Neuroplasticity 101 for Trauma Survivors


*I suggest therapists first acquaint themselves with the sequence by using it with someone who has not experienced trauma in the last six months or longer. The possibility of re-traumatization – in mindful and embodied work, opening up or triggering emotions that the participants are not ready to deal with now – must be a constant concern.

Evaluate your abilities in reference to the participant’s situation carefully. Move systematically to build a sense of safety for the participant and to help him or her build connections to inner resources.

**Reset exercise: If the sense of contraction persists or a sense of flooding persists, , try this “reset” exercise: Ask the participant to jump up and down (as fast as they can) 10 times and then sit down and (preferably leaning back on something). Then have the participant take five long, slow in-breaths, (each about four seconds long, then held for one second before releasing), breathe out long and slow (for about five seconds).

***When working on a traumatic experience, this anchoring activity can be used as an entry point for trauma processing.  I use psychodrama and movement techniques and imaginal space to create a vignette that I’ve tailored to fit the context of the participants and where they are in the theraputic process.

In such cases, the anchoring phase begins with the the same movement as the activity above. Once there is a pose – we create a scene around that pose and conclude with an embodied pose that the participant is comfortable to end on.

This could be a wishful pose, a progress pose, a protective pose, etc. I guide the participant to choose a pose that brings a sense of expansion rather than contraction.


Klorer, P. G. Expressive therapy with severely maltreated children: Neuroscience contributions. Art Therapy, 22(4), 213-220. 2002.

Siegel, D. J. Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation. New York: Bantam Books. 2010.

Gymnast photo available from Shutterstock

Neuroplasticity 101 for Trauma Survivors


APA Reference
Gertel Kraybill, O. (2015). Neuroplasticity 101 for Trauma Survivors. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 2 Jul 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jul 2015
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