Written by Emily Beaudoin & Marcelo Sena
On January 21st 2020, we attended Ana do Valle’s Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, titled The Mosaic of Healing: a Portal Into Transformation. The workshop was attended by 20 mental health therapists that came from across the US as well as Australia, Canada and Japan to witness the creative approaches Ana has developed and implemented into her practice to help her clients.
Improving client outcomes with an integrated mind-body neural solution approach
Ana discussed the integration of Unyte and iLs Programs in her Somatic Experiencing Practice with children, couples and groups. Ana has adopted the Safe and Sound Protocol followed by the use of the Focus System Home Program and the iom2 interactive meditation. Ana is proud to report the significant impact she has observed on the physical, emotional, and social lives of her clients. Some of the tangible results she has seen relate to improvements in mood regulation, sensory processing, pain management, head injuries, attachment, mental clarity and overall resilience.
Ana focuses on the importance of “state shifters” in the therapeutic intervention by utilizing metals, art and movement to help participants ground and orient to the present moment, moving away from the spiral of thinking that often disconnects us from our bodies.
We participated in a group Color Gesture and Mandala activity that helped us understand from the clients’ perspective what therapy can feel like. Ana combines Somatic Experiencing, Sensory Integration and Anthroposophy in her SEGAN method in order to create a unique therapeutic experience for clients with significant challenges. The SEGAN method uses the common thread of re-creating One’s Life Experience in a Sacred and Safe Container. The process allows for sensations, emotions and memories to come together as part of a coherent narrative that evolves to become the narrative of the Self. This process allows for the client to embody their personal narrative without flooding or getting caught “in the undertow” of emotion in the moment.
We learned ways to titrate the SSP equipment for someone averse to headphones: for example, set the SSP player and headphones on a table in the room where therapy occurs, turn the music on, and simply be in the room with the client modeling co-regulation. Ana mentioned that most of her clients wanted to pick up and put on the headphones on their own after this gentle approach.
Creating a safe environment for a diverse community to build a meaningful connection
We met with and heard from professionals from all walks of life, working in different places and with different populations. It was a very diverse group that was very eager to learn including people from school settings, inpatient hospitals, community/group settings, corporate organizations, functional medicine practice, doula/midwifery practice, combining with EMDR practice, working with those surviving eating disorders, caregivers for the elderly, couples in Japan, and adults with significant trauma history.
Ana beautifully modeled a curious, non-judgmental, feeling approach to therapy and teaching therapeutic techniques by asking thoughtful questions, listening with compassion, and rephrasing answers for other clinicians to gain knowledge and apply it to their scope of practice.
The Participants then listened to a short 30-minute SSP session to experience what their clients would hear and feel during the protocol. The participants were invited to track their own emotions and sensations throughout the listening by utilizing the SEGAN forms. They were encouraged to move and utilize bee’s wax and copper pellets to notice the warmth created in their hands. We helped to manage expectations, feelings and sensations, while educating the Providers on how to assist their clients during their listening in practice.
As a conclusion of the session, we presented the benefits of resonance breathing through an interactive session using the iom2 biofeedback device and Relaxing Rhythms 2. Participants were generally intrigued in the how HRV training can positively impact the way a person feels and how to integrate into this diverse group’s practice. We conducted several demos with providers and answered questions.
10 takeaways to help you create a safe environment and improve client outcomes:
- Movement can facilitate completion of an emotional response and nervous system discharge.
- Grounding techniques such as bilateral tapping can help down-regulate the amygdala and promote regulation.
- You can help your clients be in the present moment by utilizing grounding and orienting techniques that support the sense of Time and Space.
- Start the school day with listening therapy in order to help students feel safe.
- The SSP can help clients access “degrees of freedom” and improve their resilience.
- You can slow down and titrate a therapy session (in order to prevent flooding) by utilizing Pause and Grounding techniques
- Experiencing warmth is essential when one is working with trauma and attachment needs. It can defragment and create the connections essential to healing.
- Use phrases such as “what was there for you?” and “what’s that about” when going through the protocol to check in. Non-judgmental and open questions.
- Giving clients a visual handout of feelings and sensations can help in tracking their felt sense throughout a session.
- “Felt Sense” is another word for sensation, and involves body and psychological self-awareness.
Learn more about:
Ana do Valle: Ana is an Occupational Therapist (OT) who has developed her studies in the areas of Anthroposophy, Sensory Processing, Somatic Experiencing, and Brainspotting. She has over 34 years of experience working in hospitals and schools, and runs a flourishing private practice in Boulder, CO. Ana also teaches internationally, including training in Europe, Canada, Brazil, Alaska, and the U.S. She has co-taught with Dr. Robert Scaer, author of The Trauma Spectrum, and has worked directly with Dr. Peter Levine, the developer of Somatic Experiencing. Ana works with indigenous cultures on the subject of healing trauma. Through her multidisciplinary treatment approach, Ana is able to address the nuances of processing sensory input in order to create coherence in the nervous system and promote healing.
Ana do Valle’s website : www.somahealingcenter.com