Experiences Matter and so does the brain

For a hundred years or more, every textbook of psychology and psychotherapy has advised that some method of talking about distressing feelings can resolve them. However, as we’ve seen, the experience of trauma itself gets in the way of being able to do that.
— Bessel Van der Kolk

Talking and sometimes even thinking about traumatic events can take parts of the brain “off-line” as a defense mechanism. Trauma can be any event that leaves you feeling emotionally or physically overwhelmed, alone and unable to cope.

Emotional or physical abuse, neglect, threat of or actual violence, loss or death of a significant attachment figure, chronic illness or medical procedures, and systemic oppression all have the ability to be traumatic, to change to brain and the way you are able to connect to your self and sustain and maintain relationships. Especially if you feel like you were alone and not witnessed during these events. Experiential therapy combines what we know about trauma and how it impacts the hierarchy of the brain, sensory processing and integration, memory and regulation, and the essential nature of attachment and connection.

Often lack of success with talk therapy is because one cannot “talk” to parts of the brain that are not “online.” When we take into account how the brain forms and which parts are responsible for which functions, we can address where the root of the stress response originates: in the brainstem and the diencephalon.

What humans have known intuitively about the healing power of drumming, yoga,walking, singing, dancing, art, nature and even connecting with horses, is reemerging with the support of new technology and data. Experiential therapy or “bottom up approaches,” (techniques that address the brain neurosequentially) are largely effective because they have potential to stimulate and regulate the brain stem. Once the lower parts of the brain are regulated, therapy can focus on connection which is the foundation of healing. Then emotions and eventually reflection and narrative memory can be addressed.