Interview with Janice Geller, Therapist and Bodyworker in Durham, NC

6.) KP:  You touched on the movement piece and bodywork.  I want to drill down more, continuing to look at specific examples.  Can you briefly walk me through your treatment process from start to finish, to give others a sense of what it might be like to work with you? 

Janice:  A woman came to me with a complicated past, who was now having difficulties with her female boss at work.  In the first session, we engaged in a mindfulness intervention, allowing her to drop into her body while sitting.  What came up during that process was that she had a painful and traumatic history that involved abuse by her mother.  In her present life, her boss was triggering these painful memories, and she was having a hard time distinguishing the reality of the present situation with her boss, from the past experiences with her mother.  My focus was to help her distinguish between the present reality, and the triggered past.

In the beginning sessions, we spent time processing her feelings, and memories about her relationship with her mother.  In subsequent sessions she brought in her journaling and artwork to share. The art and writing were forms of expression, which brought awareness and insight to her internal world. Then as therapy began to progress we began to do bodywork.  My touch was with her bones, wanting her to access her support, and container for the experience.  My intention was to titrate the experience, providing a slow and gradual bodywork, so her nervous system could track and notice what felt O.K and what didn’t.  Trauma often happens too fast, too much, too soon, and becomes overwhelming without the ability to have control. The initial bodywork was also brief, as I wanted to give her plenty of time to integrate the experience.

After the first session of bodywork, she said she felt so much more grounded, and that she felt like she was in her body for the first time in years.  She realized how much time she had spent dissociated from her body rather than fully in it.  From that perspective, she began to start seeing that some of what her boss was doing was really not her boss, but more a triggering of the past material.  When she was grounded in her body, she could make this distinction.  When she was less grounded, she would engage in talking and tend to project. We talked about ways to ground when in the presence of her boss, and also ways to set boundaries with her.

The client began to realize that while she wasn’t actually abusing her like her mother, her boss was crossing boundaries in an inappropriate way. She began to see how her boss would go to a certain point, and she would make up the rest of the story.  She’s is now practicing meditation, some yoga, and drawing and writing.  She is taking the time and space to delve into the process within herself.  When I saw her last, she said, “I know there are a lot of things that are really difficult in my life, but I’m feeling happy.”

KP:  It seems like the grounding process was really key in terms of helping her differentiate between projection and reality.  Sounds like your work together also created a more expansive type of presence, where her life didn’t get perfect, but there was this underlying happiness that she started to experience despite the difficulties.

Janice:  Yes, and an important outgrowth of her work on herself, was that it contributed to her life purpose.  She was able to make meaning out of her hardship.  Now she’s helping others work through difficulties.  She recognizes that she continues to need to work on her PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but there’s some way she has been able to turn her suffering into a process where she can help others. I find this really beautiful.

Next Question: 7.) What do you mean by the term grounding? 

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