Beyond words: Why your body holds the key to healing from trauma

In the world of therapy, talking is often seen as the primary tool for healing. We sit in a comfortable chair, face our therapist, and delve into our thoughts and emotions, hoping to find relief from our struggles. But what if I told you that talking is only one piece of the puzzle? That your body holds a profound wisdom that can unlock the path to true healing? And that the way our brains process trauma plays a crucial role in this journey?


As a therapist specialising in trauma, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of incorporating the body into therapy. Trauma, whether it's a single traumatic event or ongoing adversity, leaves its mark not only on our minds but also on our bodies. We can't talk our way out of the deep-seated effects of trauma because our bodies have kept the score.

Right brain processing and trauma

When we experience trauma, the logical, language-based left hemisphere of our brain often shuts down, while the right hemisphere, responsible for emotions, sensations, and nonverbal communication, takes over. This means that traumatic memories are often stored as fragmented sensations, images, and emotions, rather than coherent narratives.

Traditional talk therapy primarily engages the left hemisphere, which may not be able to access or process these nonverbal memories effectively. This is why talking about trauma can sometimes feel frustrating or incomplete. We may have a sense of what happened, but we may not be able to fully understand or integrate the experience.

The body as a vessel of memory

Our bodies are remarkable storytellers, holding onto experiences long after our conscious minds have moved on. When we experience trauma, our nervous system goes into survival mode, flooding our bodies with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare us to fight, flee, or freeze and if the threat persists, our bodies can become stuck in this heightened state.

Trauma isn't just an emotional experience; it's a physiological one. Our muscles tense up, our breathing becomes shallow, and our heart rate quickens. These physical sensations can linger long after the danger has passed, manifesting as chronic pain, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, and a host of other physical symptoms.

But our bodies don't just store the physical sensations of trauma; they also hold onto the emotional and psychological aspects. Unprocessed emotions like fear, anger, and sadness can become trapped in our bodies, contributing to anxiety, depression, and even physical illness.

Talking therapy: A limited approach

Talking therapy can be incredibly valuable for exploring our thoughts and emotions, but it doesn't always address the deeper physiological and emotional imprints of trauma stored in the right hemisphere and our bodies. When we focus solely on talking, we risk bypassing the wisdom that our bodies hold. We may talk about our trauma, but if we don't address the way it's living in our bodies, we may not experience true healing.

The body as a path to healing

Incorporating the body into therapy offers a powerful avenue for healing from trauma. By paying attention to our physical sensations, we can gain valuable insights into our emotional state and begin to release the trapped energy of trauma stored in the right hemisphere.

Body-centered therapies, such as somatic experiencing, sensorimotor psychotherapy, and yoga therapy, offer a variety of tools for accessing the body's wisdom. These therapies might involve gentle movement, breathwork, mindfulness practices, or simply paying attention to the sensations in our bodies.

Through these practices, we can learn to identify the physical manifestations of trauma, such as tension, tightness, or numbness. We can begin to explore these sensations with curiosity and compassion, rather than fear or judgement. As we become more aware of our bodies, we can start to release the trapped energy of trauma, allowing our bodies to return to a state of balance and ease.

The benefits of body-centered therapy

Integrating body-centered approaches into therapy can have a profound impact on our well-being. Not only can it help us heal from trauma, but it can also improve our overall physical and mental health. Some of the benefits of body-centered therapy include:

Reduced anxiety and depression:

By releasing trapped emotions and regulating the nervous system, body-centered therapy can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Improved sleep:

Body-centered practices can promote relaxation and help us develop healthier sleep patterns.

Pain management:

By addressing the physical manifestations of trauma, body-centered therapy can help reduce chronic pain and improve physical function.

Increased self-awareness:

Body-centered therapy can help us develop a deeper understanding of our emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations, leading to increased self-awareness and a greater sense of agency.

Enhanced emotional regulation:

By learning to tune into our bodies, we can develop the skills to manage our emotions more effectively and respond to stress in healthier ways.

Embracing the body's wisdom

Healing from trauma is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to explore all aspects of our being, including our minds, bodies, and the way our brains process experiences. By embracing the wisdom of our bodies and understanding the role of right brain processing, we can unlock a powerful path to healing and create a life that feels more balanced, joyful, and whole.

If you're struggling with the effects of trauma, I encourage you to explore the world of body-centered therapy. There are many different approaches available, so find one that resonates with you and start your journey toward healing today. Remember, your body is a wise and powerful ally, and it holds the key to unlocking your full potential.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Edinburgh EH6 & EH9
Written by Blair Bowker
Edinburgh EH6 & EH9

My life's passion is understanding the heart and mind. As a psychotherapist, I spent 25 years exploring global therapies and my own self-discovery. This revealed that inner peace is key to transformation. My experiences fuel my writing, offering insights into personal growth and the power of compassion.

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