Trauma Touch Therapy (TTT) is an innovative somatic (body-based) approach for working with trauma survivors and those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Combining gentle client-directed touch, mindfulness, unconditional positive self-regard, and a keen understanding of neurobiology, TTT facilitates the release and integration of traumatic memories held in the tissues so that survivors can return to states of joy, empowerment, and embodiment.
Trauma touch therapy aims to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counteract fight-or-flight responses through techniques like hands-on grounding, gentle rocking, and cradling. The goal is to help clients feel safely embodied, restore healthy relationships, and integrate their experiences.
With the client always in control, the therapist offers a safe, caring touch, healing presence, and deep listening. Research shows trauma touch can aid in regulating emotions, reducing anxiety, and building self-compassion.
Let’s First Have a Concept of Trauma
Trauma is defined as any event that overwhelms an individual’s natural capacity to cope, often leading to a disconnection between mind and body. It can stem from a wide range of potentially traumatic events, including accidents, illnesses, assault, abuse, loss of loved ones, natural disasters, and war.
When the body’s innate “fight or flight” response is triggered but unable to fully complete due to physical or emotional restraints, the nervous system can get stuck in a state of perpetual alarm. Unresolved trauma is associated with devastating effects like flashbacks, anxiety, chronic pain, fatigue, and anger outbursts.
The Origins and Evolution of Trauma Touch Therapy
Trauma touch therapy (TTT) has its roots in the personal healing journey of founder Chris Smith. After a series of emotionally devastating events, Smith discovered bodywork as a powerful pathway to recovering from trauma. She went on to develop TTT to help others come home into their bodies after shattering life experiences.
In 1993, Chris Smith found herself struggling with the unexpected death of her husband, compounded by a house fire that same year. Emotionally and psychologically devastated, she discovered CranioSacral Therapy (CST) after noticing its benefits for her son.
In the gentle holds and witnessing the presence of her CST practitioner, Smith uncovered a pathway into embodiment and grieving she hadn’t accessed through counseling alone. Inspired, Smith pursued professional CST certification to make her suffering more meaningful.
Ongoing Evolution Pathways
Trauma touch therapy (TTT) offers a pathway to healing by helping trauma survivors reconnect and integrate fragmented pieces of their traumatic experiences.
The unique body-centered approach was founded by Chris Smith in 1993 after discovering first-hand the profound impact that sensitive, client-led touch could have in releasing shock and trauma stored in the tissues.
TTT sessions involve clients fully clothed, with the therapist applying light to medium pressure touch based entirely on client feedback and direction. This allows survivors to complete their biological defense response, restore nervous system regulation, process blocked emotions, and regain a sense of empowerment and control within their bodies.
Instead of traditional talk therapy or standard massage, TTT emphasizes mind-body integration, present-moment bodily awareness, unconditional positive regard, and titrated exposure to allow traumatic memories to surface and dissolve safely. TTT operates from the perspective that humans innately know how to self-regulate given the proper support and environment.
There are no set protocols or prescribed techniques, as touch is used primarily to create feelings of safety, connection, and empowerment. Clients lead sessions based on their own inner wisdom about what their body-mind needs to release shock, tension, and trauma.
Therapists are trained to pick up on subtle body cues, guide clients to more significant states of regulation, and compassionately bear witness to emotional releases.
Major Components of TTT Sessions
While each TTT session is entirely customized to the client, some key components may be utilized depending on the moment-to-moment needs of the client:
- Trauma education and preparation for what may emerge
- Cultivating body awareness and interoception skills
- Resourcing/self-regulation techniques
- Holding a safe space for cathartic ventilation
- Support for meta-processing traumatic memories
- Completing thwarted fight, flight and freeze responses
- Discharging held shock, breath, movement, or sound
- Integrating new neural pathways of safety and empowerment
Goals and Benefits of TTT
The goals of TTT include:
- Feeling safely embodied and connected to sensations
- Allowing survival responses to complete out-of-freeze states
- Ventilating emotions that were suppressed or unexpressed
- Integrating fragmented pieces of traumatic memories
- Rewiring neural pathways based on learned helplessness and fear
- Restoring appropriate boundaries and capacity to self-protect
- Relieving chronic tension held from hypervigilance
- Achieving states of empowerment, self-regulation, and resilience
Research by Kessler on the benefits of TTT shows reductions in PTSD hyperarousal symptoms, including flashbacks, insomnia, panic attacks, and hypervigilance in 80% of subjects. 40% of subjects experienced a complete remission of PTSD symptoms after 24 months.
How TTT Helps Trauma Survivors
By providing trauma survivors a safe, judgment-free space to acknowledge their pain and meet their body’s unmet needs for protection and self-expression, TTT helps:
- Complete biological defense responses that restore nervous system regulation
- Discharge tension patterns held in body tissue causing pain and stiffness
- Unlock traumatic memories, allowing integration and meaning-making
- Express emotions that were suppressed or silenced at the time of the trauma
- Shift out of chronic states of collapse and freeze into empowerment
- Release ever-ready survival reactions no longer needed once the danger has passed
- substitutions for beliefs of deservedness to be here fully alive and embodied
Relying on the body’s innate wisdom, TTT helps survivors come home into states of alignment, wholeness, and authentic empowerment after life-altering traumatic events.
How Trauma Touch Therapy Works
Trauma touch therapy facilitates healing by unlocking survival energies bound in the body after traumatic experiences so that thwarted fight, flight and freeze responses can be fully completed.
This allows the nervous system to return to equilibrium and the body to release chronic holding patterns. Clients rediscover embodiment, aliveness, and how to self-regulate.
Resolving and Releasing Stored Trauma
Trauma gets stored in the tissues when defensive mobilization is met with restraint – physically or emotionally. The biological impulse to fight back, escape danger, or collapse into stillness for protection becomes interrupted. This overflow accumulation of adrenaline, cortisol, endorphins, and other chemicals to ensure survival gets trapped with nowhere to go.
Touch powerfully evokes this latent energy as TTT sessions gently guide the release of bound survival instincts in small increments that won’t overwhelm the system.
Skilled therapists titrate contact using tissue warming, compression techniques, and verbal cues to help clients fully feel, move out, and fight impulses bit by bit. Other stored energies unwind through shaking, stretching, or vocal toning. As truncated defense responses are completed, the residual chemicals dissipate.
Activating the Body’s Trauma Memory
While the mind may block out or avoid conscious connection to a traumatic event, the body maintains an implicit memory lodged in the nervous system.
When activated by external triggers like sensory cues, this unconscious recall can hijack physiology, prompting panic reactions, emotional flooding, or shutdowns long after the danger has passed. TTT utilizes touch to carefully uncover these somatic memories so they can be integrated consciously.
By establishing safety through empowerment and skill building, the TTT therapist compassionately guides pendulation between difficult body memories and self-regulation skills, preventing overwhelm.
This repeated exposure pattern allows clients to digest neurobiological energy from the thwarted fight incrementally, as well as flight or freeze responses. Touch provides the catalyst to unlock and metabolize what the mind protects against revisiting.
Integrating Trauma Processing Approaches
TTT weaves together diverse trauma processing modalities into a cohesive approach, including:
- Body awareness practices bringing sensation out of dissociation
- Resourcing tools for self-regulation
- Titration of traumatic memory activation and discharge
- Movement completion for thwarted survival energies
- Ventilation of arrested fight/flight impulses
- Ceremonies for renegotiating old cultural trauma bonds
- Education on trauma physiology and recovery
This multi-pronged stabilization, transformation, and embodiment focus empowers lasting integration rather than temporary cathartic release alone. Each element builds capacity for resilience and renewed trust.
Reversing Trauma’s Impact
As TTT sessions unlock traumatic patterns held in the tissues, chronic issues from dysregulated nervous systems like insomnia, anxiety, numbness, fatigue, pain, and cognitive disorganization lift.
Clients come out of collapsed or agitated states back into rhythmic cycles of activation and regulation synchronized with life’s natural flows.
Symptoms stemming from shutdown hydroxytryptophan deficiency, like depression or compromised immunity, are restored through renewed vagal tone and appropriate adrenal functioning.
Client Improvement Indicators
As clients progress through TTT programs, common indicators of growing empowerment and embodiment include:
- Standing taller with an aligned posture
- Relaxed gait and body movements
- Clear/Bright eyes and skin tone
- Expressing a full range of emotions
- Feeling at home and relaxed in body
- Noticing patterns without judgment
- Setting needs-aligned boundaries
- Engaging interests and passions
- Comfort seeking and receiving support
Through TTT’s delicate complementary dance gently addressing the roots of nervous system disruption, survivors rediscover anchoring in present-time awareness without bracing or withdrawing. The harmony of body, heart, and mind is unified and pulsates as one integrated song.
Trauma Touch Therapy vs Other Modalities
While trauma touch therapy (TTT) is often used in conjunction with psychotherapy and may seem similar to massage, it stands uniquely apart as a somatic approach to resolving shock and tension patterns held in the tissues post traumatic events.
TTT Compared to Psychotherapy
Unlike traditional talk therapy modalities like CBT or psychoanalysis, TTT does not rely on verbal processing, insight, or interpretation of traumatic content. The trauma itself does not have to be consciously discussed or deliberately remembered for healing to occur.
Instead, repressed emotions, survival impulses, and traumatic memories organically emerge through sensations felt in the present time as thwarted responses are allowed to complete out of freeze states.
TTT provides a corrective interpersonal experience of safety and empathic holding as the window of tolerance for intense, painful, or overwhelming material widens. This is often preparatory work for later-stage trauma psychotherapy.
While TTT therapists collaborate with psychotherapists, there is no diagnosing pathology, analyzing transference, or uncovering subconscious content typical of the traditional therapeutic relationship.
The primary relationship in TTT is between the client and their body as the therapist compassionately mirrors, validates, and normalizes emotional releases, temporary states of dysregulation, or challenging material arising. They help anchor traumatic memories and impulses in the here and now, preventing dissociation.
TTT Distinguished from Massage
Although TTT utilizes touch, it looks fundamentally different from most forms of massage, which aim to relax the body or release myofascial tension in the tissues. While traditional bodywork feels good, it does not access the depth of shock and bound survival energy stored after threats to safety and integrity.
TTT touch is exceptionally light and tentative, allowing the client to lead and determine pressure, location, and duration. The therapist relies on resourcing positions and verbal guidance to help clients regulate intense feelings and physical contractions when thwarted fight, flight, or freeze machinery comes back online.
These highly trembled states contract the tissues, which would be too much for standard massage pressure and could flood the system, causing a re-traumatization.
TTT prepares the body to digest the activation slowly through discharge or small incremental movements. Traditional massage would not have the precision, attunement, or understanding of trauma physiology to facilitate this delicate titrated processing.
What Makes TTT Unique
Unlike any form of psychotherapy or bodywork, TTT allows space for innate rhythms around activation and discharge, contraction and expansion interrupted at the time of trauma to restart and complete their cycle.
As thwarted survival energies unwind from collapsed hyperarousal states back into mobilization responses primed to restore dynamic equilibrium, TTT empowers survivors to pendulate between charge and discharge without judgment until they settle into homeostasis again. This allows organic trauma responses to finish their biological imperative and reset regulation, unique to TTT.
Implementing Strategies of Trauma Touch Therapy
Trauma touch therapy (TTT) is a specialized somatic approach that requires proper training and prerequisites before working with trauma survivors. Understanding appropriate candidacy, program structure, intake procedures, and safety precautions allows for effective implementation.
Eligibility Criteria for TTT
TTT can be beneficial for a wide range of trauma survivors, including:
- Survivors of accidents, surgeries, illnesses or losses
- Victims of discrimination, oppression or marginalization
- Those with developmental relational trauma
- Survivors of sexual assault, violence, abuse or neglect
- First responders or veterans with PTSD
- Individuals with anxiety, chronic pain or fatigue
- Anyone seeking embodiment and vitality
While TTT can help those with both simple and complex trauma, the best practice is to ensure stability before engaging in memory processing work. Potential clients should be assessed for suicide risk, self-harm behaviors, substance abuse, and the availability of support systems.
TTT can be a valuable adjunct to therapy but is not a replacement for the treatment of severe dissociation, psychosis, or personality disorders. However, TTT teaches tools to tolerate and regulate extreme states better before addressing underlying conditions.
Structure of TTT Programs
Certified TTT therapists offer private client programs structured around 10 approximately 75-minute sessions. Candidates undergo a thorough intake interview discussing trauma history, support systems, self-care practices, goals for therapy, and preparedness to engage with complex memory material.
They requested documents like assessment forms, medical records, and supplementary provider input to inform treatment planning. Clients are educated on possible side effects like fatigue, body aches, or emotional volatility as traumatic states surface.
Costs range from $150 per individual session to discounted packages of around $1400. Frequency is once weekly ideally, allowing time to integrate between sessions, although a pace meeting client needs takes priority.
TTT does not adhere to strict protocols, allowing the organic unfolding of each session guided by client feedback and body wisdom about what is ready to process or heal next. There are always appropriate breaks and closure rituals marking the end of each encounter before separation.
Preventing Re-traumatization in TTT
TTT proceeds gently with plenty of preparation and emphasis on empowerment and choice to prevent overwhelming clients. Numbing, flooding, and dissociation are carefully avoided by:
- Establishing skills for recognizing and regulating traumatic activation
- Learning window of tolerance and tracking signs of too much/too little arousal
- Gradually titrating exposure to small, manageable pieces of traumatic material
- Allowing clients to lead the duration, depth, and type of touch
- Providing corrective interpersonal experiences of autonomy and consistency
- Ensuring therapist accountability through consultation and supervision
- Promoting self-care practices like meditation, journaling and community
With careful screening, consent processes, and adjunct support, TTT empowers survivors to engage with past wounds from a grounded place of safety and choice. This prevents healing work from causing additional harm.
Advantages of Trauma Touch Therapy
Trauma touch therapy (TTT) offers a profound whole-person approach to healing unresolved trauma through gentle touch, mindfulness, and compassionate witnessing.
Rather than only focusing on mental, emotional, or physical symptoms in isolation, TTT addresses the root source of suffering – a nervous system stuck in latent survival modes.
By integrating body and mind to complete thwarted biological responses, TTT restores uneasy system equilibrium so survivors can return to the full vital expression of their humanity.
Integrates Body and Mind
The genius behind the TTT approach lies in directly accessing the psychobiological roots of traumatic experience – the primal flight, freeze survival energies compressed into body tissue when the activation is met without an outlet.
Skilled TTT therapists are trained to carefully titrate touch to unlock these bound survival energies bit by bit as clients build distress tolerance for integrating these fragmented pieces of experience back into consciousness.
As the unfinished biological defensive process resumes, clients come out of collapsed immobilized states back into mobilized responses, allowing the completion of thwarted movements, expressions, or protective actions to be paused at the time of trauma.
The inclusion of body sensations, impulses, tremors, and vibrations suppressed from awareness due to overwhelm or collapse are gently supported. This bridges mind and body to redistribute trapped survival energies, causing chronic issues with up/downregulation.
Restores Physiological Functioning
As TTT sessions gently guide the pendulation between expansion and contraction disrupted during traumatic events, new neural pathways are forged, reinforcing the body’s capacity to adapt to stressors flexibly.
Vagal tone improves, more oxygen reaches body tissues, speeding waste removal, strengthening immune functioning, and various bodily processes suspended during freeze states return online.
This restores efficient functioning, improving sleep quality, hydration, nutrition absorption, libido enhancement, relaxed joint mobility, and emotional stability.
Survivors develop a renewed trust in their body’s wisdom to organize defensive movements and physiological duties for self-protection without getting stuck.
They may incorporate supportive lifestyle adjustments like regular exercise, anti-inflammatory nutrition, nature immersion, somatic therapy, or community engagement to help reinforce homeostasis.
Renew Attachment and Intimacy
The heart-centered presence and caring touch integral to TTT sessions provide survivors with a corrective interpersonal experience where attachment needs for safety, affection, understanding, and support are finally met.
This earned secure attachment soothes nervous systems stuck on high alert, fostering a renewed capacity for intimacy. As embodied trust grows, healthy dependency, soft vulnerability, and positive social engagement return online.
Survivors begin reconnecting in relationships from a grounded place of believing in their inherent worthiness for love.
Through the compassionate resonance and attunement skills modeled by TTT therapists, survivors internalize the message that they deserve to take up space and express needs, emotions, and boundaries now.
They learn to receive empathy without bracing for harm – a breakthrough that restores hope. With new templates for healthy relating replacing old object relations wounds, survivors can risk connecting without fear of repetition compulsion.
Improves Stress Management
As survivors rediscover their body’s innate capacity to cycle through states of activation and recovery without getting overwhelmed or stuck, everyday stressors become less triggering.
They develop a wider window of tolerance for managing ups and downs by tuning into internal body rhythms and implementing personalized self-care practices to stay regulated.
Chronic hyper/hyperarousal patterns balance out, reducing panic reactions, emotional volatility, and recurrence of intrusive symptoms.
Provides Grounding and Embodiment
TTT’s most tangibly beneficial aspect is that survivors reconnect to bodily sensation and presence instead of remaining cut off from the neck down or spacing out.
Embodiment brings vibrancy and renewed participation in life’s beauty as symptoms like dissociation, depression, and feelings of unreality lift. Receiving a caring touch – often for the first time – survivors awaken out of freeze collapse into active mobilization.
With feet firmly rooted to earth, survivors stand in the empowered belonging of true selfhood, living aligned to authentic purpose.
In a nutshell, trauma touch therapy offers a pioneering tool for resolving unhealed trauma by realigning body, mind, and spirit. Bridging gaps left by talk and traditional body therapies alone, TTT facilitates the safe release of survival energies bound in the tissues so that thwarted physiological responses suspended during trauma can be fully completed.
This resets nervous system regulation disrupted by overwhelming experiences so survivors can return from shutdown or hypervigilance into embodied thriving.
While traditionally utilized in private practice, advancing applications of TTT highlight its potential, including:
- Integration into psychiatric settings like hospitals or residential programs
- First responder community support addressing compassion fatigue
- College counseling assisting students carry academic/social pressures
- Support groups organized around specific traumatic events
- Working with marginalized and culturally traumatized communities
- Global mental health outreach bridging access gaps
- Virtual sessions accessed remotely, making TTT more accessible
As somatic methods gain recognition for addressing transgenerational and developmental trauma not responding to talk therapy, TTT holds immense promise as a first line of treatment.
With 60-80% PTSD remission rates based on existing research, TTT deserves funding for wide-scale trauma recovery, perhaps preventing some disorders from developing.
Closing Thoughts on Trauma Touch Therapy (TTT)
In the face of the alarming escalation of toxic stress and unresolved pain, trauma touch therapy ushers hope for breaking cycles causing collective suffering.
By compassionately companioning clients back into their skin through patience, attunement, and slow-release touch, TTT lights up dormant pathways back home into connection. The gentle persistence of tenderness wears down defenses until the splintered pieces of self-exiled for protection are finally welcomed back.
In the same way, soil broken open by planted seed cradles emerging life, TTT thaws frozen ground so the natural order of healing springs forth instinctively where stuckness once divided.
Reminding nervous systems of their intrinsic protocol to pendulate cycles of activation and quiescence without overwhelm or collapse, TTT calls us back to what it means to live fully – no fragment left abandoned. The opportunity is for our shared liberation.
TTT sessions involve both the client and therapist fully clothed, as light touch is used tentatively to foster regulation and titrate work with traumatic memories. The therapist relies on resourcing techniques to prevent overwhelm. As thwarted survival energies unlock, they are discharged through trembling, small movements, or sounds. This allows biological responses to be interrupted during trauma.
Sessions begin with stabilization work before trauma processing. The client leads, directing where touch is placed and for how long. Touch helps anchor traumatic memories arising as the therapist guides pendulation between complex sensations and resourcing. This slowly digests fight, flight, or freeze energies bound in the tissues so they can be released.
TTT relies primarily on bodily awareness, sensations, and movements instead of verbal processing. Difficult memories may surface through touch but need not be analyzed or discussed in a manageable amount of detail. The therapist focuses on stabilizing and completing thwarted defenses rather than examining narrative content.
Proper training in the TTT technique and an underlying professional scope, like psychology, mental health counseling, social work, or bodywork, is required. Continued education, clinical supervision, and personal therapy ensure ethical, safe trauma touch therapy application.