The following S’s offer a sample of ways to support healing practices that can be adapted and integrated into any setting or context – schools, workplaces, organisations, community groups etc.

  • Safety and security

Health, resilience and healing are rooted in a sense of feeling safe and secure, confident in one’s capacity to cope with adversity. These qualities are gradually internalised over the course of development through regulated interactions with others, building a strong and resilient psychological structure through repairing ruptures that occur in relationships. Creating a sense of ‘we’ through regulated right-brain-to-right-brain interactions can evoke these experiences which support growth and provides healing experiences that contradict and ‘disconfirm’ the aloneness of traumatic states. The capacity for right-brain relationality involves attuning to nonverbal affect that supports regulation and safety – this relational skill can be developed through practice.

  • Sound, story and silence

The expressive arts are a ‘strong foundation’ for best practice in healing trauma. These approaches include: Sound (music and music-making), storytelling (role play, drama, visual art etc.) and silence (meditation, art and others that quiet the mind and regulate the body). It is important to note that ‘music’ can include the use of the prosody in the voice to regulate others and create safety; silence includes the capacity to slow down, reflect and listen – the foundation of healing lies in being rather than doing.

  • Somatic awareness

Healing from trauma involves learning to feel safe in the body again and being able to pay attention to sensations of safety, mastery and triumph. Dis-embodiment, dissociation and disconnection are survival strategies used by individuals, groups and cultures to escape from trauma and overwhelm. Learning to re-connect and re-embody again are the path to healing. Somatic practices support this process by supporting people to be fully in their bodies again supporting regulation and integration. Many therapies like Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing offer a wealth of resources in this area that can be made user-friendly and exportable.

  • Synchrony and soothing

Interpersonal synchrony is a basic interpersonal mechanism in dyads, but also in all human groups, as well as in cultures. Synchrony is the social coupling, joining or aligning of two or more individuals in a communication context. Experiences of synchrony or being ‘in sync’ with others along with repair of or soothing of stress states promote resilience and security. The experience of trauma is characterised by being ‘out of sync’ with others so naturally getting in sync is healing. Synchronisation of right brain patterns allows emotional and regulatory functions to be shared and thereby facilitates the growth and development of the right brain throughout the lifespan. However, interpersonal synchronisation happens only in pairs that have a shared communicative history i.e. familiarity and safety. Rhythmic communal activities can create experiences of synchrony and soothing.

  • Sport

Sport can be defined as ‘a physical activity engaged in for pleasure’. Bessel Van Der Kolk argues that in recovering from trauma it is very important that people develop the capacity to feel pleasure in their bodies. Much like the arts, sport and any activity that involves movement, can be used for healing purposes. This is particularly true when it is based in a growth-promoting relational environment that is based in safety, trust, authenticity and positive regard. Teams can act as ‘therapeutic tribes’ that create containment and a sense of belonging for their members.

  • Seeking system

Jaak Panksepp refers to the SEEKING system as a primary emotional system involved in learning, growth, pursuing resources and healing. Panksepp refers to it as ‘the well-being system’ that is involved in many other emotional systems like the PLAY and CARE systems. These systems can be utilised to counter-act negative affects like shame and anxiety, allowing this psychic pain to be soothed in the ‘balm’ of positive affect.

  • Strengths and ‘self-at-best’

In approaching healing, it has been emphasised that a strengths-based approach should be used rather than a deficit and problem-based approach that emphasises pathology. It is important to focus on potential not pathology. ‘Healing centred engagement’ starts to focus more on what supports well-being (like hope, imagination, trust, dreams etc.). The shift is from ‘what is wrong with you’ to ‘what is strong within you’. The healing process is supported by enabling people to bring ‘self-at-best’ to ‘self-at-worst’ – offering an empowered view of the core self that can support the wounded parts of the self. Therapies like Internal Family systems (IFS) and others that focus on ‘parts work’ can offer practical ways to practice this approach alone or with others. Other strengths like purpose, meaning, authenticity, agency, acceptance and compassion are important in healing too.

  • Supporting exploration

Supporting exploration, growth and development is an important part of any attachment relationship or any growth-promoting relationship. Co-regulation is a process in which coaching, modelling and support is offered in service of growth and development. Offering praise and encouragement is the scaffolding needed for people to build the courage to step into the unknown that is central to both development and healing. It requires the relational skill to support a person to move towards fulfilling their potential while remaining available as a ‘secure base’ and ‘safe haven’ when the person is in distress or doubt. The attachment dynamic involves a rhythmic movement outward in exploration and inwards towards safety and security (re-fueling). A key skill here is the up-regulation of positive affect – experiences which energise, building resources that fuel exploration.