In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah is joined by Dave Berger, MFT, PT, LCMHC, MA, SEP. Dave is a somatic psychotherapist, physical therapist, bodyworker and educator. He owns and runs a training program for trauma practitioners called BASE: Relational Bodywork and Somatic Education Training. Dave is also a Trainer for Somatic Experiencing International and Legacy Faculty for Dr. Peter Levine’s Ergos Institute of Somatic Education. Dave has over 40 years of experience working with trauma and chronic pain and integrates his knowledge of anatomy, physiology and function of the body, and of psychological and relational dynamics to help clients improve their physical well being and psychological health.
Dave’s intention for this episode is to educate and inform practitioners about the need to understand how the structures and systems in the physical body are involved with trauma and trauma healing. Throughout the episode, Sarah and Dave talk about the overlap between Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and its impact on the organization of the physical body, and its correlation to chronic pain.
Dave states, “my area of interest and fascination is working with people who’ve had chronic distress.” Dave explains that the relationship between chronic stress and various medical syndromes, including pain syndromes, is not well understood. Dave shares that his experiences have helped him develop the understanding that “chronic distress patterns lead to and are part of medical syndromes.” He finds that these syndromes manifest in physical as well as psychological symptoms and disorders, and that it’s important to know and understand both.
As Sarah and Dave reflect on the field of trauma and specifically how to address complex trauma, Dave describes how he uses his personal experiences to inform his work. He explains that “the relationship is everything.” He defines this as the client feeling felt by the practitioner. He also describes this as the “safe container” that happens in the therapeutic process that can lead to healing. Dave explains that a person’s physiology will naturally shift as they continue to experience a safe attuned therapeutic process. Sarah and Dave reflect on the similarities between Dave’s perspective and the NARM perspective, and they both agree that to address complex trauma the interventions have to include the body, the mind and be embedded in relationship.
Dave and Sarah also talk about both social and cultural trauma and what that trauma looks like at the body-level. Dave talks about resolving trauma at the body level, and he names the importance of being in the moment and naming the lived experiences happening in the here and now in the body. The two reflect on the importance of doing personal healing work in order to be an effective practitioner, as well as create deeper connections in our society and culture. Dave believes that there is a very real need to connect with one another on a human level. He states, “How can we see each other as a human being first, how can I feel me as a human being and you feel you as a human being and connect on that level?” Dave believes that for this to happen we have to have the capacity to be in our own bodies if we want to be able to invite deeper relationships and hold complexity. Sarah reflects on how NARM invites therapists to explore their own relationship with themselves and how this impacts the therapeutic relationship.
As the conversation comes to a close Dave reflects on how his trainings have impacted his students and the ripple effect of how his students then impact their clients. Sarah and Dave reflect on transformative nature of somatic work. Dave ends with a quote by Peter Levine that trauma “is not a life sentence,” signifying the possibilities of transforming trauma. Sarah reminds us that this idea inspired the intention, and name, of the NARM podcast, Transforming Trauma.