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Trauma, the brain/body connection

Did you know that trauma is stored in the body? For many of us we believe the best way to work with the wounds of our past is through talking and processing our feelings. This is one component to healing, often this is not the only or perhaps best way to work through trauma. According to trauma expert Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk “neuroplasticity, the discovery that neurons that fire together; wire together.” Meaning what neurons or brain synapsis, that follow a regular pattern will develop a thought process. “When a circuit fires repeatedly; it can become a default setting. If you feel safe and loved, your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, and cooperation; if you are frightened and unwanted, it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment.” Quite literally we are what we think. Dr. Van Der Kolk also discusses dissociation, which can feel like you are floating or in an out of body experience and cannot connect to yourself, “disassociation is the essence of trauma.”  Therapy is an integral aspect of trauma healing Dr. Van Der Kolk explains therapy as “assisting people to mindfully observe their emotions and sensations and help them get in touch with the context in which they emerge.” 

As mentioned earlier, trauma work also must address the physical or sensorimotor sensations in the body. According to Dr. Van der Kolk, “Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies.” Some suggestions of connection to the body are practicing grounding techniques such a breathing, meditation, and yoga. These modalities have been proven to help individuals struggling with trauma gain a sense of self and work through trauma. 

There is also the therapy intervention of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR. “EMDR facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After EMDR treatment, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.” This type of therapy needs to be completed by a therapist certified in EMDR and is extremely beneficial in the processing of trauma. If interested in EMDR speak with your therapist if this type of intervention is right for you. Through using different approaches to therapy, trauma can be processed and worked through in a way where it no longer has complete control over your life. There is truth to the body mind connection. 

Shannon Kelly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with her Master’s in social work and her Master’s in Public Administration. She is also a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and certified in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy. 


A., V. der K. B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. Penguin Books. 

What is EMDR? EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY. (2020, June 29). Retrieved September 26, 2022, from