"Every life has a measure of sorrow.
Sometimes it is this that awakens us."
~ from Buddha's Little Instruction Book
I have been a psychologist for over 30 years and practice what I call Dynamic Integrative Somatic Psychotherapy. In my clinical practice, I have incorporated all the traditional models of psychotherapy that can aid in fostering self-learning, self-healing, and self-development--psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, family systems, Gestalt, encounter, and other theoretical perspectives--but I also employ a somatic approach to the work, where particular emphasis is placed on how what we experience physically in our body can guide us in revolutionary new ways on our path to greater wholeness. This approach is called somatic psychotherapy. Click here to learn more!
Our memories of good experiences are not simply stored in the brain as thoughts or emotions but are also stored as body-memories. Those body-memories influence our posture, our impulses for physical movement, our muscle
tension, muscle and joint constriction, our "bound-up" energy, our breathing patterns, our heart rate variability, our digestive processes, and our physical balance and equilibrium. An awareness of our physical self adds to our understanding of our needs and what might keep us from getting them met. Somatic psychotherapy provides a way to heighten our awareness of what is not simply thought-based or emotion-based but can lead to a release of troublesome "muscle memories" in a gentle and measured way.
Dr. Kraus is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Pleasant Hill, California. He was twice named Professor of the Year at Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology and has been on the graduate faculty of the Department of Clinical Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. He is the author of At Wit's End: Plain Talk on Alzheimer's for Families and Clinicians (2nd Edition), and the co-author of A View from the Cosmic Mirror: Reflections of the Self in Everyday Life.
Dr. Kraus is board certified in Clinical Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), board certified in Group Psychotherapy by the National Registry of Group Psychotherapists, a Somatic Experiencing Trauma Practitioner, and an Integral Somatic Psychology Trauma Practitioner. He is also on the editorial board of Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal.
* The icon depicted to the left of my name at the top of the page is a “Tapuat”— the Hopi symbol for transformation, growth, and renewal. It represents our life journey for finding meaning and purpose. While a maze like this one can feel challenging and confusing it can also feel calming and restorative when mastered or when its complexity can be accepted — much like the experience of effective psychotherapy.
Relief from Trauma and the Stress of Life Transitions
There are many kinds of experiences that can feel life threatening. Trauma takes many forms and can occur in early life or much later in life. It can come from a single event or a series of events taking place across months or years. Whatever the source, the pain of trauma not only exists in our mind but in our body and in our spirit. That is why the treatment of trauma must focus on all three of these systems.
When treating trauma, all the models of psychotherapy are helpful, but a somatic approach to trauma is especially useful. It places particular emphasis on how our inner experience of emotion--that is, that which gets reflected in our posture, our impulses for physical movement, our muscle tension, constriction, bracing, bound-up energy, our respiration, heart rate, digestive processes, balance, and equilibrium--can guide our recovery.
Traumatic experiences are not simply stored as thoughts or emotions in the brain but are also stored deep within us as body-memories. It's how we "just know" how to ride a bike or get into our car without thinking. Somatic psychotherapy pays particular attention to what the body is saying about what we need, how we've been hurt, and how to release in a gentle and measured way those uglier "muscle memories" that hold the remnants of trauma in the form of medical, psychological, and emotional symptoms.
Each of us has known the steep turns in the road that can define our life ... our joys and our sorrows. We all try to face these encounters squarely ... with courage and with dignity. With calm resolve, we can consider that the best has arrived or that it is yet to come, that everything that has a beginning has an ending, and that we can make peace with that. Each of us struggles with the idea that while we cannot avoid change, we would all like to better accept it when it is our uninvited guest.
For those among us who face the changing landscape of an important relationship, the struggle with failing health, a retirement at the end of a beloved career, or the loss of a life partner, the future may seem dim. But, there is also hope for what might be possible, faith in what we believe may be borne anew, and an awakening of possibility for our own growth. As Buddha has said, "On a withered tree a flower can bloom." No matter how great the struggle, there is always the possibility of beginning again anew.
Imagine for a moment your inner world more free from struggle and suffering--awakened to the possibilities of a life that may yet to be lived. Imagine yourself opening your heart and, with courage, experience a genuine emotional freedom that allows you to extend your kindness to others, find your compassionate center, and cherish the sacredness of you. There is always the possibility of transformation and renewal. This is the philosophy of my practice.
With love and kindness ...
George Kraus, Ph.D.