event-related and developmental trauma. We distinguish between the necessity of working with both the autonomic and somatic branches of the nervous system, specifically highlighting the vagal branch of the autonomic nervous system to enhance social engagement and shift symptoms of anxiety, depression, dissociation and the freeze response, as well as numerous psycho-somatic illnesses.
This presentation outlines how we address two main challenges: 1) How to communicate the purpose and intention of our work to clients, translators and therapists, prior to and during out initial encounter in order to create a positive experience that may shift pre-existing cultural beliefs around touch and guided movement practices. 2) How to attune to and build the refugee’s capacity for saying “yes” and “no” to their therapist both before and during each session. Choice and awareness of sensation and movement creates a container of safety and comfort within which the refugee can re-pattern and return to an empowered relationship with their body and their sense of self.