I just returned from the annual conference for Internal Family Systems in Providence, Rhode Island. While there Bessel van der Kolk, one the most well-known authorities in the field of neuroscience and trauma, spoke on the healing of trauma. I found one point he made to be very instructive. He commented that there is no direct connection between the logical, reasoning faculties in the front of the head and the area in the back of the head that stores trauma.
This means that talking about trauma, which significantly uses the frontal lobes, does little to heal it. I have already known this to some degree, but this time it really sank in.
The experiential therapies often have good success with trauma. In some of these therapies much of the work is internal rather than interpersonal, but it is still experiential rather than merely talking about a problem.
Given this awareness, it makes sense that anxiety and depression, which are frequently associated with frontal lobe brain functions, are often helped with cognitive-behavioral techniques that also strongly utilize the front of the brain.
However, trauma is stored more in the back of the brain, and the more experiential techniques reach “back there” more effectively. I’m no expert in neuroscience, and I’m not wanting to overstate things, but even based on physical location of brain involvement it makes sense that experiential work would be more effective because more areas of the brain are intensely involved.
Of course, therapeutic work is only of value when it is done skillfully. Badly performed experiential work can be traumatic itself. If you are recovering from trauma and want to engage in experiential therapy you will want to have a credible and skilled therapist.
More to follow.