I work with traumatized individuals a lot, and it’s important to realize that trauma is a spectrum. People’s reactions and energetic anomalies in response to traumatic events are subjective and non-linear. As such, the healer’s methods need to be just as flexible.

The way I’ve handled traumatized clients — literally, how I have handled their bodies with my physical touch — has shifted over the years. I used to keep my hands on a person’s body, with the intention of helping them feel connected and supported, despite their fluctuating reactions of tears, wiggles, coughs, etc.

However, recently I worked with a client I see about 2-3 times a year, who has a history of abuse. I go into these sessions trained to listen to the body, to pick up on subtle cues in energy shifts. I began gently sending energy, first with hands hovering over the body and then with hands placed gently on the body. However, no matter how gentle or well-intentioned the energy or the touch, it was abrasive to her. (It’s actually always been abrasive to her, which I don’t like admitting in hindsight, but I thought I was doing the right thing then.)

Then her body told me very clearly, “Stop thinking you know what’s best. Everyone else has controlled me for years, I don’t need the same thing from you. For once, let me call the shots.”

Instead, I was encouraged to stand a few feet away and hold energetic space around her body, like a container, inside which her body could feel in control. Anything else was too intrustive, and caused discomfort.

Unsurprisingly, her body and her energy reacted incredibly well to me backing the hell up. Inside this energetic ‘container’, which was safe space, her body was able to make its own choices about how much to relax, what energy to purge and when, and what energy to accept as replacement.

As healers, we exist in two paradigms — the 3-D, proactive, look-at-me-doing-things-to-make-both-of-us-feel-this-is-worth-your-time-and-money paradigm, and the cosmic, energetic paradigm of listening and breaking out of those 3-D molds. Trust me when I say, I didn’t feel like I was earning my hourly rate by just standing still a few feet away from the client for almost 45 minutes. There was a touch of performance anxiety, of not doing enough, of the client being ‘unimpressed’. I did explain what I was doing, which she was on board with, but it still felt strange.

However, this was honestly the best session we’ve ever had. She left feeling relaxed and empowered rather than whip-lashed and in a vulnerability hangover. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I’m very grateful to Brigit Viksnins, MAT, SEP, BCTMB and her training program, ‘Alchemical Alignment: Bodywork for Trauma Resolution and Embodiment of Spirit’, which has been instrumental for learning best practices and helping me make these shifts.