Feeling safer IS the treatment.
Prosody is the modulation and tone of our voice and is not controlled consciously. We pick up on calm presence and feel safe or unsafe with someone based in part on prosody. This has an impact during a session if we feel anxious or stressed as the other person picks up on it. Listening to someone calm relaxes us because it signals safety to our brain.
Remind people to rest and take a few deep breaths. Longer exhalations stimulate the relaxation response and down-regulate sympathetic nervous system activation. This can be through breathing work, singing, playing a wind instrument or talking in long phrases without interruption. For social anxiety – exhale slowly while counting (out loud if you can). Gasping triggers brain freeze and activates the sympathetic nervous system preparing you for fight/flight. Click here for a practice
Eye contact may not feel safe for someone who has been severely traumatized. Not making eye contact may have been a strategy that kept them alive. Follow their cues and pacing. I’ve also noticed some people aren’t comfortable closing their eyes. They could be invited to soften their gaze or open their eyes when they need to.
Group therapy can help reduce isolation in a context of safe social support