This course review is by Sarah from The Puffin Diaries
I was recently able to attend a course, run by my local authority, called Trauma and Body – How to Support Yourself With Somatic Experiencing. The course was delivered by Roz Read who works as a part of the Child and Family Services at the organisation PAC.
I must confess I arrived at the course not knowing at all exactly what it would be about. The course title had caught my eye when the flyer arrived in the post, or rather the words, Trauma and Support had grabbed my attention. Also this was a free resource from the LA, and where possible I like to make the most of any help I am offered.
Roz introduced the course in a warm, friendly and approachable manor, putting me instantly at ease in her presence. She explained that in modern western practice the body has been ignored when thinking how we are affected by and deal with trauma. Somatic Experiencing addresses this oversight.
At this point Roz also identified that as parents of children who are living with trauma we vicariously suffer trauma ourselves.
Hearing someone verbalise this gave me a great sense of relief and a sense that here was someone who really understood the extent of hardship I sometimes feel.
She then went on to give an overview of what trauma is and how it affects the brain and the nervous system. Here we discussed the fear responses fight, flight or freeze and the reptilian part of the brain from which these are activated. What followed was a look at the workings of the nervous system in more detail.
Most of this information was something I’d previously been introduced too but it was still good to have a reminder on it. The information on the workings of the nervous system did become a little complicated but Roz did a good job of keeping it relevant and comprehendible.
At the end of the first session Roz introduced us to an exercise aimed to help us feel more grounded and calmer. I think observantly, she had recognised that discussion of trauma had heightened emotions within the group. It required us to sit on our chairs with our feet firmly on the floor and then we worked through parts of our body talking note of how they felt. This was an introduction to a practice called “Body Tracking” I must admit I found this quite hard as my mind kept wondering; however as with many of these techniques, I think it would become easier with practice.
We went on to discuss “The Window of Tolerance”, (Siegel, 1999) a new concept to me but one that is obviously gaining importance in understanding the nervous system, as Dan Hughes also referred to it in his recent talks at The Adoption UK Conference.
This concept made a lot of sense to me, especially when it was explained what is possible within that window, regarding your relationships, and what happens outside of the window, fight, flight or freeze. I understood that by developing our capacity to regulate our own and our children’s emotions we widen The Window of Tolerance, the space in which we can meaningfully build our attachment.
So what is Somatic Experiencing? Accord to Roz it is “a body-based, “bottom-up”, non-invasive therapeutic intervention that works with the body’s natural regulation systems to help shift the physiology from overwhelming stress to normal states.”
What I understand by this is that it is a technique, or a number of techniques, which help to regulate stress levels, so you, as a parent, and also your child can move back into The window of tolerance” where interaction is healthier for all involved.
We moved on to discuss how our bodies discharge stress and her I picked up some useful tips on how to deal with my children’s stress. I was surprised to find that it is not recommended to encourage children who hit or punch to punch a “safe” object, like a cushion or punch bag. A useful exercise is to pace or walk when stressed as it helps ground us.
I have actually tried this with my oldest son this last week. Noticing him looking around for something to throw or shove as his anger built, I gently took his arm and we walked together up and down the kitchen. As we walked I explained to him what we were doing and that I had learnt this on the course. It worked, he calmed and he has told me that he has since used the technique in school to help him calm.
Roz also talked to us about “resources” and finding the things that make us feel happy, safe or are a good experience for us. This can be a sensory experience such as the feeling of something you love, for me this was the thought of the sun warming my skin, or the smell of something, for example fresh coffee.
Towards the end of the day we did an exercise in pairs where we had to talk to our partners about these resources, taking time to describe them in full. We were asked to “track” our body whilst we did this, noticing any changes, in temperature or sensations in our limbs.
The idea here was to show how our positive thoughts and experiences firstly make us feel calmer and happier but also how that feeling can transfer to others.
The next part of the exercise was to discuss the things that really make us feel stress and to do the tracking exercise again whilst we did this, offering a contrasting experiences to the first exercise. Finally during sharing the partner was asked to start focusing on their positive resources and see if this had an effect on their body tracking. The technique is aimed to provide you with some calm during stressful interactions.
I however couldn’t complete this part of the workshop, as even thinking of all the things that are stressful caused me to be very over whelmed. I cried at this point and Roz came over and was very supportive to me.
I found the course to be overall very helpful and informative. As is always the case when a group of adoptive parents come together, there was a lot of sharing of experience throughout the day. As Roz is a very empathic and attentive person she wanted to listen to everyone, however, I feel we sometimes got a little distracted. It’s not that this was all wrong, because some of the sharing was valuable; however I would have liked to be able to spend more time on practicing the techniques of somatic experiencing. I therefore feel for the course to be even more valuable, it would be even better run over two sessions.
I think with all courses it has always been a valuable experience if you come away with even one thing that helps or supports you. I came away with many more than one thing that and I would therefore say this was an extremely useful and valuable course.
If you have recently attended a course or even read a book or seen a film that you think would be of interest to the adoption community we would love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org