What does it look like when the body responds to its surroundings? For some clients it will feel like a spike in anxiety. For another it will feel like a jolt of energy. It could feel like complete shut down.
Working with a newer client today I was reminded of how much information the body has to share with us if we can listen. It was our second session and we are working through some of the usual initial exercises that help give me an idea of how the client is with their yes and no, are they able to be present, and how do they respond to touch. When I started to caress his hand, his body responded with a noticable movement, like a jolt of energy, and he quickly reported that he noticed some feelings. I won’t share the details due to privacy. That’s not the important part of the story. What’s important is that the body had a response that can give us access to great information!
Earlier this week, I was with another client that, with the support of his therapist, sees me for exposure therapy. We titrate exposure to my body. His body responds with high anxiety and we’ve been making very small movement to more and more physical contact. For example, he will touch a place on my body that makes him very nervous. We rate his anxiety and then I see if he can feel me touching his arm, a safe place for him to receive touch. Good news! He can feel my touch even with a spike of anxiety. In fact, we played in that space for a bit and could conclude that my touch on his arm or back actually helps lower his anxiety quicker than without my touch. Great information!
These current cases remind me of a case I had a few years ago that didn’t include any touch for MANY sessions. We worked on eye gazing and eventually, as we established trust, introduced very small amounts of touch, like touching toes. In our session, this person, for the first time since his traumatic memories returned, was able to step away from those memories and be present with me. He learned that he could build trust with me and that translated to trusting others in the world outside my office.
My work is a laboratory. I’m a safe nervous system. Being trauma-informed, I tend to let the client lead the session, no matter the type of session. Even if I have an agenda, I let my clients have a choice and they are asked to never tolerate. My space is a space for empowerment, exploration, and experimenting. “How does this touch feel compared to this touch? Which do you enjoy more? If you touch me, instead of me touching you, does your body respond differently?” It’s like the touch equivalent of an eye exam. 🙂
How does your body respond to touch? Would you like to explore that more in a safe container? Let’s connect!