Silence of TouchBlog

Articles and Insights, related to the Rebalancing Training,
Bodywork and Human Touch

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Why Bodywork?


| 18 November 2022

written by Jenny Lorant Grouf from Psychology Today

Why Bodywork? 

Although receiving massage and bodywork might seem counterintuitive for some trauma survivors, this human contact often works to mend the wounds that can’t be seen. Here are just a few ways massage can help.  

  • Physiological Benefits 

Massage and bodywork support the parasympathetic nervous system—the system that allows us to rest, digest, and restore our faculties—by providing stimuli that is intentionally present, caring, and safe. By deactivating the central nervous system, massage and bodywork can bring about increased relaxation, an unraveling of muscle tension, deepened breathing, increased circulation, regulated digestion, calming of the hypothalamus and cortisol, and more.  

  • Safe Touch

Touch can be a sensitive subject for someone who has experienced assault of any kind. As a massage therapist, I want my clients to understand that we are in complete partnership and that I absolutely support their processes. The goal of bodywork practitioners is to meet all recipients where they are and work from the needs that arise, versus imposing a one-size-fits-all protocol on clients.  

With this in mind, therapists work to educate clients about what a bodywork session should look like and emphasize that, as the recipient, clients are in complete control. On a basic level, we let clients know we will check in with them regarding pressure, temperature, etc., when appropriate. Additionally, we encourage clients to let us know when they need anything at all, be it a new position, a blanket, a bathroom break, a change in music, or lighter pressure. Clients need to understand that they are in charge of their session and have full control over what happens to their body, including how, and how much, they will be touched. After surviving a traumatic experience, receiving safe, interpersonal touch can be an important part of the healing journey.  

  • Trust of Others  

Survivors of abuse often share that it is challenging for them to trust another person’s touch after experiencing assault and trauma. When survivors cross the threshold into a bodywork space, they are taking a step toward trusting another person to ensure the safe touch that each session intends.  

The framework of each massage session is solely to support a client’s healing process. While practitioners may bring the therapeutic techniques to the table, it’s the client who has complete agency over everything that will happen during a session. Whether it is a client’s very first official wellness session or one in a long line of self-care experiences, safe, interpersonal touch can offer a breakthrough and shift survivors toward trusting themselves and others again.  

  • Empowering Voice

Very often, subordination is a large piece of the puzzle for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. In order to save their lives, clients might have needed to keep quiet and been unable to speak up during the trauma. What happens when clients ask for their needs to be met in a safe, loving space?  

In healing bodywork sessions, clients are the authority of their bodies and their experiences. A bodywork session is a safe platform to reclaim their voice and express their needs. It is in this safe space where silence can be broken. 

  • Self-Love, Self-Compassion 

Finally, it is empowering for survivors to connect the dots between ways in which their bodies and nervous systems might be stuck, versus thinking their bodies are failing them or being unsafe. This shift in perspective made by understanding the body’s physiology and its potentially incomplete response to a past experience can be a huge piece of self-compassion for the body and gratitude for all that it might have endured. 

Self-care practices such as massage, stretching, and breath work are vehicles for trauma survivors to connect internally and appreciate the messaging that their bodies might be communicating. These self-care practices offer ways in which clients can listen to, and respond to, their bodies’ needs with love. 

Massage and bodywork not only offers innumerable physical benefits for survivors of trauma and abuse, but it also allows survivors a way to reconnect with their bodies and begin to heal the wounds hidden deep within.  

For some, experiencing a bodywork session might be their edge—their healthy risk-taking, a reawakening of body memory, and the very first time they are receiving intentional, loving touch solely for their self-care and healing process. Witnessing clients returning to, and reclaiming, their bodies is the utmost honor for me as a massage therapist. 

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