Practitioners at The Refuge hold a deep abiding respect for the importance of working sensitively with the complexity of trauma and people in general, whether there is a known trauma history or not. The Refuge is committed to the principles of gentle, compassionate care that fosters safety, embodiment, choice, voice and empowerment.
We recognize that it is not about “what is wrong with you” but “what has happened to you and how you’ve adapted to survive” and, more importantly, “what can we do to support your healing moving forward.” We do not operate from a dysfunction and disorders model, and instead we understand that most mental and physical health diagnoses are simply evidence of the impact of chronic stress and trauma. That it is not about personal deficiency or defectiveness, but the impact of your experiences and that of your ancestors (epigenetics) on your nervous system and functioning today. We hope to help you understand that what is happening to you makes complete sense given what you’ve experienced, and that your body has the capacity to heal itself emotionally and physically.
We respect the idea that safety, stabilization and trust are crucial to establish before moving into deeper work. The development of internal self-regulation and arousal modulation (being able to put on the brakes) to slow things down is crucial to being able to feel more confidence in later thawing out of freeze to complete fight or flight responses without shame, guilt or fear.
We want to help you incrementally build your capacity to tolerate both discomfort and pleasure. Titrated interactions that slow the pace allow for greater containment and safety in experiencing emotions and sensations that might normally be overwhelming. We aim to help you complete mindful movements, actions or behaviours that will be more adaptive, and interrupt old programming, thoughts, and patterns that are no longer serving you. This in turn helps re-pattern the nervous system to have a different felt sense of itself and what is possible (as opposed to the same old stuckness), as well as rewire neural pathways in the brain.
We do not deliberately use flooding, abreaction, re-enactment or encourage the constant re-telling or re-living of traumatic experiences over and over again to “face them”. This is rarely useful and can generate greater distress, re-traumatization, and reinforce the familiar state of overwhelm, disempowerment and helplessness that accompanied your past experiences. Instead, our goal is to foster your ability to take back control and choice, build your capacity to trust yourself, voice your needs, and re-negotiate old patterns in such a way that you experience triumph and a sense of yourself as capable, as opposed to more defeat and discouragement. We do not want to foster your dependence on your therapist, but help you build the ability to fly of your own two wings confidently.
Trauma resolution requires sensitivity and a high degree of sophisticated skill to negotiate safely. Our therapists are committed to ongoing specialized training in Somatic Experiencing and other trauma modalities that embody the principles we have outlined here.