Peter Levine on the Treatment of Trauma: 2 Ways to Help Clients Feel Safe

When a person has experienced trauma, almost nothing feels safe. And when someone doesn’t feel safe, no amount of talk can convince them otherwise, because trauma is something that happens deep in the core of our brain and body. So how can we work with both the brain and the body to help patients feel safe? Particularly when they’re not in your office? In the next few minutes, Dr. Peter Levine
is going to demonstrate two techniques that patients can use to self-soothe and self-regulate. And what’s especially useful about these techniques is that you can give them to your patients to use whenever and wherever they are. Let’s hear from Peter. When a person is traumatized, almost nothing feels safe. And as therapists, we want to be able to convey, at least in the smallest amount, an island of safety – that there is a way to feel safe. Something has happened to you and you survived it. Now, we’re going to go back and I’m going to pick up some of those pieces that you left behind, so you can be whole again. The other thing that is important in trauma therapy is that, as soon as possible, the therapist needs to provide tools. It’s important to help the client learn tools that they can use to help them feel relatively safe. Because if the only place they feel safe is with you, the therapist, then when they leave, and they again start feeling horrible, terrified, helpless, very frequently they’ll shame themselves into what Fritz Perls called “the top dog.” They’ll feel …completely dependent on the therapist. We can help if we can give them even the smallest tools for self-soothing, for self-regulation… I often demonstrate a number of these with a client. I don’t know if you can see this – I might
move back a little bit – but here is what you do. You take your right hand and put it here, under your left arm on the side of the heart. And put the other hand on the shoulder. This is just to get the feeling, Ruth and
for everybody else who is watching – of what this sensation is like, not just of your hands but of what is going on inside of your body. Most people report a settling. This helps us become aware of our container. We’ll probably get into this a little bit
more, but the body is the container of all our sensations and feelings – it’s all in the body. And the container of the body is the outside of our body – our shoulders, the sides of our thorax… When we can feel our body as the container, then the emotions and the sensations do not feel as overwhelming – they’re being contained. I usually suggest people do the one I just
described first. A second one – is to just put their hand on their forehead and the other hand on their upper chest, and then wait. They can do this with their eyes open or closed – whatever they feel more comfortable with. A lot of people like to do it with their eyes
closed; others don’t feel safe enough. This is a way to just feel what goes on between the hands and the body. Sometimes they will feel an energy flow, or a change in temperature…. I just ask them to keep their hands there – it could be just a few moments or it could be five or ten minutes – they keep their
hands there until they feel some kind of a shift. Then I have them take the upper hand here – keep the lower hand on the chest – and put this hand on the belly. Again, I ask them just to wait until there’s some shift – till there’s some flow. And sometimes, if people are unable to sleep or they’re afraid they’re going to have nightmares, they can do simple positions like this. And they fall into sleep much better, and often their dreams are much more useful. There are other techniques – the tapping,
the energy psychology approaches – and for some people those work very well. For other people you can use tapping. Another thing I suggest is literally tapping the skin all over so they get a sense of the boundary. For people who are traumatized, there is a hole in their boundary. Through tapping, you can help the body to remember that it is the container, and then they feel more able to deal with their sensations and their emotions. Also – squeezing the muscles in different parts of the body also helps with getting that sense of boundary. When the nervous system has been hijacked by trauma, it’s crucial to resource patients with these kinds of body-oriented techniques. When we do that, we’re giving patients the tools they need to feel safe, not just when they’re with us, but also so that they can restore their own sense of safety between sessions. Now I’d like to hear from you. As you’ve watched Peter demonstrate these techniques, how will you use them in your work with patients? And what other techniques have you found effective in helping patients feel safe? Please leave a comment below, and thanks for watching.

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  1. I've just started therapy for C-PTSD, and have to say that tapping sends my anxiety levels soaring.  What works for me is gently flexing my toes, very slowly, and registering every nuance of the sensation.  I get panic attacks on waking, so redirecting attention to my furthest extremities helps ground and soothe me.  

    Peter Levine's CD 'Healing Trauma' is great:  his voice sends me to sleep, so I've never got past the second exercise!  Actually seeing him demonstrate these techniques has been far more effective than merely reading about them.  Thank you so much for producing this video.

  2. I'm a Shiatsu Practitoner and have found the use of healing touch very beneficial for helping me reframe abusive touch(I suffered childhood sexual abuse) and to access traumatic body memory. I use touch to self sooth and particularly to regain trust of the wisdom and messages my body has always been sending me. I think early trauma creates a schism between body and mind, and I personally found it very easy to leave my body and negate it (for this is where the repressed memories lay hidden) but once they began to emerge through healing touch, I developed a very loving and nurturing relationship to my 'teacher' my body. I use these techniques with clients, I model via the bodywork and give as homework various techniques similar to what you have shown here to clients. I particularly like the use of the Tibetan sound Vu (shown in previous video) as I also use chanting, and sound vibration to heal the discord that has occurred , rather like a tuning fork or a guitar string finding the 'right note' that brings back harmony and flow into the clients being. I like the simplicity of these techniques here. Thanks for sharing

  3. Directing your attention to your breath helps a lot. Breath evenly and rhythmically. Closing your eyes helps too as the brain starts to produce alpha frequencies.

  4. thank you for these simple techniques. at 53, this was a very interesting experience. i appreciate Dr Levine's explanation for bounders. by definition, hurt is caused by someone or something violating a persons bounders.

  5. what a darling man, I think I could heal in therapy with him; but guess he is not available. am burned by therapists too, so am considering healing alone.

  6. OH, thank you so much for all your great work. And you just look terrific ! And Dr Levine feels divine. Thank you. I love : there is a hole in the boundary, the body remembering that is the container. … wow.

  7. I thank you for ways to soothe yourself that you showed and feel yourself as the container, i would very much like to learn how to feel and release the traumas so that I can heal myself and others. Dr. Levine do share some more of your knowledge please and expound on how I may get in touch with traumas that have been held in and keeping my hostage.

  8. I find that a particular yoga pose — the tree post, even if modified so that the lifted foot isn't so high up — calms me in just a few seconds. It's as though my brain can't panic and hold this pose at the same time. I change legs frequently to keep from tiring one side too much. This is also a great pose to increase good postural balance, although if this is an issue just stay close to a wall or chair, something to grab suddenly. I also do EFT and find it extremely helpful. I would advise getting in-person training from a therapist or other professional. Will definitely incorporate these tips by Dr. Levine.

  9. I did the practice while watching the effect was almost immediate felt my muscles relaxed, however as soon as I stopped the relaxation went away, having said that I am definitely going to practice on a daily basis and as needed!

  10. I'm a pediatric nurse, working at the bedside in a Children's Hospital. I'm thinking about how I might most effectively share these techniques with children and parents in the moment of trauma at the bedside, if that could be done in a way that could work…

  11. I am an LPC who works with all types of trauma in students and adults. I love the techniques you demonstrated. I actually felt a difference in my own body when I tried them. Anytime we can use physiological in conjunction with psychology, I believe we will see better results and outcomes in our patients. Thank you so much!

  12. wonderful.  I  intuitively have used both those techniques. The cuddling one, and the all over body one, and hand on heart and tummy. I found Reiki helpful, and I find resting until I feel connected to my inner self the most helpful.

  13. This is great. Anything is great when you are unable to feel anything but panic and negative fear. Thank you. Peace.

  14. I do some of those anyway withought relizing. Others too, rubbing your fingers together helps, keeps you present in the moment and helps ground you.
    Concentrating on your breathing and taking the occasional deep breath too

  15. So far it seems to me that the only thing that helps me calm in a fearful or panic state is my therapist. I don't know what's happening or why but no one but her….

  16. Paying attention to sensations in the body, anywhere in the body that's trying to say something. Breathing and listening to the breath out slowly focusing on the end of the breath.

  17. I found Wif Hof Beathing method to be very helpful also cold showers as they also force you to breath, i like what he says about the container because i found someone else say that emotions are simply motion happening inside, and if u work with you breathing that helps with getting some control over your emotions which gives you a sense of freedom because your no longer below those overwhelming emotions. Allowing you to feel them without fear and let it go… You are what you see, you think it is because of others but its you!

  18. another very useful video; I find useful being away from people, listening to my favorite calming music, a soaking myself in a very warm bath with soothing essential oils . The water makes me breathe slower so the whole nervous system just calms down. The gentle tapping is really good. Sometimes wrapping a warm blanket around my body helps too.

  19. Soldiers coming back home are the ones who suffer the most, here is a TEDx on this subject :

  20. This totally works. I have insomnia really bad from C-PTSD due to marital abuse and rape. It’s so hard at night because my abuser would offer some comfort at night when his crap had shattered me. No matter what time it was I could tap him on the shoulder and he’d raise him arm and let me lie down on his chest. I stopped falling into that trap before I filed for a restraining order and put him out of the house.
    The comfort of another person is something I miss more than anything. But I hold myself like he said at night now and it usually works so fast to help me sleep. And a bonus is the freedom from feeling like my abuser was the only one who made me feel safe. I’m free to comfort myself.
    I know this might sound crazy to anybody who has never been trauma bonded. But we miss the ones who hurt us. And being able to self-comfort is like a lifeline. We know they are hurting us and don’t want to give that up.
    This technique makes it so much easier. I love Peter Levine. He is like an angel to anybody who has endured trauma.

  21. Trauma should teach people that breeding is wrong…

    Nothing wrong with being fully aware that the world is a horrifying and terrible place… But there is something extremely wrong with trying to justify bringing life into a world that you are fully aware is nothing but a giant meat grinding machine…

    Before we exist if we had no mind and with no mind we had no need or desire to live…well obviously this is garbage…the "will to live"… because you must first have mind in order to need or desire… So literally this is a complete waste of time …because there was no need or desire to live in the first place…

    Stop breeding and people will stop becoming traumatized… Stop breeding and people will stop suffering and dying…

  22. I found somatic release therapy to be more helpful even that talk therapy or trauma counseling for calming the hypervigilance and overactive "fight or flight" instinct that can get stuck after trauma. Glad to discover more techniques to use at home. Will be reading his books! Thank-you, Mr Levine, for your compassion, kindness – and 30 years of working with trauma victims around the world.

  23. As a yoga instructor, I too have students place hands on the 3rd and 4th Chakras as Peter did. This truly connects the body, mind and energy of the body in a settling way, as he describes it, along with slow breathing and opening the mouth on the exhale, with a visualization of tension leaving the body on the out breath. Very simple and effective.

  24. I wondered why I constantly rubbed myself…. I had know idea I was loving myself….. recovering addict and fellow gay man…

  25. This is so wild! The first and third technique he demonstrates are my preferred stances in social settings. I had no idea why I was doing it, why it made me feel safer around people!

  26. What do you think of those that follow Jung? Does it supplement what you are talking about or is it at odds with other methods of therapy

  27. No so this ex you know isike a pimp and she's trying to run me out of town because the place isike a house by any means necessary her and her so-called friends stalk me I think it should be I can't run out of the house right now and my rights are being used for a few …..I think it should be legal …….. like pot

  28. But also if I'm run out YOU might be next…… maybe not. The point is its not legal and I have nothing to do with it…..

  29. Thank you.
    I felt the sensations, right away!!!.
    I'm thinking this
    (I'm not getting off topic Ok, just came to mind) tool, works somewhat the same as calming down those little nervous doggies, with a type jacket. "?"!
    Well,, lol,,
    Thank you so much.
    ❄I needed this❄
    ♡have a good one♡

  30. This is brilliant! Thank you so much. I've only ever been told abt tapping, which I find annoying. The rest you present really work!

  31. Dr. Levine I would use the word comforting, slowing down the heartrate rather than the word containing. I have lived complex PTSD my entire life. I don't want to contain (hold in) that energy. Exhaling, breathing. I want to feel safe, feel my heart slow down and my breathing become deeper. Guess it's just a matter of semantics.

  32. Thankyou for this. I tried it and it works. I re watched a video on a stalker wich scared the shit out of me a day ago and sent me into a panic attack and shame. I could almost feel my heart going faster. I tried it and it worked. I sent the video to my mom because my dad is a traumatized man who now has dimentia. Thankyou for helping me💜

  33. Many times I wake up feeling anxious it seems I need to do deep breath, sing songs, pray, or think about scriptures, this does calm me down soon, now I see that there are a couple of other tools I can use. thank you.

  34. I am the Director of a Non-profit Care Through Touch Institute in San Francisco California that utilizes some of these very techniques. If anyone is interested in the work we are doing surrounding Trauma you can read more about us here:

  35. The first arm and hand technique made me feel boxed in, but the second was better. I have also tried tapping / EFT as well as PMR with some success.

  36. I’m sorry this does not even touch the trauma I’ve experienced.

    From sexual abuse by my older sister when I was young as well as emotional and physical abuse by my parents. As well as being abused by the US mental health system. I am now a 66 year old male.

    This abuse was only replicated by my and others experiences when locked in a psychiatric hospital in the US. See the below recent survey done in nearly 500 individuals who committed no crime but were severely traumatized by their hospital experiences. Please make sure to read the respondents comments. Thanks.

  37. I suffer from prolonged depression & fatigue due to many years of child abuse. I can't afford psychotherapy right now, so having these 2 tools in my toolbox are appreciated. If anyone has suggestions on getting affordable somatic therapy in NYC, pls let me know.
    The 2 techniques in the video have brought some relief to me, particularly the 1st technique & the 2nd half of the 2nd technique—one hand on the chest & one on the belly.
    I recently started doing holotropic breathwork, which seems to be helping with my fatigue.

  38. This is interesting. I am beginning to look at DBT and other things that will assist with the clients I see with CPTSD.  I like the first technique used for the hand under the arm and the other holding on to the other arm.  I tried this and I was surprised at the self soothing that I felt.  I will definitely try this with my clients.  Thank you for this good video.

  39. Sir were have you been, I have had to figure all this out on my own, which is ok, but its awesome to hear a Professional explain this, Awesome, I will study all your videos, Youdaman!

  40. What if your body remembers your abuse but you can't how do you help your body when it is trying to protect you or giving you overwhelming feelings I feel like I'm going crazy can somebody give me some advice X

  41. Traumatized by a psychiatrist for misdiagnosesed refuse all doctors all drugs I don’t think I’ll every trust a system or institution

  42. Oh, now I know why My group did active relaxation…. it makes much more sense, because I naturally shake My body, when I feel an uncomfortable build up of energy/stress with the Active Relaxation tencing and releasing My muscles, it actually was very soothing, relaxing and very comforting… and this brought My wondering thoughts back to the present… huh, now I also just realized that's why they call it grounding… thoughts all up in the air, grounding techniques… go figure….

  43. Gentle self massage. (Intimacy with other people) true bonding in community. I have seen an iodine deficiency corrected totally eliminate symptoms with no need of any other techniques.

  44. Thank you so much, i often share this video with my clients and so appreciate your efforts in creating the video. I also love the heart work, hand over heart, working with the waves of terror, feeling the shutters to soothe, similar ideas, knowing acceptance in motion ❤

  45. Thank you so much for sharing this! I struggle with PTSD and the first technique made me feel instantly calm, safe and comfortable. I have never experienced that before. I think this will be so useful to me, especially when my PTSD gets triggered at work. I am excited to use this to help me go to sleep and to calm down when I feel panicked or anxious.

  46. I'm not a therapist but I'm a former Psych major and trauma victim. I feel safe in my room right now and on my floor in my building. I feel a little less safe in the lobby. I'm going to try going down there and try looking out the door and up the street later in the day. If that isn't too bad, I may go across the street to the store. Later, I may start spending the day in a safer part of town and build up from there. It isn't easy to deal with issues of physical safety when you still live in a bad neighborhood, but one thing at a time.

  47. There is a huge amount of information on dealing with trauma on this link: You can also search on youtube for complex trauma, if that is an issue for you.

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  49. This is extremely helpful. I plan to use these tools with a group of child advocates thank you

  50. Started doing these about 4 weeks ago. Three times a day, morning, afternoon, and in bed before sleep. In the beginning, they were mildly provocative, and I was left feeling a bit confused and dazed. So I stopped. But I started again, drawn to them by the impact they had on me. Inevitably now they are, in what is a fairly turbulent life, very calming and soothing. The thing I had to be aware of was that it didn't matter what thoughts were going through my head, this was about my body. So I let the thoughts run rampant, and just focused on the hands and holding. I find now that I can identify thoughts that are pointless and thoughtless. Without any effort they seem to disappear. From a Somatic perspective, these are excellent self care tools for outside of the therapy setting. Why people don't get their clients to do something basic like this while they are in therapy is beyond me. Thanks for posting, and I'll provide more feedback in a month or so.

  51. All of the Ancient Eastern sexuality practices that I have been working with clients have DEFINITELY helped not only them but my own traumas and energies! I believe sex can be one of THE most healing and profoundly life changing ways we CAN heal our bodies no differently than how profoundly we may have been negatively impacted…see my site for articles, videos and links to such ancient practices like TAnTRA, etc. #DakiniGoddessofMarrakech

  52. I appreciate the tips, I really do, but why on earth would it be considered unsafe about closing your eyes when you put your hand on your forehead and the other one on the chest? I mean, how precious are we for crying out loud

  53. Another update. I have continued to do these basic self soothing body movements. I think it’s week 12. Today I was hit by wave after wave of flashbacks to my childhood experiences of violence. First time in my life. They have begun to emerge. Not pleasant, but manageable, and the outcome is that what has been contained inside by massive and endless contraction is now beginning to be noticed and felt. I will post again, because this is clear progress for me, something that no therapist has ever come near enabling.

  54. I could use these in my EMDR sessions that leave me feeling like I'm in Dantes Inferno with some memories.

  55. I liked how he reminded me that I needed to somaticly remind my self that I have boundries and that my container does in fact contain these.

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