NZSBA was proud to host a public workshop, lead by Dr Michael Maley, from Minnesota, USA, on April 11/12, 2015. Michael has been an International Trainer for the IIBA since 1975, training people in North America, New Zealand, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Holland. He has been an Approved Consultant for the EMDR International Association since 1999.
THE SOMATIC FOUNDATIONS OF TRAUMA TREATMENT was an advanced clinical workshop for practitioners. It was held in Wellington and attended by 50 people coming from Whangarei to Invercargill, and many points between.
Throughout the two days, Michael gave a series of lectures for about 90 minutes, liberally illustrated with overheads, and then people gathered in small groups of about 9 people to discuss the material and to practise the exercises that Michael had prepared in a Practicum paper.
Michael elaborated Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal theory to give a deeper understanding of how both hyper-arousal (creating judgment) and hypo-arousal (creating dissociation) take a person out of their "window of tolerance", and therefore out of present-time functioning and mindfulness. The basic concepts in trauma processing also covered an understanding of how traumatic memories affect the procedural, episodic and semantic memory systems of the brain.
It was useful to understand how we all process information through different channels of experience, i.e., in the body (energy, sensation, emotion), in the mind (meaning making through cognition and imagery) and in the world (relationships and behaviour), how trauma impacts on these channels, and how each channel is also used in specific therapeutic disciplines.
The model for trauma treatment (stabilization, processing of traumatic memories, and integration) was outlined, and Michael focussed on the importance of working with the body channels to stabilize the trauma client in preparation for trauma processing as the self structure is primarily a body-based experience. A major part of the stabilization phase is ‘resourcing’ the client by a safe therapeutic relationship with clear therapeutic frames, and by teaching a range of mindful skill sets, e.g. being able to shift states, to access a safe place, to separate words and sensations, as well as psycho-education about the effects of trauma, how the nervous system works, about emotions etc.
Michael spent a good deal of time teaching about the dynamics and treatment of shame in trauma. The latest perspective on shame emphasises that shame is a “defensive pattern”, and a creative and clever adaptation to an unliveable experience. Shame can be a “safe place” to remove one from traumatic experiences, but like all defences, it has a down side, e.g. loss of contact with the self, lack of emotional connection with self and others, and a highly self-critical stance that gets embedded in our procedural memory, producing a “Charlie Brown” stance in the world.
The distinction between Healthy Shame and Toxic or Trauma Shame is important for understanding shame-based depressions and for understanding how trauma shame produces a “down-regulation” in the nervous system. The “Shame Compass” highlights four strategies for coping with intolerable shame: withdrawal, attack self, avoidance and attack others.
Michael then outlined a range of interventions that help people heal shame, such as psycho-education, engaging the defences, mindfulness, cognitive and somatic strategies, and resourcing. He also distributed a range of scales that clients and clinicians can safely use to judge current levels of distress and ongoing improvements.
The feedback on the workshop from attendees was very positive, and people were appreciative both of the quality of Michael’s work and of the smooth organization and running of the event.