Trauma support has traditionally targeted the emotional and cognitive aspects of experience which miss the importance of the physiological encoding of the event making trauma resolution and integration very difficult.  Bessel van der Kolk (2017) states that trauma impairs thinking processes and rational problem-solving abilities, which means that “the whole cognitive part of the brain shuts down when people are traumatized, triggering the primitive survival part of the brain”. 

The nervous system registers  experiences first, followed almost immediately by the other aspects of our being – language , ideas, thoughts, narrative, emotional responses, behaviours and relationships.

When the human physiological experience of the fight, flight and freeze response is missed, the capacity of the person to re-establish ease and regulation is missed .  Recent trauma research that work with the physiology is central to the integration of the incomplete self protective responses.



  • SE employs a bottom up-top down approach to working with trauma which maintains that it is change in the physiology which promote change at other levels of the system.
  • SE employs awareness of body sensation to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.
  • SE’s guidance of the bodily “felt sense,” allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.
  • SE “titrates” (small elements of) experience, rather than evoking catharsis – which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the nervosus system.