The National Council for Behavioral Health estimates that seven out of every ten people you know will experience a trauma during their lifetime. If you’re one of those seven people, the road to healing might seem long, complicated, and overwhelming.
Perhaps you’ve seen the benefit of having professional support on your journey and went to talk therapy. If you’re here, reading this article, that probably means talk therapy didn’t have the effect you had hoped for.
For many people, talk therapy can be a powerful mode of healing, but it often doesn’t address the somatic component of trauma. Furthermore, there’s an incredibly heavy stigma surrounding talk therapy that prevents many trauma survivors from even going in the first place.
I was one of those people who had a negative experience with talk therapy when I was healing from trauma. I went to one session, and I kid you not, I literally ran out of the building and never went back.
Luckily, talk therapy isn’t the only mode of therapy available for trauma survivors, and the following nine natural and integrative therapies can be powerful additions to your trauma healing journey.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
The goal of EMDR is to reprogram incorrectly stored trauma memories. During a trauma, cortisol, which is our stress hormone, is running rampant, and cortisol is actually toxic to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s responsible for memories. Therefore, the memory is processed incorrectly, and all of the emotions and trauma from the moment are stored with the memory.
EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (which is the therapist waving their hand back and forth in front of your face) to reprocess those memories. Therapists that are certified in this modality can be found through the EMDR International Association’s website.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST)
CST harnesses your body’s natural healing mechanisms – the same mechanisms that heal cuts, bruises, and broken bones – to release the stored trauma in your body. The practitioner will feel where energy is stuck in your body and then apply a very light pressure to release that stuck energy.
CST is often done in conjunction with other forms of therapy, including talk therapy, because it addresses the somatic component of trauma more than the psychological component. There isn’t a certifying body for CST practitioners, but a database of trained practitioners can be found on the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners’ website.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be powerful forms of healing for trauma survivors, but instead of the goal being a spiritual connection, the goal is to train your brain to return to the present moment immediately. That way, when you experience a trigger or a flashback, your brain is already primed like a muscle to center itself, and that makes recovering from those instances easier and faster.
There isn’t a certifying body for mindfulness or meditation practitioners (largely because there are so many different types of practice!), so find a therapist you like and ask if they incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their standard therapy practice.
Dance-Movement Therapy (DMT)
DMT is not traditional dance, so you won’t be expected to tango across the room to heal from trauma. Instead, DMT is a creative arts therapy that provides the space for your body to move in the way it inherently knows it needs to release your trauma.
Oftentimes, DMT sessions could look like pushing into a pillow, standing tall like a tree, or even visualizing stepping away from the person who caused your trauma. All dance-movement therapists can be found on the American Dance Therapy Association’s website.
Trauma-sensitive yoga aims to rebuild the bridge between your body and mind and allow the space for the two to learn to trust each other again. While trauma-sensitive yoga does have its roots in a traditional yoga practice, it’s different in that it always provides a choice, or an “opt-out”, to its participants.
There are lots of different “trauma for yoga” practitioners out there, but everyone who’s certified through the JRI Trauma Center in Boston, which is the organization that founded trauma-sensitive yoga, can be found on their website.
Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT)
There are two main models of EAT – the EAGALA model and the Epona model. The EAGALA model uses a lot of metaphors and moving the scene in front of you to work through your trauma, whereas the Epona model uses a lot of movement and mindfulness activities to achieve the same goal.
In the EAGALA model, there’s absolutely no horseback riding; in the Epona model, you may ride the horse, but it will be more like feeling the horse breathe underneath you than it will be galloping across a field. Therapists certified in the EAGALA model can be found on their website, and therapists certified in the Epona model can be found on their website.
Canine-assisted therapy is probably the most popular therapy on this list, and it’s simply the incorporation of dogs into the therapy practice. Dogs are great for breaking the ice, initiating mindfulness activities, and regulating the pace at which your story comes out, and a lot of people are more comfortable with dogs than they are with people.
There isn’t one certifying body for canine-assisted therapy, but I’d recommend checking out the American Kennel Club’s website for a list of therapy dog training organizations and seeing if they can connect you with any of their graduates who are practicing canine-assisted therapy.
Ecotherapy blends the healing powers of nature with the therapy, and it can look like anything from a multi-day backcountry adventure to indoor ecotherapy, as oxymoronic as that sounds. Nature has been proven to provide a variety of physiological and psychological health benefits, including decreasing symptoms surrounding anxiety and depression, and ecotherapy allows you to tap into those healing benefits for your own trauma.
As with many other therapies on this list, there is no certifying body for ecotherapy, so just make sure the person you’re working with has adequate training and licensure as a mental health professional.
Flower Essence Therapy
Flower essence therapy is a new field in the US, but it’s already incorporated into standard healthcare in places like Brazil, Switzerland, and Cuba. Additionally, flower essences can be found in pretty much every pharmacy in Spain. This may make it more difficult to find a practitioner in the US, but it doesn’t mean the therapy is any less powerful.
Flower essence therapy uses flowers’ natural ability to resonate with your body to release some of your top-level symptoms and unhealthy coping mechanisms. This allows you to direct more of your energy and a clearer head at healing the trauma underneath.
In addition, Rescue Remedies, which are essence combinations used for acute situations, can make recovering from a trigger faster and easier. These remedies can be purchased from Directly from Nature, and trained flower essence therapists can be found through a bit of Google searching and credential-checking.
While the road to trauma healing is anything but a perfect, straight line, you don’t have to travel it alone. Thanks to the natural and integrative therapies we discussed above, you can choose a route to healing that fits you and what you’re comfortable with.
If you’re interested in learning more about these therapies and how they can help you heal from trauma, I encourage you to download the first three chapters of my #1 best-selling book, How To Heal: A Practical Guide To Nine Natural Therapies You Can Use To Release Your Trauma – and, yes, these first three chapters are totally free. Here’s to your healing.