Cher Hamilton-Tekautz, LCSW
My Story of Becoming a Somatic Trauma Therapist
Learning about complex PTSD significantly changed my life. I wasn’t physically or sexually abused so I thought my childhood had been fine, even though there were some difficult periods. A therapist recommended that I read Complex PTSD by Pete Walker and I couldn’t believe there was a name for my struggles. It explained why I was so hard on myself, why I oscillated between anxiety and depression, and why I could feel so easily overwhelmed at times. I felt so seen and understood for the first time. I began pursuing continuing education about trauma and learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research, which provided data that childhood trauma (that is not addressed, or when there aren’t resiliency factors to counter the ACEs) has pretty significant negative health outcomes.
The same therapist who recommended I read Pete Walker’s book also recommended I attend group therapy, which is where I learned about the incredible power of somatic therapy. After experiencing the progress that can be made when the body is incorporated in therapy I decided to pursue training in a body-based approach to therapy. I completed Level One of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in May 2021 and will complete level two in June 2022. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a body-based therapy to treat trauma and attachment wounds (Complex PTSD). I’m really excited to be utilizing this approach because I’ve experienced its powerful effects firsthand.
What it’s Like to Work with Me
I work with folks weekly because I’ve seen clients experience the most growth that way and my therapy style is attachment focused so the therapy relationship is foundational to the work. I will only work with folks on an every other week basis after we have worked together weekly for a period of time and built a strong foundation.
I’m on a lifelong journey of being anti-racist and I’ve learned that white folks have got to get away from the “I’m not a racist, it’s those white people over there who are the problem” narrative because all white folks have internalized racism and anti-blackness that needs to be taken out of the shadows and examined (and this process never ends). I think the therapy space is a great place to name and examine those parts of ourselves that we don’t like and make changes accordingly.
Microaggressions and macroaggressions of racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, anti-fatness, etc are forms of complex trauma that can get stored in the body (See Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands) and can have a deeply negative effect on your identity and self-worth. I will probably make mistakes as a white, cis-gender, abled bodied therapist, but I can own those mistakes if given the chance. I also understand that a lot of folks don’t want to deal with that and would prefer to work with someone of a similar identity where that’s less likely to happen.
Both anxiety and trauma involve the activation of the autonomic nervous system. We can become hyper-aroused-what’s often experienced as anxiety-heart racing, shallow breathing, racing thoughts, or shaking. Or we can become hypo-aroused-what could be experienced as depression-low energy, brain fogginess, numbness, or dissociation. I will often provide clients with different skills to regulate nervous system activation at the beginning or end of sessions and will sometimes use them throughout the session when emotions feel particularly intense or I notice activation in someone.
Strong Boundaries with Compassion
I understand how difficult it can be to set and enforce boundaries, but as a therapist those skills are vital to creating safety, which was often missing from the childhoods of folks I work with. I rarely talk about my own experiences because therapy should be focused on you. I also believe it’s important to model boundary setting and to hold space for difficult feelings that arise from doing that. This means I start and end sessions on time and if it’s difficult to do that I will talk with you about it. I will also charge you if you cancel a session less than 48 hours, and I will validate and explore any feelings that come up when I do that.