Mind and Soul

How to heal childhood trauma and the impact it has on you

How to heal childhood trauma and the impact it has on you

Childhood trauma can cast a long shadow, affecting our emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing well into adulthood. But with the right tools and support, healing is possible.

In this article, we’ll explore how a holistic approach combining Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy and Focusing, a form of somatic psychotherapy, can empower individuals to heal from childhood trauma.

Understanding childhood trauma and its impact

Childhood trauma encompasses a range of adverse experiences, including abuse, neglect, loss, and witnessing violence.

Studies have found a strong correlation between childhood trauma and the development of mental health issues in adulthood, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

One of the critical insights of IFS therapy is that our psyche constitutes various ‘parts’, each with its own beliefs, emotions, and memories.

When trauma occurs, parts of ourselves may become exiled, buried and hidden in the psyche, carrying the pain and shame of the traumatic experience.

These exiled parts can manifest as symptoms of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or difficulty forming intimate relationships.

By engaging in dialogue with exiled parts of ourselves, we can uncover the underlying beliefs, emotions, and memories that contribute to our trauma symptoms.

Through guided visualisation, journalling or therapy sessions, individuals can build trust and understanding with these parts and help them defrost, so they are no longer stuck in the past in the moment of the trauma.

Over time, our sense of safety and connection within increases as more and more parts from the past are integrated into the present.

Focusing (somatic, body psychotherapy)

In his book The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk shares how the concept of ‘Focusing’ recognises that trauma is not just stored in our minds but also our bodies.

Traumatic experiences can become stuck in our nervous system, manifesting as physical sensations, tension and discomfort.

Through Focusing, individuals learn to listen to the messages encoded in their physical sensations and emotions.

Focusing helps people access and process the somatic qualities of trauma by gently exploring and befriending these sensations.

In this way, they can release tension, unravel stuck energy, and access deep layers of healing.

Cultivating self-compassion

Most modalities that are effective in healing childhood trauma have a self-compassion component.

Self-compassion is treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. In IFS therapy, the goal is to connect with the self – the core aspect of our being that embodies compassion, wisdom, and clarity.

Through Focusing, individuals can attune to the sensations in their bodies, offering gentle presence and acknowledgment to the wounded parts within. Both modalities involve cultivating compassion.

Processing traumatic memories

Healing childhood trauma involves processing traumatic memories in a safe and supportive environment so the trapped emotions, memories and sensations can be gently released.

In IFS therapy, individuals are guided through a process of gently uncovering and exploring the memories, emotions, and beliefs associated with the trauma.

Through Focusing, individuals can deepen their connection to these memories by attending to the bodily sensations and emotions that arise, allowing for a more integrated and embodied healing experience.

Building a support network

Building a supportive network of friends, family, and therapists can provide invaluable support and validation.

Through group therapy, support groups, or online communities, people can connect with others who have experienced similar challenges, creating a sense of belonging and understanding.

Embracing the healing journey

Healing from childhood trauma is a process that unfolds over time, with its ups and downs. Individuals need to honour their progress, celebrate their resilience, and be patient and compassionate with themselves along the way.

By embracing the healing journey with curiosity, openness, and self-compassion, individuals can reclaim their lives and create a brighter future for themselves.

In conclusion, healing from childhood trauma requires a holistic approach that addresses the emotional, psychological, and somatic aspects of our being.

By combining the transformative tools of IFS therapy and Focusing, individuals can embark on a journey of self-discovery, healing and empowerment.

In doing so, individuals can reclaim their lives and move towards a future of hope, resilience, and wellbeing by cultivating self-compassion, engaging in internal family systems, exploring somatic techniques, and building a supportive network.

Clinical psychotherapist Jennifer Nurick

This article was written by Jennifer Nurick, MA, a clinical psychotherapist, counsellor, and energetic healer. She has more than two decades of expertise in the field of healing and specialises in healing anxious attachment, attachment injuries and childhood trauma.

Her book, Heal Your Anxious Attachment (Reveal Press), is a holistic guide offering a trauma-informed approach grounded in neuroscience, mindfulness and polyvagal theory.

Learn more at psychotherapycentral.health