Embedded Suffering, Embodied Self:
The Developmental Journey of the Trauma Therapist

There is much literature on vicarious traumatization in trauma therapists. We know that it is common for us to become overwhelmed, burned out, or even traumatized ourselves. In fact, this seems to be a normal and periodic hurdle in the developmental life of therapists. However, little attention is paid to how we use our embodied self with our clients, and how this effects what of their suffering we do or do not take on. We will discuss ways in which sitting with trauma affects not only our emotions, but of course, our bodies, where those emotions are felt. Our capacity for empathy and attachment are essential bridges that connect us deeply with our clients, but also can become conduits for their suffering to be transferred to our own bodies, a burden we may carry to our own detriment. How can we find the best balance between empathy and taking on the pain of our clients without becoming disconnected? It is in only in our small but steady movements toward accepting our embodied self—for better and worse--that we can most fully be with our clients, without having to take on their suffering as our own. Finally, we will discover ways to care for ourselves through the practices of reflection, enjoyment and exuberance, activity and stillness, and meaningful connection with others. These can provide restoration and resilience to our own vulnerable embodied self. 

Participants will be able to

  1. List ways in which being with traumatized clients affects their own bodies
  2. Describe ways to set mental boundaries, while remaining present with clients in order to prevent vicarious traumatization
  3. Practice at least 3 ways to replenish and renew themselves to prevent burnout.
  4. Discuss developmental issues in the early, middle and late stages of our careers as trauma therapists.
  5. Describe embodied engagement and five areas of growth for the therapist.

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Includes 60 day recording access.
Professional Development CEs not applicable.


Recorded 2022

Other Topics in this Series with Kathy Steele:

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Page Last Updated: 19 October 2022