Body-based Therapeutic Approach to Healing Trauma

By Christina Herron and Kacy Mixon, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Yoga, November 6, 2014]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Yoga, November 6, 2014]
Trauma is an occurrence that threatens a person’s life and/or sense of safety.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network identifies trauma as a result of many factors, including: domestic violence, neglect, physical/sexual abuse, traumatic grief, community & school violence, natural disasters, medical trauma, refugee/war zone trauma, terrorism, early childhood trauma and complex trauma [1]. Payne, Levine, & Crane-Godreau (2015), relay…

“Trauma is in the nervous system and body, and not in the event; an event that is very traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to another, as people differ very widely in their ability to handle various kinds of challenging situations due to different genetic makeup, early environmental challenges, and specific trauma and attachment histories [2].”

Peter Levine is the founder of Somatic Experiencing (SE). SE is considered to be a body-based therapy approach. Body-based therapies help client’s access traumatic experiences that are not yet available for verbal narration and cognitive reflection. These are stored in non-verbal parts of the brain such as the amygdala and in sensory organs [2].

SE Body-Based Therapies help individuals alleviate feelings of fear, disconnection, helplessness, and fear that can arise because of trauma. Some of these include Restorative Yoga, Sensory Motor Therapy, Hakomi Method, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Internal Family Systems, etc.

“SE therapists have to learn to watch, not just listen; to know when to slow down, when to point out and explore a physical response” [3].

Adrienne Baggs, PhD, one of MFLN Family Development’s presenters for our April 23, 2015 webinar on Wellness Strategies, Burnout Prevention, and Mindfulness Part 2, has done extensive research on the benefits of Restorative Yoga when working with victims of trauma, especially PTSD.

More insight into Baggs’s experience with restorative yoga can be found in the article, “3 Restorative Yoga Poses To Help Heal Trauma.”

Below are additional resources that may provide more insight into Body-Based Therapies:


[1] National Child Traumatic Stress Network (n.d.). Types of Traumatic Stress. Retrieved from

[2] Payne P., Levine P.A., & Crane-Godreau, M.A. (2015). Somatic experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology,  6(93). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093

[3] Giarretto, Ariel (2010). Healing trauma through the body: The way in is the way out.

This post was written by Christina Herron & Kacy Mixon, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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