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Healing After Trauma: Calming the Nervous System With SCOPE

A trauma is a deeply disturbing or threatening experience that results in acute or chronic feelings of stress. Trauma can be an event that endangers our lives but it can also be any repeated exposure to behaviors or circumstances that make us feel unsafe. Examples of traumas include: Experiencing an accident, illness, abandonment, natural disasters, discrimination, loss, violence, or abuse. 

When we experience a trauma, our minds try to help us react quickly by using our nervous system to heighten the body’s senses. This can look like primal sensations: increased heart rate, perspiration & respiration - that support the body’s ability to fight, flight / survive. 

Sometimes our minds can’t distinguish a memory of a trauma from an active trauma, meaning these same physical responses can occur during recovery, becoming burdensome to the point of hypervigilance (a state of alertness that evokes feelings of panic, hopelessness, distrust & fear). 

No one is immune to the ways trauma can affect our minds and bodies, however, there are ways we can help ourselves when being triggered by painful memories. SCOPE is a mental exercise developed by Somatic Experiencing International - that teaches people how to cope with nervous system responses & hypervigilance. 

SCOPE stands for Slow Down, Connect To Body, Orient, Pendulate & Engage: 

S - Slowing Down: 

C - Connect to Body: 

O - Orient 

P - Pendulate 

E - Engage

Calming nervous system responses after a trauma allows for people to gain the space to tell their story without fear of being triggered by painful memories. Therapy can be an excellent space for learning tools to calm the body & mind, as a means to facilitate this healing process.

Author
Siena Vaccara, LMHC Siena Vaccara received her master’s in Mental Health & Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. Siena believes in encouraging personal growth through education, cultural awareness, and building trusting relationships. She utilizes Feminist and Narrative treatment plans, as well as Cognitive Behavioral and Person-Centered techniques in session to incorporate an integrative psychotherapy approach that honors the unique needs of individuals. She understands the importance of the collaborative therapeutic space being non-judgemental, unbiased, open-minded, and strength-driven. Siena treats individuals with concerns ranging from personal transitions to family planning, identity, mood fluctuations, and stressful life events.

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