Since last Autumn I’ve been training to use a relatively new approach for addressing unresolved traumatic experiences including attachment shock.

Called Deep Brain Reorienting (DBR), this approach was developed by Frank Corrigan, a Scottish psychiatrist who specialises in the treatment of complex trauma. I’m now introducing it to my therapeutic practice and so want to describe – very simply – how it works.

DBR works with the anatomy and function of the midbrain (located at the base of the skull) where the initial response to threat is managed. That initial response involves activating muscles of the neck and eyes to move the head/eye gaze towards or away from the threat.

But also what can happen in these moments – if the experience is traumatic – is a shock/horror response which is registered in the midbrain and happens so fast that it cannot be accessed by the upper levels of the brain, nor later remembered.

Repeated shocks sensitise the midbrain so that relatively small triggers can create states of panic/hyperarousal. the shock response becomes a blocking mechanism, stopping the full expression of the affect (the emotions) connected with the trauma.

Through therapy, much of a traumatic experience may be worked through, but this shock response remains held or locked in the midbrain. DBR provides a sequence of steps to allow the shock response to be released so that the affect can be expressed and processed.

One way of describing how DBR works is using the analogy of a river. In a river there are boulders that interrupt and redirect the flow of water, DBR clears those boulder so that the water can flow more freely. In this analogy the water is our physiological response to what we experience in the present moment, the boulders are the historical shocks that our physiology retains.

If you’d like to know more about this approach then please get in touch.

Published by Dr Esther Walker

Esther is a counsellor and massage therapist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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