The beauty of sensory emotional regulation is that it can help turn a bad day at therapy into a healing session. But the therapist must know how to take a client through the process effectively in order for the client to have relief.
I decided to become a psychotherapist because I want to offer the kind of guidance and support I received as I went through years of healing from PTSD. I didn’t always know if my poor memory was related to my psychological injury. I felt alone because I struggled to stay present during conversations at work. I felt inept because I had trouble shopping for food at the grocery store. Of course, I practiced emotional regulation whenever I remembered or noticed that I had uncomfortable emotions. But having a therapist was like having a window open to let in fresh air. I was fortunate that my therapist was well-trained in working with people struggling with PTSD, and from terrorism.
Not only did I benefit from having a therapist, our sessions also benefited because I practiced regulation. I was able to go into sessions and talk about what I struggled with, how I resolved it, and then get practical guidance for how to continue healing.
I also took medication for a brief time. Gabapentin helped reduce my anxiety within minutes of swallowing it. I was able to recognize when my anxiety level went up, thus enabling me to recognize triggers to the anxiety, and then was able to regulate it. With PTSD, anxiety may be chronic making the patient become accustomed to the feeling to the point where he or she is unable to recognize the emotion.
Sensory emotional regulation can help with many different kinds of therapy. I’ve heard massage therapists say that regulating emotions in their clients helped their massage sessions go well. A psychiatrist in France uses the process with patients who are hospitalized with schizophrenia. Their stays have reduced from three months to three weeks.
Though I won’t be licensed as a clinical mental health counselor for a few more years, in 2019 I will begin practicum training and will be able to incorporate sensory emotional regulation with psychotherapy clients. It is a truly powerful and effective tool.