How expressive therapies help embodied stress, trauma and physical symptoms

Find the power of your boundaries with creative and embodied psychotherapy

The festive season can be great, but… do any of these symptoms sound familiar at the moment?

All of these can be signs of embodied stress or embodied trauma and unfortunately, they are often treated as ‘medically unexplained’ symptoms*. If you’ve been to your GP and feel like you’re getting nowhere with chronic symptoms like these, it’s time to take a closer look at how your body and mind interact.

“I should… I should… I should…”

This time of year can make you feel physically and mentally drained. For some, it can bring stress, painful memories or emotions associated with family, or with the seemingly never-ending darkness.

The weeks fly past driving to work in the dark, going home in the dark, bracing the cold and wet, perhaps caring for children or other relatives, squeezing in social engagements at the weekend, and ticking off the never-ending to-do list.

Do you feel merry, full of festive joy, or like a robot waiting to short-circuit, explode or break down?

If you are one of the many people who find it impossible to find time for self-care, rarely express how this time of year impacts you, and run around doing all the things you feel you ‘should’ be doing for others to have a ‘good’ festive break, then it’s time to acknowledge the truth:

Your lack of healthy boundaries is damaging you physically and mentally!

Develop awareness of your boundaries – then protect them

Unacknowledged emotions, unconscious conflicts between what we really want and what we feel obliged to do, social or time pressures to contribute or be involved, and past stresses or traumas all have one thing in common:

They can all present as symptoms in the physical body.

This is where creative and embodied psychotherapy comes in.

Expressive therapy for mind-body symptoms

Unless we recognise, acknowledged and process mind-body symptoms through careful attention to the whole person, the body will continue to send physical messages to draw your attention to the stress and unmet need for self-care.

Psychotherapy to address these patterns needs to take place not just at the level of talking, but at the level of the mind, body and wider system. This is known as a holistic, embodied approach – we listen to the body-mind and its inherent impulses as well as your rational thoughts on things.

As well as discussing things verbally as you might expect from talking therapies like counselling, it is helpful for clients to practice body-awareness and healthy expression. Often this happens creatively, as the ‘creative impulse’ can be attended to as a signpost of what is being perceived unconsciously or taking place at the level of the body.

Tools used for this could be imagination, drawing, writing, moving, sculpting or something else – usually clients will give some verbal clues as to which tools might be useful. For example, they might say that they feel a knot in the stomach. I might then ask them to show me how the knot might look or how it feels with their hands or with clay and see what else comes to mind when they ‘re-create’ this with their hands. Or they might describe a ‘red mist’ when angry. I might then ask them to draw this red mist and follow the creative impulse further to see what else emerges.

 

 

Using my Dance/Movement Psychotherapy training, I am also able to observe and evaluate how people are in their bodies – how they walk, sit, hold themselves, interact, move – and this reveals a lot of useful information to help address embodied stress or past trauma in the whole-person.

The holistic view

In terms of wider factors, there is no point trying to address stress or trauma if someone is hurting the body through a damaging lifestyle. After all, the recurrent headaches could be as much to do with poor diet, caffeine, eyestrain or something else. While engaging in psychotherapy with clients, I always have my experience and expertise in lifestyle science in mind, ‘running in the background’ to detect any gaps or lifestyle hacks that would suit the client.

The end goal of therapy is for you to be able to maintain healthy, mindful awareness of your own experience, and then process any internal signals effectively – before they become chronic physical symptoms.

Do you recognise yourself here?

If any of this is sounding all too familiar and you’re ready to listen to and – importantly – VALUE your ‘gut feelings’, why not give yourself the gift of a free 1hour consultation to explore how you can start to change your boundary patterns and feel better.

Please go here to enquire – there are no ‘silly’ questions and I look forward to hearing from you!

You can also learn more about me and what I offer here.

*It is important to have physical symptoms checked out by your GP to rule out any underlying health conditions.