For the Introduction, please see
Reclaiming Healthy Touch Introduction.
For more of my story,
Hope and Possibility Through Trauma.
Special Considerations Reclaiming Healthy Touch
Sections Of Reclaiming Healthy Touch
- Why Reclaiming Healthy Touch Matters
- How Does Trauma Affect The Brain
- Evidence Of Trauma In The Body
- Special Considerations Reclaiming Healthy Touch
- Full Body Massage And Trauma Survivors
- Other Forms Of Body Work Helpful To Trauma Survivors
- Reclaiming Healthy Touch In My Life
- Sources And Additional Resources
Full Body Massages And Trauma Survivors
One of the best ways we can help survivors is by doing what we do best as massage therapists and that is giving massages. Massage will help to enhance a person’s awareness of the body they live in and begin to connect with their body in many ways. The healing that can occur at the hands of a massage therapist is enormous. Most often you may not even be aware of what is occurring and often times neither will the client.
For trauma survivors, it is a process to fully begin feeling the total effects of a massage. At first they may be reluctant to even think about getting a massage but as they progress in their healing from the trauma, these opportunities will seem more and more safe to them. Once they come to you, they will be struggling with many fears and will be watching you to make sure that you are a safe and trustworthy person. Often trauma survivors have a “sixth sense” in that they can often see through someone who is not being real. As a massage therapist, you need to be yourself and take the utmost care to show respect and safety for these clients at all times and maintain appropriate boundaries with them at all times. By your example of showing proper respect, safety, and proper boundaries for these clients, you will be helping them as they learn about these things.
At first these people may not be able to relax or even undress fully to get a massage. It may require some special talents on your part to get the person to the point of being fully ready for a full body massage. Being creative in what you do, along with excellent communication of what is to take place and what the ground rules are, will go a long way in bringing a trauma survivor from the fear phase to the point of the full body massage. Often times a trauma survivor will have areas on their body that they do not want touched as well as areas where they feel absolutely no sensation when being touched. In addition, there may be areas where awareness is there but until you touch that area of the body, they will not know something deep inside existed there. So be ready for just about anything to happen and be willing to adapt what you are doing to meet what the client needs. Remember what worked for one person or at one point may not work in the future or for all people suffering from trauma. Every person is different and every day is a different day for a trauma survivor. What they are aware of today will be different than what they are aware of tomorrow.
Sometimes as you are giving a massage, you might notice that the client is unable to relax and give up control to areas of their body such as the arms, legs, and head. Mental techniques along with gentle vibration and even distraction can greatly help when working with people who are unable to give up control. Often you will see the person trying to help you when you raise an arm or a leg, and if you are working on joint mobilizations, they may even learn quickly enough of the movement you are doing to repeat it with you. In time, as the client begins to trust you more and becomes more aware of holding patterns within their own body, these things will change. However, it will most likely take time and so be patient with the client and find every way that you can to encourage them without drawing attention to the fact that they do not easily relax. Most trauma survivors can sense this and it becomes a frustration for them when trying to get a massage.
Encouraging the clients to work on daily relaxation will be very helpful to them, along with journaling about what they experienced in the massage as well as the time after they leave the massage session. Be creative in the ideas that you give them for relaxation as it may take great encouragement of many different ideas before one connects with them. See the appendix for a list of possible ideas for relaxation and feel free to add your own to the list, as the possibilities are endless.
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