Sacred Body Trauma-Informed Approach


Trauma-Informed Approach

Trauma-informed bodywork is not psychotherapy, rather it is an understanding of trauma and how it negatively impacts clients mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) "individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being." 

SAMSHA states a "program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:

  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization."

A trauma-informed approach can be implemented in any type of service setting or organization and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing.

Principles of a Trauma-Informed Approach at Sacred Body, LLC

According to SAMSHA, a" trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific."  Sacred Body, LLC integrates these six principles in the following way.

  1. Safety
    • Clients are always draped (covered by a sheet and/or blanket) except for the body part being worked. Clients may receive work fully dressed or undressed to their comfort level.  
    • The massage therapist will leave the room while the client is undressing or dressing and will knock before entering.
    • Sacred Body, LLC massage therapists are members of the American Massage Therapy Association and adhere to the professional code of ethics. 
    • The client always has the option to stop the massage, tell the therapist if they are experiencing pain, and/or request more/less pressure. 
    • If the massage therapist thinks the client is disassociating or is highly emotionally triggered the session will be paused and the client will be led in grounding techniques until they feel safe and present again. 
    • Sometimes emotional release occurs during a massage (e.g. grief and tears).  Releasing emotion is a normal and healthy body response.  As long as the release is not too overwhelming and feels helpful to the client; the massage therapist will maintain a safe, nonjudgmental, confidential space while the session continues.
    • Our bodywork sessions are not psychotherapy, therefore, the client will be referred to mental health practitioners if needed.
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
    • Client confidentiality and respect is paramount.  Unless a client speaks about harming themselves or others what is said in the treatment room will be kept confidential.
    • Client files are kept in a locked filing cabinet and meet HIPPA standards.
    • Clients can sign a Release of Information information form if they wish session notes to be shared with a therapist or doctor.
    • Clients can request copies of their file. 
  3. Peer support
    • SAMSHA estimates "in the United States, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women report exposure to at least one lifetime traumatic event, and 90 percent of clients in public behavioral health care settings have experienced trauma."  
    • I have an empathetic understanding of what it means to recover from trauma. I have found bodywork to be key in my own journey. I approach my work with empathy, compassion and respect for survivors of trauma.
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
    • Each bodywork session is started with a verbal contract that summarizes the modalities to be used, the body areas to be worked, the amount of pressure preferred and the responsibility of the client to verbalize any discomfort. 
    • The client always has the option to stop the massage, tell the therapist if they are experiencing pain, and/or request more/less pressure.
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
    • The client is given ample opportunity to discuss what is going on with their body and any special needs they may have. 
    • The client always has the option to stop the massage, tell the therapist if they are experiencing pain, and/or request more/less pressure.
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
    • Historical trauma (genocide, slavery, forced relocation and/or destruction of cultural practices) affects the lineage of oppressed groups. Microaggressions are everyday experiences of discrimination, racism, and daily hassles that are targeted at individuals from diverse racial and ethnic groups (Evans-Campbell, 2008). Health disparities, substance abuse, and mental illness are all commonly linked to experiences of historical trauma (Miachels, Rousseau, and Yang, 2010).

    • As a person of color and a past facilitator of cultural diversity / being an ally / anti-oppression workshops I have a keen understanding of the effects of historical trauma and everyday microaggression experiences.  Our bodies can store this stress. Science now knows that chronic stress is linked to numerous diseases.

    • I am an out proud cisgendered (she/her) member of the LGBTQ community.  I am a transgender ally and have completed Ellen M. Santistevan's training ETHICS: The Transgender Body on the Table.  I highly recommend Licensed Massage Therapists take her training and read her published article below. 

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