Somatic therapist, Maira Holzmann, shares her healing journey from childhood trauma and how she is now using co-regulating touch therapy to end the consequences of trauma from being passed onto future generations.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Maira’s pursuit of identifying her purpose in the field of co-regulating touch therapy
- What is the concept of co-regulation in human relationships
- How trauma disrupts the process of co-regulation and ways to recognize it
- Co-regulating touch therapy: How it’s done and its distinction from other therapy
- The power of somatic therapy in improving one’s quality of life
- Nurturing Resilience by Kathy L. Kain and Stephen J. Terrell | Kindle – https://amzn.to/3nIlSVs
- Somatic Resilience & Regulation: https://www.resilienceandregulation.com/
- Attachment theory – https://www.britannica.com/science/attachment-theory
- Co-Regulating Touch Directory – https://coregulatingtouch.com/
ABOUT: MAIRA HOLZMANN
Maira Holzmann is the founder and owner of Somatic Therapy Partners. She is a Master of Science in Social Work, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, and a Coregulating Touch Practitioner. Maira is a body-oriented or somatic therapist helping folks heal from early adverse childhood experiences, aka developmental trauma. She completed her undergrad in psychology at the University of Michigan in 1993 and her Master of Science in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. She’s been a licensed clinical Social Worker in Colorado since 2006.
CONNECT WITH: MAIRA
- Website: Somatic Therapy Partners: https://somatictherapypartners.com/
- Facebook: Somatic Therapy Partners: https://www.facebook.com/SomaticInDenver/
- Instagram: @somaticindenver: https://www.instagram.com/somaticindenver/
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The main definition is that when co-regulation happens, and it’s usually talked about in the parent-child interaction, so a child is born and that child has zero ability to self-sooth, has no ability to regulate, absolutely relies on their caretaker in order to help them settle down. And so co-regulation is basically the dynamic relationship that happens between parent and child.
And then as we get older between spouses or friends, but for now, parent and child where the child does something and. The mom or the dad responds and goes, oh, your diaper’s wet. And then you know, the baby’s zipper gets changed and the baby feels happier. And then the mom says, okay, I’m gonna put you down.
And so co-regulation is just the back and forth that happens as we are in relationship with people. Welcome to the Imperfectly Empowered Podcast with D iy Healthy Lifestyle blogger Ahna Fulmer empowering you to transform your life. One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Imperfectly Empowered Podcast.
I’m your host, Ahna Fulmer. Today we have Maira Holzmann on the show. Maira is a body-based, somatically trained trauma therapist. Who specializes in helping adults heal from childhood trauma? Here to share how a specific therapy called co-regulating touch helps to end the consequences of trauma from being passed onto future generations.
Welcome trauma therapist, Mayra Holtzman. Hi, Ahna. Hi. Hello. Hi, nice to meet you. Thanks for rolling with everything. It’s been, oh my gosh. No worries. I hear that. Yes. Thank you. For this, is it Maira? Am I your name? Right? Okay. Yep. Yep. And I did, I’m sorry it took, I didn’t realize that there was a form I needed to fill out, but I did just submit it in case you wanna take a look at it.
Okay, perfect. Yeah, I also feel like perfect. I’m sure I’ve listened to your podcast and I think you know really well how to roll and it’s, I think it’ll be fine if you don’t use that, but. I love your podcast. I have never, oh my gosh, thank you. So I’ve never heard of, I can’t remember exactly your title, but it’s like a healthy lifestyle and home like blog and it’s like all of these things.
Yes. My super left together. Cause I was looking at your roster and I was like, wow, she has people on here that like wanna talk about painting and I’m like, right, this is my jam. Because like to me that’s, you know, like Yeah. Healthy Hearts, happy Homes. I think you have some kind of tagline like that. Yep.
And I’m like, I’m into it. So anyways, I’m excited to be here. I love it. Thank you. Yeah, thank You’re welcome. Thank you. Well, and I’m thrilled to have you, and we’ll dive into this a little bit later. Yeah. But one of the things that I’m excited to talk about is how, especially co-regulating touch specifically, so we’re adopting and Wow, this is such a huge conversation piece we’re adopting internationally from the Pacific Island of Samoa, and in our adoption training, This, not specifically this therapy practice, but this concept of emotional attunement and this concept of the importance of holistic development, things we don’t think about Yes.
Uh, with our children or even in our own lives. So anyways, I’m jumping ahead. Y’all hang in there. Sneak peek. We’re getting to, we’ll get to that, but I’m wait to talk to you about that. Especially because ao, I mean I don’t specialize in adoption, but adoption, especially if it happens in those first four years of life, has the potential to really dysregulate the development of a nervous system.
And I would love to talk to you about ways to support when you get your adoptee and just for anybody that might have early trauma. So love it. We are gonna chat. That’ll be the second. So you guys. Stay tuned. Don’t worry. Yes. We’ll get there. Everyone’s like, just jump right to that. But yeah, I really like to press the rewind button.
As you may know, if you’ve listened to my podcast, and I would love to hear a little bit of your backstory and how you even ended up, so you run the Somatic Therapy Partners Group? Yep. And your specific concentration is this concept of somatic therapy. But tell me a little bit how. It’s such a niched area.
Tell me how you even got to where you are today. Yeah, thank you for asking cuz it’s an important part of the origin story of my business. So I have been a therapist. I graduated from UT with a master’s in social work back in 2004, and then I started doing training in somatic. I am certified in Peter Levine’s approach, which is called Somatic Experiencing.
And from that approach, there’s a bunch of teachers who have been joined the roster and then start creating other things. And one of the assistants, cuz they have assistants at every course to support the learning and the training of the, of the participants. She said, you know, you might wanna check out the work of Kathy Kane and Kathy Kane and Steven Terrell are one of my teachers and they write a book called Nurturing Resilience.
So I showed up at this training. Probably back in 2016 or 2017 and it was called Somatic Resilience and Regulation. And the whole point of the training was to support the healing from early trauma. And it’s not like, I don’t know what happened to me in my life and I also didn’t know, like they started talking and I had this sort of epiphany moment that was both bad and not super pleasant, where it was like, oh, they’re talking about me.
They’re talking about a really disrupted. Nervous system from a lack of safety in early childhood. And again, it’s not like I didn’t know, but I didn’t know the impacts of just how deep that kind of trauma can go. And then I just started diving in and I was really hooked. And you know, I’d been a therapist for 12 or 14 years prior to taking this training.
And I’d worked in needing disorders and I’d worked with veterans. And when I started learning this work of co-regulating touch, it was like I landed fully and deeply into my soul’s purpose and my soul’s alignment on the planet. And unlike anything I’ve ever been trained in, it has this quality or experience with clients where they heal almost magically because what we’re doing is we’re bypassing the prefrontal cortex and the conscious brain, and we’re coming, we talk about it this way, like we’re coming underneath.
The nervous, the architecture of the nervous system, and we’re basically helping to build a better, stronger, more resilient nervous system. And the results that my clients see, most of them, I mean, not everybody, you know, there’s no one approach for that fits for everybody, but most of the clients that engage in this work do healing on the level that I’ve not seen.
Prior to taking this training in my career, and I used to also work in eating disorders where we would see really high recidivism rates. Yeah. And I just love the work so much, and it is so deeply needed. In a related tangent, the United States scores some of the lowest in terms of human touch in the world, so somehow they have this.
Ability to rank countries about how much they have, you know, how much they use touch in their daily life. Mm-hmm. And I’m Filipino, so I didn’t grow up in the Philippines, but whenever I would go back I’d see men and women and girls, like they’d be, you know, arms around each other holding hands. Like it was, you know, there’s a lot of physicality and in the United States touches really taboo.
So I wonder if that’s partly because of the white European history. Cuz I think that’s also probably very true of, I shouldn’t even say European, but as much of the, I guess it is European, But like the British, the German, now I’m thinking my area is very like white German. Yeah. Type of background. And I feel like that’s maybe some of that.
Yeah. I appreciate you bring that up, because there are really big cultural differences, you know, like in the Philippines for young men to like hold hands with each other. Walking down the street, it would be the same thing as just like putting your arm around someone. But in the United States, you know, we are very polarized about things like that.
And depending on where you are that may be safe or not be safe. Yeah. So, Anyways. That’s interesting. So I got into co, yeah, I got into co-regulating touch after taking this one training, and I’ve taken those trainings multiple times. I now, you know, support my staff in learning how to do these things, and it is the work that truly keeps my soul aligned.
And the good news is that it also keeps me regulated because. You know, when I’m touching someone’s nervous system, they’re also touching me back, which means that we both get to be regulated by the end of the hour. So share with me a little bit in your experience. So I, there’s a business coach that I work with, and he says that you are best positioned to serve the person you once were.
And what, yeah, I know. Like, think about it for a second. It’s like that’s a really good case. Yeah. And that’s exactly what you’re speaking to. So tell me a little bit how you are able to serve these people in a way that is also touching you and the person that you once were. In terms of whether it be trauma or if you don’t wanna get into the specifics of your own childhood trauma, but share with me a little bit about how, from a more personal level, you have been able to experience some of the healing that comes with what you are now practicing.
How have you seen that transform your personal life? It’s a great question. I mean, one of the things that I have started telling people, cuz I, I mean not started, but you know, in the last three to five years is that, so I grew up in a home where there was a lot of emotional misattunement, it’s also called emotional neglect, and there was also physical abuse.
I. And so empathy, I’m a psychotherapist and it’s funny for me to say like, empathy is not something I know very well because I didn’t grow up with it. So what I had been telling folks is that I had to learn empathy by going to school cause I wasn’t, I don’t know how I was gonna learn it any other way.
Mm-hmm. And so that’s part of how, I can’t remember exactly your question, but that’s part of how I got into it. And back to your statement about we serve the people that. We once were. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m so good at what I do, and along the pathway, not just learning like interventions and information about physiology and nervous system functioning and all that, but the relational piece was so missing, right?
Mm-hmm. Like I didn’t have parents that were like, oh, you don’t, you seem a little bit off. Are you, you know, is there anything you wanna talk about? Yeah. You know, they, I would, they would get angry with me if I didn’t do anything, but be polite and be sort of, you know, the nice girl and so, Over the course of my training, I’ve really learned how to do empathy, and I have to say that the touch work really, really deepened and widened my capacity for empathy because now I’m not just talking with person and interacting with their brain.
Yeah. But I’m actually in their nervous system, so to speak. Yeah. And feeling the level of dysregulation and the level of need, if you will, in terms of all of the unmet needs that happen when we’re young and we don’t get, you know, we don’t live in a safe environment. It’s interesting how much emotion is connected to that sense, not just of safety, but of touch and how it can be a very negative impact or a very positive impact.
I literally just had this conversation. I don’t remember what started it. So I worked in emergency medicine for 10 years and one of the things that became a sixth sense, Was when children came in and they were not emotionally expressive, out of proportion to their physical presentation was an instant alarm for me.
Meaning what might surprise a lot of people is that when we had children come in who were neglected or abused, They actually cried the least. They showed very little emotional expression, and it was the child who was free to express themselves, even if it was over the top and dramatic and screaming.
That was a child. I had a much lower concern for abuse of any kind. And so it was an interesting thing to start and it’s like I wasn’t consciously. Realizing this was, but I started to recognize this pattern. And so any child that should be crying cuz this hurts and is showing extreme stoicism actually was always a red flag to me.
So that runs exactly with what you’re saying. It’s like there’s no way to practice empathy because you’ve never been allowed to express emotion. Because you don’t feel safe in order to do so, because in that child’s life that came into the ER and wasn’t expressing a congruent response to the physical harm that had happened to them, right?
That is total survival effort, right there. We call that survival effort, right? Their system is like, I’m just gonna shut down. And I’m not gonna try to feel the things, and I’m gonna try to be kind of under the radar and I’m gonna be really quiet. And I love that you pick that up because that is a really astute observation when children are presenting with low affect.
So another way to talk about this, and this was definitely true for me, is that I was the good girl and the perfect girl. And I got all the good grades and people thought that I had my act together because I did really well in school, but I was just trying to survive. I was trying to get straight A, so I didn’t hear it from my family, and I was trying to be captains of all my thing to replace a solid and confident sense of self that my parents were not supporting in our relationship.
So I’m really impressed and love that you picked up like, yeah, these are the kids with red flags, the ones that are showing no affect. Yeah. Well, and this is also just a plug for those of you who are teachers, or those of you who are certainly in medicine, but in positions where you would be one of those reporters, if you have any concern, you know, there’s no harm, no foul type of a thing.
But these would be some cues that from different standpoints that we have seen. Yeah. Uh, for me professionally and for Maira professionally and personally, I cannot get wa I, I’m so excited to get into this whole topic cuz I feel like I’m gonna learn so much. But we are gonna take a really quick break, you guys, when we come back, stay tuned.
We’re gonna play a speed round of this or that with Maira. We’re gonna get to know her a little bit more and we are gonna hear her expert advice on using co-regulating touch therapy to heal from childhood trauma right when we come back. You have tried it all. Worried you will never lose the extra weight or reclaim the energy you once enjoyed.
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Free seven day fat loss accelerator course today and start your own transformation story. We are back here with Maira. Okay, Maira, this or that? You get two options. There’s no stress. Whatever comes to your mind first. Would you rather Kindle or an old-fashioned book? Old-fashioned book all the way? I love turning the page.
You have pages, Brett. Yeah, the smell. The old, yeah, the smell, the like the cornering of the pages and all the outlining that I do. Can’t do that on a Kindle as well. Yeah. Do you have a favorite book? If this would be like the one book you could take to an island, what would be your book? I. My favorite book of all time that I haven’t read in forever is Call is The Tale of Two Cities and I’m totally, it’s a classic great one.
Yeah, and I just love, it was one of those books that like opened my eyes to the level of sacrifice that people will make for other people. That’s literally what I got out of it. So that’s still one of my favorite books. I should probably revisit it since I haven’t probably read it in two. I love that my daughter was just in the Tale of Two Cities musical.
Oh wild. And I forgot. Agreed. I haven’t read that book forever. I love Charles Dickens. Yeah. And I read the very last, like when Carton is about to be killed and he is like doing that monologue. I’m like hearing the, I’m hearing the music as my daughter’s listening to it in my ears and I’m reading the monologue and I’m sobbing.
Oh my God. Absolutely. Such a great book. You guys, if you have not read it, wordy. Charles Dickens is wordy but hanging there. It’s a very wordy guy. It’s a great book. Yep. Yes. Okay. Would you rather? Candy or baked goods? Oh, baked goods. All the way. All the way. Favorite baked. Good. Same pie. Absolutely pie. What kind of pie?
So I love banana cream pie. I love strawberry rhubarb pie. Ooh, berry pies. So those kinds of pie, chocolate cream pies. Pretty much any pie except for cherry now. Like creamy. The creamy version. I like all of ’em. Yep. I don’t know if I’ve actually ever had banana cream pie, which sounds terrible. Now that I say it, I highly recommend.
I might have to put that on my to-do list. Would you rather be a ninja or a pirate? Ninja all the way. Absolutely. Skills. Although I wouldn’t mind the idea of being a pirate because they get to sail all around the world and see beautiful places. Right. But probably lead out with Ninja and then if I needed to do a backup profession, I would be a pirate.
Yeah. Yeah, like work your ninja skills. Earn some money by your boat. Exactly. I hear you. I might join you. Yeah. Would you rather run in the woods or lift in the gym, run in the woods all day. That’s like my safe, happy place. It’s the place that I go to really come into connection with myself and to down regulate and take as deep a break as I can from modern life.
Love that. Where are you located? I actually Where? In Denver? Where you live? Yeah, Denver. Oh, well then definitely run in the woods. Exactly. Oh, for sure. Although if I ran in Denver right now, I think I’d probably die. I’ll be able to breathe. We’re in Pennsylvania, so Pennsylvania. That’s right. Yeah. Nope, we’re a little lower.
Yes. That’s not quite as pretty. Okay. This is a very controversial question. At a movie, would you rather Candy or Popcorn, you’re at the movie theater. And you’re gonna buy a snack. Popcorn. You have ID too. Yeah. Popcorn. I’m really into like salty foods and plus I love crunchy things and just the repetitiveness of sticking my hand in the bowl.
Yeah. Like that just feels so good. So popcorn for sure. And it lasts so much longer. That’s my thing. If I’m gonna like popcorn, I, I can make that last a long time. Exactly. Candy, it runs out. Gone. Right. Exactly. Well, now that we’ve hit all the important things, we’re done. We’re okay. Let’s move right along.
Great. Yeah. All right. So. We talk a little bit about co-regulation and I think there’s a couple pieces that we need to hone in on. You know, for those of you listening and watching, you know, I wanna also help you before Maira describes all these things. Help you be able to start to apply these concepts already if you are considering adoption.
You have adopted, even if your child is significantly older now, or if you work in an area like I would say medicine teaching, where you’re working with teenagers or even like young adults who this might apply to, or you might be a youth pastor, whatever, or maybe this is yourself. Maybe these need to apply to yourself.
I want you to be thinking specifically of people that these might apply to, or maybe it’s even yourself as we go through these topics. But first, explain what co-regulation is. Cuz a lot of people might not even realize co-regulation is something that happens naturally. We just don’t even. Yeah, we’re not aware of it.
So tell us what co-regulation is. So I’ll give you two definitions. So the main definition is that when co-regulation happens, and it’s usually talked about in the parent-child interaction. So a child is born and that child has a. Zero ability to self-sooth has no ability to regulate. Absolutely relies on their caretaker in order to help them settle down.
And so co-regulation is basically the dynamic relationship that happens between parent and child. And then as we get older between spouses or friends, but for now parent and child where the child does something and the, the mom or the dad responds and goes, oh, your diaper’s wet, the baby’s diaper gets changed.
And the baby feels happier, and then the mom says, okay, I’m gonna put you down. And so co-regulation is just the back and forth that happens as we are in relationship with people. Co-regulation is done well when people can be attuned to the needs of the person in front of them. Right. So attunement to me is like, it’s a, I talk about it as a deep sensing and feeling into the other person while being with them and not merging with their experience, right?
You can join someone in whatever’s going on. So if the mom gets dysregulated by the baby, that baby is gonna grow up. If that becomes a consistent pattern, basically what’s gonna happen is that kid is never gonna learn how to regulate and self sooth because their parent did, wasn’t so great at it. And so, Co-regulation between people is basically what I’m gonna talk about it in terms of safety.
So when we feel in a safe enough relationship with someone, like if you and I were best friends and I flew out to Pennsylvania and saw you, my system would automatically come into balance because we have this history of time and deeds done together where it’s like, I know that I feel safe, I can be myself.
And so. Co-regulation in the best sense, it allows two people or a room full of people to come into a similar like regulation pattern. And I’ll just explain this really quickly. So, when a nervous system is regulated, it means that there’s a reciprocal and equal relationship between the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs rest and digest, and the sympathetic nervous system which governs action and fight and flight.
And so when everything goes well, especially in early childhood, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system can work in reciprocal relationship. Now, co-regulation also happens, and I’ve been thinking about this, but we’ve heard about mob mentality. Like you’re in a situation, you’re surrounded by a, and this could be a concert, it could be you’re at a concert or you’re protesting or something like that, and you are going to be picking up everybody’s energy because that energy of fight, mm-hmm.
Of being out, being big, whatever the situation might be. As a person, you’re generally gonna pick up on that. So when people are cod and they’re cod towards the opposite end of the spectrum where there’s a lot of acting out, there’s a lot of impulsivity that can also pass. So that’s the reason why I keep talking about co-regulation.
In terms of safety, because that’s what we’re actually trying to do in the work of co-regulating touch through therapeutic attuned and safe enough touch what we’re doing, what I’m doing with clients is I’m supporting their nervous system in coming back into a regulated rhythm where there’s that rise of activation and then there’s that settling experience and then that rise of activation and then that settling experience.
You know your listeners, you might not know that that’s what your nervous is. And is doing all day every day. It’s just trying to find this easy balance, and when there has been trauma, that reciprocal relationship in those two parts of the autonomic nervous system, they don’t work well. They get stuck in either on or off.
So it might be that the accelerator and the brake are stuck on at the same time, or I’ll just speak about it. In my case, my pattern is that I am really good at being revved up, so my accelerator tends to be pretty high and I have had to work in my lifetime. To not get into those patterns because it leads to illness, it leads to depression and anxiety.
It overdoing and overworking is just not sustainable. And I know that these patterns are from my early childhood where I had to be really up, like I had to be scanning my environment. Yeah. To make sure that my parents were in a good mood so that I would not get hurt. Right. I was always up. I was always trying to be like the funniest one and the most intelligent one and kind of goes like that.
And so I’ve had to really. Consistently pay attention to those patterns so that I don’t default back into my early survival pattern. Mm-hmm. Or I’m assuming the opposite could be true, where somebody’s pattern could be more, they stay quiet, they’re in the background, they don’t want to be noticed. That’s right.
Throwing that out. Okay. Yeah, that would be two ends of the spectrum. So the two ends of the nervous system would be anxiety and being really revved up or experience of like depression, low energy, lethargy, apathy for life, and often clients who are struggling with those symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Sometimes it might be situational, right? Like they just lost a job or they got divorced. And when it’s global, when it’s just there for no reason that a person can identify, often what that points to is some form of trauma that has not been processed and released, so to speak. Hmm. Yeah. So then if so, co-regulation from, as I’m understanding it, is sort of that natural part of growth and development ultimately as a child.
And then talk to me a little bit about how. You did somewhat, but like how could trauma then disrupt that co-regulation specifically? So I’m thinking, you know, like when we would bring our son home, he’ll be between the ages of two and five when we’re matched. Okay. So it’s like right in that crucial developmental It is crucial, yeah.
Stage. What would be things, now I realize this is very age dependent, so maybe you wanna touch on different ages, but what would be things that I would look for as a parent in my adopted child that might show an effect of trauma on his co-regulation? I don’t know if that was worded well, but Yeah.
Ultimately, how does trauma sort of disrupt that, and would there be ways to recognize. That. Yeah, so part of what we’re talking about when we’re talking about adoption, we’re talking about attachment styles and attachment disruptions and with adoption, and again, this is not my area of expertise, but Sure.
Some things that you might be looking for is really a guardedness. Right. They’ve just met you and they don’t, they might not have, depending on what happened in those previous years before you showed up, they might not see welcoming, loving, smiling adults as safe, and so they might continue to turn away from you.
They might continue to kind of resist your bids for connection, so to speak, or or attempt to try and be affectionate with a child. Also if a child doesn’t have any needs, right? Like they’re not crying and they don’t, they’re not asking for help or they’re not coming to you when they’re hurting, that could also be a sign that there might be trauma.
Because what they’ve learned is that their caregiving environment isn’t safe enough. So why bother? Right? And what’s interesting about this is that a lot of these studies and attachment came from these studies. Out of Romania where they, this was back, I can’t remember how long ago, but maybe in the seventies, sixties, or seventies, when attachment theory was starting to gain more precedents, but they were seeing babies die from failure to thrive.
And that’s the reason was, is because those children were getting their basics needs met. They were getting fed, they were getting their diapers changed, but they were having no. Safe enough, loving, attuned interactions with adults that would actually further help develop their brain capacity and the rest of their nervous system.
So one of the things about when things go wrong in those first three years, so the technical definition of developmental trauma is when things don’t go well in those first three years of life, because that’s when the nervous system and the brain are developing at exponential rates. And if a child is not in a safe environment, then the brain can’t develop.
And so part of what doesn’t develop is an embodied sense of safety or an embodied sense of trust. Like, oh, I can come to Ahna and she will be there for me. It’s like, you know, depending on what happened, they might never come. They might not come to you for a really long time until you spent enough time and doing these.
Attuned compassionate deeds for that children, for that child’s nervous system to start to track like, okay, I’m, this is okay. Ahna’s okay, this home is okay. I’m okay. Mm-hmm. I’m getting my knees met, and all of this happens underneath consciousness. Right, right, right. I once heard Daniel Siegel talk about, and so Daniel Siegel is a, he’s a medical doctor who is huge in the mindfulness world.
And he said this one thing, which matched up with what I know, but he said, the first three of your life, first three years of your life lays down the tracks for the rest of your life and will have impact on you for the rest of your life. And he said it much more eloquently than I was, than I’m saying it.
And it’s a powerful thing to say. It’s not that it prescription for the end of your life, but if in those first three years you are not safe, your nervous system means a lot of support in order to grow and develop and make up time for, cuz those kids that have a lot of early trauma, they don’t meet their developmental tasks on time.
They’re often delayed if they ever meet them at all. Right? And what we also know about early trauma is that the outcomes for people who have experienced early trauma in terms of longevity of life, happiness and life fulfillment and work. Good social relationships. All of that is greatly decreased from those early years because from my view of things, there isn’t an embodied sense of safety and trust and that you can’t, it’s really hard to live life if you’re afraid all the time.
Yeah. Or shut down all the time. I think it’s helpful to hear. The different possible manifestations of that. We have joked already that the only way that my husband and I will get a laid back child is through adoption, because biologically we don’t create laid back children wait as our kids are insane.
We have three really big personalities in our house and obviously we were gonna be happy with whoever God gives us, right? We will take him happily. However, your point though, I think is well made in that. I think it’s important for me to process as a parent that in my mind I expect the traumatized child to have more obvious signs of trauma.
And the way that I see it is almost more like temper tantrums and acting out and yeah, that kind of behavior. And it’s always a good reminder for me that laid back appearance of just like flying under the radar and like he gets hurt and he doesn’t cry. Might not be a biological temperamental, like I’m just a chill kid.
It could actually be a sign of trauma. Trauma. And yeah, and to be aware of that and recognize that maybe he actually needs to feel safe. In having that temper tantrum, maybe that actually is a positive sign. So I think it’s just, it’s humbling for me to recognize that it’s like you just have to hold your hands open and be sensitive to whatever his struggles are.
But to not assume, in my own mind that. I know exactly how like a certain way traumatic behavior is going to, right? Yeah. And you’re accurate about it too. It’s like the kid that just simply cannot calm down and is a really defiant or oppositional and that’s certainly a also signs of trauma. One of the things I really appreciated that you said, and I hope all of your listeners can take this in, is you said, you know, maybe they need to have that tantrum.
And one of the views that I have been afforded through all of my training is seeing behaviors from the aspect from the. Viewpoint of the nervous system and how regulated or dysregulated it might be, right? Mm-hmm. So all of us have seen, I’m sure some of these quote unquote care and video people are going off about their shake being wrong.
That to me, isn’t about the shake. That’s a serious sign of dysregulation. And probably someone who has experienced a fair amount of trauma that’s never been addressed. I mean, that might be a hot take and. One of the things we’re meant to learn as we grow older is what are called pro-social behaviors.
Behaviors that we do in the context of being in relationship with other people and in our society. And when people act like that, I mean, it’s hard to watch, but you know, where I go to is like, gosh, that poor person. Because to have to act out like that tells me, I make assumptions about how much pressure is in their body.
Mm-hmm. How unwell they are physically. Like I could go on and on. Mm-hmm. And it’s just one of those things that it’s like if we could view especially children’s behaviors from the vantage point of. Wow, this kid is really dysregulated and needs me to show up and really help them sooth. Cuz it isn’t about whatever they’re getting upset about.
Right? Right. It’s that they don’t know how to calm down. And that’s one of our primary functions as parents is to be that safe enough soothing adult that teaches their nervous system. Like, okay, you’re dysregulated. Like let me help you settle down and also let me bring you into like healthy, loving connection in the family.
Yeah, right. Because that inclusion, that sense of belonging is so critical. It’s the foundation for everything. Yeah, which, I mean, I’ll throw this out there, although we don’t need to go down this rabbit hole, but that becomes harder and harder when you live in a society of inflammatory adults. You know, like you guys, we are half of the problem here.
Let me just make that suggestion that how can we expect our children to be self-regulated when we as adults are behaving like children? Exactly right. Take these things to heart. We’re speaking to ourselves as much as anybody else. We can’t parent our children in what we’re not doing ourselves. So, yeah.
And you know, the one thing I wanna say about that, and this is the vision of my business. I mean, part of the reason why I started Somatic Therapy Partners is because my vision for the world is to end generational trauma. Right? So if a parent is dysregulated and acts out and doesn’t know how to be an alignment, yes.
And then they teach that to their kids, and that’s generational trauma. Right? Yes. It’s like no one ever taught me how to soothe. No one ever taught me how to feel safe in the world or in my body. So I’m just gonna pass on this unprocessed trauma that happened for my own child. And this is literally all the people I work with.
Like everyone that I’ve worked with has comes in the door and they’re just like, yep, this is what my childhood was like. And I’m like, I got you. I know exactly what’s, yeah. And I’m so glad you brought it back to that, cuz I took it away from the adults and I have been like, because I’m, I’m thinking like as a parent with my adopted child, but to bring it back to what Maira does, like she works with adults.
Yes, so I’m so glad that you made that point again, is there’s hope here. Yes. If this is you, the whole point for her is to ultimately be working with adults to help uncover what you never even consciously were able to process. So let’s tap into that. That’s a great transition. What does this therapy look like?
I mean, if I’m in that position, I think it’s a fair question to say, why would I think that touch there would be more effective than like a verbal therapy, like counseling where I’m talking about. Yeah, my feelings and all of that. So tell us a little bit about the therapy and then how it’s different.
Yeah, so co-regulating touch, how it’s different is that it comes underneath your nervous system. So let me first address your first question. So, most of the people that are attracted to coming either to the practice or working with me specifically are people who have done a lot of work on themselves.
I’m talking like I. Probably anywhere from like four to 25 years, they’ve seen shamans. They’ve gone to talk therapists. They’ve done C B T D B T A C T, they’ve done all of these modalities, and yet there is this thing that doesn’t feel like it has budged very much, right? Because skills are great. It’s really helpful to have skills and I.
The goal of life is not to be spending all day long trying to regulate yourself. The goal of life is to live it and enjoy it and be connected. And so this is really can work for, in my opinion, work for everybody. And it’s different than talk therapy because when we’re doing talk therapy, we’re really dealing with what you are aware of with your conscious mind.
And early trauma is not a conscious mind kind of experience, right? Like if we go back to our conversation where we’re talking about what might I look for in my adopted child, right? And they might be either acting out or they might be kind of shy and never need help. That’s not a conscious decision those kids are making.
This is a, this is a learn. Response to how do I survive in this home? And so when adults come in and they’re, people will ask me like, well, how does this work? And all of these things. And you know, I say, well, it’s funny because my teachers don’t know how it works either, right? So I’ll just give you a quick example.
So one of the things I do is I hold people’s kidneys, which means that they lay down on my massage table and I slide my hand under their back about where their kidney area is. And I just provide safe, comforting, touch, support, and connection. And when that kidney can start to settle, that kidney is. I’m gonna go into a little nerdy jargon here, but right on top of the kidney.
And you know, this is the adrenal system and that kidney adrenal system is part of what’s called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, which governs a lot of regulation in the ex in the body. So when clients come in and they start to have this felt sense of settling, I don’t have to be on all the time.
I don’t have to be scanning my environment. I don’t have to be looking closely at Maira to see if she’s okay or not. Okay. I can just be, and I can have my nervous system regulated by someone else, which is a baby experience. That’s literally what we do with babies. They start crying and we’re like, oh, I’ve got you.
It’s okay. Mm-hmm. Let me bounce them, and we change their diaper. Right? That’s regulation activity, and when people come in and get this work done, I’ve had a couple experiences with clients where they’ve sat up and been scared. Because they didn’t understand what was happening in their body and how they were feeling because they’d never felt that relaxed before or relaxed in relationship with someone else.
Right. To the point that they were like really like crying. So kind of went all over the place. I’m gonna ask you to reign me in, but that’s sort of what happened. Well that’s that’s great. That was the question really is what would a therapy session look like? Like ultimately, yeah, what are you doing? So there’s touch involved and then is somebody just sort of laying on the table?
And just like, what does it actually like? What would it look like, what the experience. Yeah. Essentially be like, yeah. So let me walk you through it. So when a new client comes in, you know, of course I have to talk to my clients. It’s not like they’re just gonna come down, come into my office. There’s no talking at all.
There’s no talking. Right. Well, we just point at you. Touch you. Yeah. So I have to talk to them and one of the things I do, it’s a tool that I created. It’s called a body record. And a body record basically asks a lot of physical symptoms similar. In some ways, but not quite as intense as a doctor or a nurse practitioner might do.
And I’m asking about their general physical functioning. Is your period regular? Do you have bowel movements every day? Do you have any chronic issues? And the reason why I ask those questions, because I wanna know about the physical functioning of this person because I. The more depleted their physical functioning is, the more work that I need to do to support their nervous system and coming back into that regulation rhythm.
So clients will come in, we’ll complete some parts of that body record, and then we get, I orient them to what happens on the table. So one of the big experiences of co-regulating touch is that when a client comes in, When they’re on the table to receive co-regulating touch work, it’s meant to be a no demands kind of experience, meaning I don’t need them to be in their tracking.
I definitely don’t want them to be lying on the table trying to regulate their breathing or thinking good thoughts. Mm-hmm. And so they stay clothed the entire time. And the first place that we typically start with touch after we do a consent exercise is we start at the kidney adrenal system. And so, and it’s passive touch.
So unlike body work, cause I’m not a body worker, I’m a therapist who is trained in therapeutic touch, right? So it’s different. So I’m not in there trying to manipulate systems or get things to line up or do any of that kind of stuff. I’m literally simply being a good companion to that person’s nervous system.
And so what I. Tell my employees. And what I also say is I’m not there regulating someone’s nervousness. And what I’m doing is I’m creating the condition so that the body can heal on its own. And part of the conditions that I’m creating is this safe enough trusting, spacious place where clients can come to just be who and how they are.
They don’t have to put on a brave face. They don’t have to have everything figured out before they come in. You know, they don’t have to have all of these things, and they just really get some deeply embodied support in ways that they may never have gotten. Because if in those early years they didn’t get what are called coup behaviors, right?
Like the cci, cci, coo, it’s one thing to change a diaper, and then it’s another thing to change the diaper and be like, I got you little girl. Okay, no problem. You’re all dry now. Those are coup behaviors. That’s what creates that sense of safety and attunement. How does that support, there’s a biological process happening, physiological process happening with the nervous system.
Is the theory then that subconscious healing in a sense where you’re almost letting your nervous system repair in a way that you didn’t even recognize it needed repaired. Does that then put you in a position where you are more able to then consciously recognize. What needs healed? Like I guess I’m thinking like, so what is, how then do people see that quality of life improvement because of somatic therapy?
Yeah, so specifically with Coing Touch, because I’ve been doing it since I think 2016 or 2017, so quite some time, and one of the things I tell clients is, I want you to come in weekly and every other week if you can, at least for the first eight sessions, so that we can start to create that new normal in the nervous system.
Yeah. And new normals get created through Diligent habits, right? It’s like, okay, you’re gonna come in every week, we’re gonna talk about some things, and then you’re gonna get on the table. So over time, the system. Learns how to be in a more regulated rhythm versus being stuck up in that sympathetic arousal place or stuck down in that, you know, low energy, lethargy, parasympathetic place.
So it’s creating different habits in the body. That’s one way that we do this work. What was your question exactly? Because I was, there was something I was gonna say and I just forgot it. No worries. My question was how then once you help regulate the nervous system, what is the next step then? To helping translate that into an improved quality of life where there’s healing.
Yes, there’s nervous system healing, but then how does that translate into behavior? Yeah. And improved quality of life. Okay, great. So always in the work that every clinician does, at least in my opinion, they should be doing, is that you we’re also providing education. So always when we’re doing, when I’m doing co-regulating touch with someone new, I’m also providing them a somatic education about how their nervous system works.
So they can, for example, start to identify where am I on the nervous system map? Am I in my arousal place or am I in my shutdown place? Just as a most basic starter point. And then throughout the course of our therapy, they’re also learning regulation skills. But one of the first skills that everyone has to learn in terms of somatic therapy is, Learning how to track and sense what’s happening in your body.
And for clients who have had early trauma or trauma in general, wanting to come into your body is a really hard place to come because automatically that survival brain will be looking for everything that’s wrong. This hurts, I’m so tired, didn’t get my needs met. I’m, I’m upset, I’m depressed, or whatever it might be.
And so when you do all of those things together, the therapeutic touch, increasing somatic awareness, teaching them skills, and then also giving that person nervous system education, they’re suddenly armed in a good way with aspects of themself that they never knew. And one of the things about. Helping a client learn how to come into their body is that we have to do it from a place of goodness.
One of the things I don’t do typically at the beginning is when clients come in, I won’t say to them, how are you? Because if I ask them how they are, they’re gonna lead with, oh my God, I’ve had the worst week in the world and I got this big fight with my partner and on and on and on. And so what co-regulating touch does is it gives them that felt sense of goodness.
Right? Goodness is a sort of like a. A broad term for like, I don’t feel as anxious. Oh my gosh, my body’s actually quiet. Right? And once clients start getting that lived experience of, wow, I can actually breathe, like my chest doesn’t feel tight, right? Whether it’s because they got co-regulating touch. Or they practice a self-regulation skill that becomes a huge motivator.
And one of the things that I watch happen consistently, that I feel like is magic is I watch people’s narratives about themselves go from like self-loathing, self patron, self-doubt, to like, I can figure this out. I can do this. Yeah, this is hard, but I know I can do everything I need to to figure this out.
It’s not because I’m sitting there like keeping praise on them. That’s not actually what I do in session. It’s because their nervous system has settled enough that they can start to really attend to some of their. More shining aspects of self that were covered up because they were in survival all of the time.
It’s building a resiliency is what I’m hearing. That’s it’s, it’s like by helping heal the nervous system and allowing it to almost rest in order to repair. Yes. You’re helping them build resiliency. Yeah, that’s right. You said it really well. And my practice, we focus really on working with folks who have early trauma and also anxiety.
I tend to be better at working with people anxiety, because I can see them settle down. Right? Yeah. But yeah, it’s right. We have to give the nervous system rest so that it can repair, because if it’s, I’m sure you’ve, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Steven Porges and he talks all about the polyvagal theory, but he talks about this high cost in doing business and for people who have experienced trauma, their bodies work so much harder.
Then someone whose life went well enough in those first three years, their body has to work harder to keep up their immune system, to make sure their digestion is okay. And again, this is the reason why I ask these very specific questions, not only about like accidents or injuries that they may have had, but like I.
What’s your general state of functioning? So if a client tells me, I get sick all the time, I’m like, yeah, your immune system is depressed, which tells me that you’re probably really high in your sympathetic arousal system. You’re probably dominant there because if the body’s constantly trying to survive, it can’t do all of its basic housekeeping functions, like transferring nutrients in and out of the blood and filtering, you know, all of those things.
You know this better than I do. Right. But yeah. That’s so fascinating. It’s such interesting. Yes. I think one of the questions, I saw this on your website and I, I’ll make sure this link goes into our show notes, but I think I saw a test that somebody could take Yeah. To even help identify if this is something they should be considering.
Yeah. For themselves. What is the name of, again? I’ll make sure the link goes into our show notes. But what is the name of that? And it’s just a self. Yeah, it’s a resilience questionnaire. Yeah, it’s okay. When I started this, the group practice, I was like, this is what I’m seeing my clients be able to do when they’re resilient.
And so the question is really, this isn’t like, I didn’t pull this from anything. It was like from years of watching people come back into physiological and psychological resilience. So there’s a resilience quiz that can just help you understand where you are, and it kind of just helps people understand where they might need to do the work or do personal growth work or healing work.
Cuz it’s important, you know, like the things that we don’t heal, we definitely pass on to our children. Definitely, yes. It’s just like a Absolutely. Yeah, there’s, and the most dangerous piece is the, when you don’t know it. I think that’s the piece that’s so hard is like there are people who know they had a rough childhood.
Yeah. Like they know that consciously, but it’s not a far stretch to me at all to understand how much can subconsciously affect the way that you see the world and yourself. Because the same lens through which you see yourself is the same lens through which you see the world. That’s right. And how that can then get passed down.
Yeah. Subconsciously to your children. Like, I absolutely love what you do and I, I found that link. So you guys, I’ll make sure that this is in the notes so that you can take this quiz yourself. And share with me. So you’re in Denver, we talked about that. Obviously not everybody can fly to Denver and see you.
What are options for people, obviously if you are even close to Denver? Mm-hmm. And I mean, you need it enough. I highly recommend making the flight out there to hang out with Maira for a certain period of time. But if not, what are the options? That people might have to finding somebody who specializes in what you do or even working with you.
Yeah, so thematics is a really big field, and somatics just basically refers to somatic psychotherapy is enlisting the body as an ally in the healing process. So instead of it all being top down, meaning mind based things and changing thoughts like C B T, cognitive behavioral therapy is all about like changing your thoughts and identifying the thoughts.
Somatic therapy is really about like basically bringing the mind and body into uni. Because they’re often disconnected with trauma, so they can look up somatic therapists in their area, somatic experiencing, and. Sensory mo psychotherapy are the two big schools in the world of somatic psychotherapy. And then therapeutic touch can come in a lot of different forms.
There is a website called co-regulating touch.com that people can go to to see if they can find people who are trained like me in this area. And you know. Say that one more time. What’s the website again? Co-regulating touch.com. All right, we’ll make sure our editors put that in there. Co-regulating touch, okay.
Yeah, yeah, that would be a good place to start. And you know, one of the things I’ll say for all of your listeners, and it might be a hot take, but if you have experienced early trauma, even a shock traumatic event, and they’re different, right? Cuz early trauma happens in those early years, right? And shock trauma is a one time event.
You definitely need help. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but like if you could have already done this work on your own, I’m pretty sure you would have. Mm-hmm. And it really is better to see someone who was trained in trauma, in my opinion, trained in somatic approaches to healing trauma to really help resolve that.
I mean, I’ve even had teachers say it’s better to have no therapist than it is to have a bad trauma therapist. Bad one. Amen to that. Yes. Yes. So I just wanna really say that because there’s no shame or harm in needing help because, You know, this is what I tell my clients all the time. Like, you are so intelligent.
Like you can read the internet, you can get all these books. Mm-hmm. And all of that stuff is really helpful for your education. But doing that work in the relational field, right? Because shame and trauma typically happens right? In relationship, not all the time, but. Often, right? Mm-hmm. So if it happens in relationship, we also have to heal it in relationship.
So way better for anyone listening that’s like, I don’t know. I don’t know if I need this. It’s like, okay, you might not, and if you’re even questioning it, you probably do, and I can’t recommend it enough. Yeah. And I wanna highlight something that Maira said is it’s. Rarely an exclusion. Meaning it doesn’t mean that CBD might not be a good option for you, or that it’s really, it’s like a marriage.
It’s yes, bringing them all together. It’s not that one is preferable, but. It’s not incorrect. It just might be very incomplete. Yeah, and the goal is to try to create the most holistic healing experience from the trauma. Okay. So we’ll make sure all of these links are included, but where can people find you specifically or follow you and what you do?
Yeah, thank you. So go to somatic therapy partners.com. That’s the name of my group practice, and I’ve got three other practitioners currently working with me. Two of them are gonna be touch trained here pretty soon so that they can also deliver that work. That’s one place that they can find me. And then on Facebook and Instagram, my handle is Somatic in Denver, somatic in Denver.
Somatic in Denver. Yeah. And then that somatic therapy partners.com. Maira, it was such an honor to have you on here. You are such a light and I just pray God’s richest blessing over your family and over your heart, your home, what you’re doing, and I all your patience, I just pray healing over them and you’re doing incredible work.
It was an honor to have you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about something I love so much. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Imperfectly Empowered Podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts from today, head to your preferred podcasting platform, and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think. Remember, you cannot be redefined, only redeveloped, one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.