Healing the Relational Matrix
Renegotiating Developmental and Relational Trauma
NeuroAffective Touch® is a psychobiological model that integrates the therapeutic use of touch and bodywork with psychodynamic psychotherapy and somatic psychology. The NeuroAffective Touch® training builds a vital bridge between our verbal and nonverbal selves in order to address early emotional and relational trauma and repair attachment and developmental deficits.
For students who complete the NeuroAffective Touch® Foundation Training and wish to deepen their expertise, ongoing study groups, integration groups, and online consultations are available. Visit our Training Schedule >
When psychological identity is built on the shaky foundation of an early traumatized physiology, an integrated psychobiological approach is necessary.
1. Healing Our Deepest Core
Nurturing Prenatal and Infant States
- Biological Life Force
- The Implicit Self
ONLINE ― Healing early trauma begins with offering the missing nonverbal experiences of somatic support, attunement, and safety ― a secure bottom-up foundation based in safety and trust from which a new top-down narrative can emerge. The practitioner’s attuned presence addresses the three essential self-states necessary for secure attachment and emotional well-being:
- I exist
- I am loved
- My needs are important
Working somatically with early development, we start at the beginning, at conception. Our approach addresses the nonverbal implicit self. We begin with an experiential introduction that helps practitioners embody the principles of the biological life force, orient developmental processes to the midline regulatory axis, and become familiar with the polyvagal energy centers that shape our patterns of connection and protection.
We develop simple somatic languaging which together with attuned touch and body-centered skills help renegotiate the hyper or hypo vigilant neurological baseline patterned by attachment deficits. We seek to ‘get under’ psychological stressors and trauma by developing:
- A nurturing touch focus that supports a client’s core neurological and emotional capacities to trust and yield
- Palpation skills to sense changes in tissue tone and density
- Language skills to bring nonverbal states into explicit spoken expression
Throughout the training, we deepen the embodied presence of the students by encouraging personal psychobiological exploration. This training is a great opportunity to discover your own body in new ways. The capacity for connection and attunement within the therapist-client dyad depends on the therapist’s ability to become a co-regulating resource. Our polyvagal-informed model helps therapists develop their interoceptive self-regulation and body-mind communication in order to entrain clients toward safety and connection.
We use somatic contemplation and self-exploration to:
- Enhance anatomical and biological knowledge to increase conscious connection with pulsation, breath, and energy flow
- Develop somatic resonance by exploring intersubjective space, transference, and countertransference — how the therapist and client experience each other and share that experience
Lastly, all clinical work using touch and bodywork must address legal, ethical, and scope of practice issues. This includes taking a touch history, exploring clients’ fears about a body-centered approach, and evaluating their readiness to be touched and go beyond talk therapy.
You will practice how to:
- Anchor healing in the biological life force
- Meet a client’s tender attachment needs without creating dependency
- Anchor proprioception in the midline regulatory axis to stabilize trauma-induced sensory disorientation and disorganization
- Expand languaging skills to bring nonverbal states into explicit verbal expression
- Engage a collaborative mind-body relationship
- Use the NeuroAffective Touch® protocols to begin addressing developmental deficits: create a Nurture Surround, release the cranial base and brainstem, and support the spine and back
2. Touching the Emotional Body
- Primacy of the Heart
- Diaphragmatic Gates
- Heart-Mind Collaboration
ONLINE ― This module expands the traditional psychodynamic understanding of identity as residing in the mind. The anguished minds of clients who have experienced emotional and relational trauma are often trapped in painful cycles of self-judgment, anxiety, blame, and shame.
Here, we enter the polyvagal domain. Touch is an important portal to help clients who live primarily in their minds connect with their bodily self ― heart, lungs and breath, gut brain and digestive system, throat and vocal cords ― to access their felt sense. Shocks to the heart, toxic environments that cannot be metabolized, and truths that cannot be spoken form the nucleus of relational trauma. Establishing collaborative mind-body dialogues between vagal responses and the adaptive capacity of the mind opens a cooperative renegotiation that is essential for integrated healing.
Beyond the false safety of an encapsulated mind, or the agitation of a fear-ruled body, we address the primacy of the heart to bring awareness to the unconscious, procedural patterns. Sustained abuse or neglect imprint in the body’s innermost depths — in the enteric nervous system or gut brain. We explore the digestive and enteric nervous systems where stressors and aggressions reverberate like shock waves in the soft tissues of the viscera.
Along with a polyvagal perspective, we apply the latest research in interpersonal and affective neuroscience to connect with the heart center and release the diaphragmatic gates that regulate emotion and hold in emotional shock. We invite collaboration between the organic realm of the body’s lived experience and the mind’s analytic attunement.
In particular, we:
- See relational violations as shocks to the heart that impact early attachment and the adult capacity for relationship
- Connect with the power of naval radiation to access embodied presence
- Gently make contact with the protective forces of each organ, offering support for relational expression
- Release the respiratory and thoracic diaphragms to bring states of fear-based contraction to awareness
- Support the body to shift out of dysregulation and move toward organization as emotions regulate and the nervous system settles
You will practice how to:
- Connect with the heart and mediastinum as the central emotional energy center
- Touch into the internal sensory systems of interoception and neuroception and the touchpoints for the heart, lungs, gut, and throat
- Use body-mind collaborative language to develop a loving mind-heart relationship that reduces self-judgment and shaming
- Track and welcome diaphragmatic and cellular breath
- Help clients recognize when and how their mind overrides their body’s wisdom
3. Renegotiating Hypervigilance
and the Capacity for Social Engagement
- Looking and Seeing
- Hearing and Listening
- Verbal Expression
ONLINE ― To the degree that clients disengage from their senses, they lose touch with reality and their capacity for interpersonal connection. This section explores how clients process sensory information.
Facial expressions, contraction at the cranial base, openness of the gaze, the listening capacity of the ears, and the prosody of the voice, all convey information about a person’s relational state, yet they rarely receive the gentle transformative attention of attuned touch.
Chronic distress overstimulates the sensory orienting systems of the eyes and ears. It can foreclose spoken expression, and leave clients trapped in a distorted world of negative projections and introjects that disengage an individual from reality. Contraction in the eyes, ears, cranial base, and throat signal a withdrawal from experience and self-expression.
We bring awareness to the throat to reclaim the voice. Opening the throat and releasing the vocal cords is a key healing component for those who do not speak their truth for fear of harmful repercussions.
Addressing sensory hypo and hyper vigilance supports resetting the emotional and social engagement system.
You will practice how to:
- Help the ears stop listening for danger and the eyes stop looking for threat
- Explore the neuropsychological convergence of the ears, eyes, jaw, cranial base, and throat to reset the vigilance system
- Open the diaphragmatic gates at the shoulders, jaw, cranial base, tentorium, and dome
- Bring awareness to the throat to release the vocal cords and reclaim the voice
- Interrupt the brain’s predictive mechanism to maintain a time-line awareness of past, present, and future
4. Restoring Connection with the Developmental Blueprint
- The Relational Matrix
- Post-Traumatic Growth
IN-PERSON meeting when it is safe to gather again.
In this four-day in-person Touch Intensive we work from a holistic, big picture perspective and integrate the principles and skills learned in the first three online segments.
- We have systematically explored key areas and systems of the body and the emotional and relational trauma memories they hold
- We have seen how body and mind weave together somatic, emotional, and cognitive experiences to create a matrix that binds a person’s identity to the adaptive survival responses that are the outcome of their family history
As the developmental sequence moves from attachment to separation and individuation, body and mind weave together in a biological, emotional, and cognitive matrix. We use the NeuroAffective Touch® protocols to reconnect with the developmental blueprint, repair ruptures in the developmental progression, and bring wholeness to the relational matrix. Informed by the interplay between body awareness, cognitive skills, emotional resiliency, and open expression, we now:
- Fine-tune treatment intentions and work with the survival adaptations that developed as a result of early family experiences and bind our sense of identity
- Support the reconnection to the developmental blueprint by recognizing positive autonomic shifts and the expansive movement of post-traumatic growth
- Recognize and amplify the subtle yet powerful indicators of the emerging self as they are revealed in imagery, sound, gesture, and posture
You will practice how to:
- Use the understanding of the body-mind functional unity to deconstruct survival adaptations and reconnect clients to the creativity of their somatic individuation
- Map and deconstruct the somatic patterns of numbing, bracing, and collapse that result from abuse, neglect, and abandonment
- Open new neural pathways that support the capacity and skills for loving connection often deeply buried by relational trauma