Journals

Human Touch Reduces Stored Trauma

Peter Levine is a psychotherapist whose work has greatly influenced the field of trauma therapy, particularly trauma that is stored in the body. He offers this advice for minimizing the future onset of traumatic symptoms:

The first thing to do to is to make a gentle but firm pressure -- on a person's forearm, for example, unless there are medical reasons why you can't do that, and to say something like this: "I'm here. We are going to take care of you. Things are going to be OK."

If the person looks at you ... through face-to-face contact or bodily contact, that actually buffers the person from diving into shut-down or being hijacked by hyperarousal. Just making connect.

Human contact after trauma can change the course of healing, Levine says. Human contact takes place in the moment and helps connect us to what is happening now. Hugging is part of healing. (Just approach traumatized people gently and start with a touch on the arm, not a bear hug.)

Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/ Reuters

Thumbnail photo byJohn Mottern/AFP/Getty Images

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