stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing it's loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
-Galway Kinnell, St. Francis and the Sow
Our work will focus, not only on the healing of your trauma, but also engage us in an exploration of how you have coped (what modern psychology might call your 'symptoms'). We hold your ways of coping as meaningful communication from a deeper, knowing part of you, worth being listened to and understood.
In the places that a medical model often believes are worth eradicating, we find the fibers of a soulful life. I might describe our work together as setting you on a path of becoming a weaver of the fibers; to build your tapestry of a whole life, rather than a fragmented one you may be tangled and trapped in.
A part of this weaving is our going back in history, to ancestors, stories that have surfaced the world over; re-membering (or putting ourselves back together), truly as a part of something larger. We look for wider ranges of access, self-knowing, and expression in you, leaving you more resourced at an inner-level, able to not only cope with life, but flourish in it Whole.
My work incorporates creativity and the body. I think about expressive arts therapy and somatics, less as techniques we may do in the room, and more as a foundation for how I think, and what we get to hold together as our scope.
You are much more than what you think; you are a work of art, a keeper of symbols, a body, a spirit, and a soul. Our work together is to bring all of this, in you, back to life.
One of the many things I love about this work is that, even when we are sitting and talking, I am taking in imagery, symbolic, and sensory information you are bringing in, through what you say and how you gesture or move your body. These spontaneous, unconsciously generated expressions tend to be vastly more honest and communicative than what we're capable of telling about ourselves verbally. As we empathically bring this deep level of communication from you into our space together, it becomes a guide for our journey and a way that I can partner with you in bringing all you are back to life.
Every human has a true authentic self. Trauma is the disconnection from it and healing is the reconnection to it.
-Dr. Gabor Maté
In order to give you a sense of my approach, I will break-down how I think about these facets of my work.
Night travelers are full of light, and you are, too;
don't leave this companionship.
Rumi speaks here of what this type of psychotherapy is about: companionship. In order to travel in the night safely, we need companionship. Current research on trauma shows that relational trauma (trauma that occurred between people, i.e. a parent with a child) must be healed in a relational context (with another person).
This work doesn't happen alone.
With our joint commitment as a foundation, I am trained to facilitate the conditions that make it possible for our relationship to offer deep and foundational healing.
The parts of our brains where relational trauma and emotional wounding are stored have no sense of time, nor do they differentiate between people we might (even unconsciously or in ways that make no sense to us) associate with one another (i.e., mother-figure, father-figure, man on the street, ...). This can cause challenges for us in everyday life, and explains a bit about why we might find ourselves reacting to things in ways that don't make sense to us or we don't even agree with.
The golden nugget in this is that neuroplasticity has been proven; we have evidence that psychotherapy can heal the long-term effects of trauma.
I work in a way that utilizes our ability to 'time travel', to heal your relational wounds together. I have the training and experience to meet you where you are, listen deeply, and respond in ways that speak back to the 98% of you that probably often gets missed.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy has been shown to have the longest lasting effects of any form of psychotherapy and continued improvement after therapy has ended (Shedler, 2010). This style of deep, relational work is based on the idea that your pain is more than just what you're consciously aware of. Neuroscience has found that up to 98% of what our brains do occurs outside of our conscious awareness (Gazzaniga, 1998).
Gazzaniga, M. S. (1998). The mind's past ed., Berkeley: University of California Press.
Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 2010 Feb-Mar;65(2):98-109. doi: 10.1037/a0018378.
As we progress from the world of simple external facts into the more intimate dynamisms of life... we find ourselves reaching domains in which our logical understanding no longer suffices; it can help us no further.
-Edward C. Whitmont, The Symbolic Approach
Expressive Arts Therapy is a means for accessing and relating to the 98% of you that falls outside of your cognition. With extensive neuropsychological research, we now know that the limbic and cortical parts of our brains, where emotions, trauma, and behavior patterns are lodged, are not directly accessible by verbal or cognitive means alone. Bessel Van Der Kolk, the founder of our modern understanding of trauma, has urged that trauma therapy must work non-verbally in order to work. This is a scientific way of saying, we heal through, what I would call, soul work.
“Soul” represents... the “subtle body”... it means something non-material and finer than mere air. Its essential characteristic is to animate and be animated; it therefore represents the life principle.
-Carl Jung, Collected Works, 1942
Our soul is the part of us that picks up on situations well ahead of our conscious awareness of them.
-Malidoma Patrice Somé, Ritual: Power, Healing and Community
Expressive Arts Therapy offers us a wide range of modalities to communicate and bring into form what's present or alive in you. As feels right, we can work with visual forms of expression (requiring no skill), movement, drama, music, writing, and other creative processes.
I may listen and suggest you repeat or exaggerate a physical gesture, draw an image you named (i.e., "I felt like I was in a desert"), or play with an imaginal dialogue between various 'parts' of you (such as two opposing feelings or ideas; "the part of me who says yes, and the part of me who says no").
My experience of using the arts to work with clients is rather profound. Just as many martial arts teach a way of non-resistance, moving with one's opponent in order to maintain strength and balance, full sensory engagement and expression brings us into life. We become animated co-creators of a community of plants, animals, people, and all other beings.
While this does not make us 'happy ever after', it does create a sense of meaning, wonder, aliveness, and joy; the internal riches of life. As much as we may be socialized to seek happiness, I believe these other, more vast qualities of experience are what we are really after.
I specialize in sandplay work. In truth, I've always found the name to sound a bit hokey!, but this type of work has been practiced internationally for decades by leading practitioners in the field. I find it to be truly profound. (Yes, it is for adults, too.)
Sandplay involves a tray made the size of our field of vision, filled with sand. I have shelves and shelves of small figurines which may be placed in the sand to create a picture or a scene. Sandplay work has an ability to offer us a deeper picture of what is happening inside of you. We don't hold that picture judgmentally, but with curiosity and respect.
Sandplay can bypass fear many people have about making art. No skill is required. Only a willingness to try.
The most cutting-edge research is telling us again and again that, if we are going to be effective, we must be working with the body.
While expressive arts therapy inherently works with the body, I have also done years of study, practice, and training with Generative Somatics and Strozzi Somatics. I am trained to verbally work with clients around their somatic or body experience, to do aikido-based standing practices that interrupt old patterning and support new forms of embodiment, and in hands-on work with clients.
With consent and agreement, I am able to incorporate the use of simple, clothed, non-sexual touch into our work, as it feels meaningful and useful. For some clients it isn't and others it really is. Both are totally great and okay.
A word on social context-
Of all of the somatic schools of thought currently available, what attracted me most to Generative Somatics was it's politicized nature. Generative Somatics holds a deep and rich understanding of "sites of shaping", or contexts that have molded (even physically shaped) who and how we are in the world. These include the land we come from, ancestors, spiritual beliefs, and social structures we've grown up inside of, such as institutionalized racism, patriarchy, and other systems of oppression.
Reflecting on the contexts that "shaped" you with a compassionate lens (that holds room for rich complexity and contradiction), we can understand you more deeply, as well as begin to create more choice on how you want to shape your life.
THERESE NOËL ALLEN
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