Information for Therapists Considering Trauma-Informed Bodywork for their Clients

This is basic information for referring therapists to understand better what happens in a trauma-informed bodywork session and to determine if it is a good fit for your client. I work exclusively with women who have experienced trauma/PTSD/other related issues, as well as those who experience somatic pain, including but not limited to Fibromyalgia.

 

Foremost, you may consider referring a client for bodywork if the client has been identified as having trauma issues and is also stabilized enough to encounter the emotions that may arise during bodywork.

 

You may want to suggest a bodywork referral as a way to overcome issues with shame, understanding what trauma or traumas is/are attached in the body and as a pathway to experiencing good, safe touch in a very client-controlled environment. It is an excellent way to help clients find their voice and create healthy physical and emotional boundaries. It is also a way for a client to experience positive sensations in their body in a safe, non-sexual environment.

 

Alternatively, you may want to suggest a bodywork referral for those with chronic pain, fibromyalgia and other trauma-related conditions that are causing distress to the client. Bodywork is excellent for these conditions and often help relieve idiopathic pain, addresses trigger point pain and can increase overall well-being in clients, in the same client-controlled, safe environment. Below are scholarly articles supporting trauma-informed bodywork.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930706/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859205000422

Protocol for Referral to Trauma Informed Bodywork

 

To begin with, an initial session and consultation, the client must have a referral from a therapist and have discussed readiness for bodywork with their therapist. Before the initial session, the therapist should:

 

  1. Help the client identify areas where they feel/know they do and do not want to have contact. They can say, “I know I do not want any touch between my waist and knees,” or, “I know do not want the front of my throat touched,” or, “I have a lot of pain in my jaw and I feel like I hold tension there and I feel ready to let that go.” They should also know that they can change their minds at any time during the session and that there will be constant communication between her and Anne.

  2. The following areas are no-go zones that will never have any contact: breasts, genitals, inner thighs, gluteal crease and abdomen. Let the client know that these areas are off-limits and assuage any fears of contact.

  3. Help the client identify potentially triggering areas, for example, face, throat/neck, hips, feet, clavicle area and anywhere else that the client does not want to touch or knows may be triggering.

  4. At the same time, the therapist should discuss areas of the body that the client fears may be triggering, but also believes may be key to releasing trauma and explore the possibility of work in these areas. Again, breasts, genitals, inner thighs, gluteal crease and abdomen are no-go zones that will not receive treatment.

  5. The therapist should reassure the client that she will be in charge of the bodywork at all times. The client controls the pressure of the bodywork, the duration of work in each area and will determine at the start her intentions for the focus of the bodywork and how she would like to deal with any emotional issues that arise.

  6. The therapist should reassure the client that she can stop the bodywork at any time.

  7. The therapist should let the client know that the initial session is 1.5 hours and the first half hour is discussion of what to expect during the session and the client can ask any questions and set the parameters for the trauma informed bodywork. The client is allowed to decide to not go ahead with the massage and will not be charged, if it does not feel right for them.

  8. The therapist should let the client know that they are welcome to wear whatever makes them comfortable. I ask that underwear are left on. Clients may wear a bathing suit, running clothes or even remain dressed in everyday clothes. This is their choice. If they do choose to wear less clothing, they should be reassured that modest draping will always be in place and only the area they have agreed upon having treated will be exposed. However, if they are receiving treatment for physical issues related to chronic pain or fibromyalgia, it will be more effective if the bodywork therapist can work directly on affected areas, but, again, they are in complete control of what takes place during their session.

After each session, a copy of my notes will go to the therapist and the client.

 

What I WILL do for the client:

  • Provide a safe and nurturing environment

  • Respect the client’s boundaries and direction of treatment

  • Work toward achieving therapeutic goals

  • Listen actively

  • Maintain frequent and direct communication with the client and her therapist

  • Keep open dialogue by sharing my observations with the client and her therapist

  • Maintain my own boundaries and keep current with my own emotional health work

  • Work with a loving patience toward healing

 

 

What I WILL NOT do for the client:

  • Offer talk therapy

  • Replace talk therapy

  • See her if she is not in therapy

  • Ask her to experience anything she is neither willing, nor ready to experience

  • Offer advice

  • Question her therapist’s advice and/or direction

  • Have social contact outside of my bodywork with the client

  • Offer deep-tissue, “relaxation” or other forms of massage

If you have any questions, or to begin the referral process, please do not hesitate to contact me here.

©️ Anne Von denMeer 

© 2023 Anne Von denMeer

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