What Is a Trauma Informed Practice? | Massage and Bodywork

Published: Jan 8, 2023 | Revised: Mar 31, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

What Is a Trauma Informed Practice? | Massage and Bodywork

With massage therapy and bodywork treatment offerings you may read that the practitioner or therapist states that they run a Trauma Informed Practice (TIP). But what is exactly meant by this?

Well, simply said, it means that the massage or bodywork practitioner (who’s often not an official Trauma Therapist or Psychologist) is capable of consciously and professionally handling previous trauma of clients, also being aware of the potential to elicit trauma within a treatment session, and/or running the risk of adding new trauma if the client’s emotions are not handled appropriately.

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As a rule, Trauma Informed therapists would have studied physical and emotional trauma and its impact on people, how it affects the client’s nervous system and daily life, their spiritual well-being, their coping and survival mechanisms, how symptoms may show, and moreover — they understand paths for recovery and what to do (or what not to do) in moments when trauma resurfaces or is deliberately revisited within a therapeutic session.

Notably within deeper therapeutic massage and bodywork, and more specifically in full-touch, full-body, sensual, somatic, sexual, and/or genital therapies, the client’s trauma-related emotions and other expressions may (easily) come to the surface, and it’s important that the therapist handles those in a physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe and effective manner.

Furthermore, some types of massage and bodywork therapies specifically aim at eliciting the client’s traumatic experiences in order for them to digest and release those. For instance, when it comes to healing sexual trauma, think of treatment modalities such as Dearmoring Massage and Bodywork, Tantric Lingam Massage, Tantric Yoni Massage, Karsai Nei Tsang, or Genital Mapping. In these cases, it’s obviously of even more importance that the practitioner utilizes a Trauma Informed approach.

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But it’s not only in the sexual or genital sphere that trauma can resurface or needs to be worked on. Emotional reactions and responses to other types of trauma, such as a car accident, war, surgery, domestic violence, an earthquake, or a fire may also emerge during sessions that are not at all sexual or genital. Think of treatments like Thai Massage, Shiatsu Massage, Abdominal Massage, Restorative Yoga Therapy, or Swedish Massage, to just give some examples.

In any case, it’s of great importance that both client and practitioner are aware of the fact that trauma related bodily and/or emotional reactions may resurface during a massage or bodywork session. Informing their clients appropriately is specifically the task of the therapist, usually done by first having a proper intake and assessment session.

Additionally — notably with respect to trauma — aspects of safety, trust, session boundaries, consent, communication, and collaboration are essential elements that need to be addressed before the practitioner starts therapeutic massage or bodywork with a client.

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