Bushfire Trauma Relief Project
The ‘Stable Trauma Relief Project’, established in response to the 2019/20 Black Summer fires, initiated its work in March 2020. Minister Bronnie Taylor who was then NSW Rural, Women and Youth Mental Health Minister, and Bendigo Bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation each saw the benefits of offering Somatic Trauma therapy through the Project to the bushfire affected communities in East Gippsland (Cann River / Mallacoota) and Sth East NSW (Cobargo, Bega, Narooma, Bermagui and surrounds) and provided the encouragement and funding to get started.
In the intervening period, the Project has helped 98 clients through 8 therapy trips to communities and approximately 1,100 face-to-face and remote counselling consultations.
We Understand How Debilitating Trauma Symptoms are:
Feeling on edge constantly
Feeling shutdown and disconnected
Breakdown in relationships from loved ones
Trauma, contrary to many peoples understanding, does not start from the mind. It starts in our Autonomic Nervous System and when our nervous system gets stuck in chronic patterns of defensiveness this then impacts our mind and body. It impacts the way we feel and it disrupts regulated functioning in our body our heart, lungs, bladder and bowel to name a few.
When our nervous system is disregulated our mind and bodies are disregulated, this makes us more susceptible to physical and mental illness and sickness.
There has been an increase in secondary symptoms such as heart conditions, gut and bowel conditions, cancer, in the bushfire affected communities we have been engaged with since early 2020, we have even seen an increase in the prevalence of shingles in young people due to a compromised nervous system leading to a compromised immune system.
Many people from bushfire affected communities are accessing support and treatment for these secondary symptoms however they are not accessing support for the underlying factor which is a dysregulated nervous system from and overwhelmingly stressful event/s.
According to Neruroscience.com 75%-90% of all doctors visits are for stress related ailments. Anything stress related is fundamentally a dysregulated autonomic nervous system.
Our trauma informed bushfire relief project is here to work with individuals, schools, health professionals and parents to help educate, support and treat these debilitating symptoms that derive from a dysregulated Autonomic Nervous System.
Our 3 types of therapy are interwoven and delivered to clients in a customised way specific to each client and their individual symptoms and needs.
The three therapies (as set out below) do not require clients to talk in detail about their trauma; actually in most cases we do not have to talk about what has traumatised us at all. Instead, using the platform of our natural environment we work towards developing awareness around our nervous system’s 3 autonomic states; safety, fight / flight and freeze, and shift stuck patterns of unconscious defensiveness which are causing havoc in our lives, and shifting those patterns back to states of connection and safety.
Our trauma informed therapy continues to be delivered at no cost to clients both face to face when we visit the communities of Mallacoota and Cobargo and remotely. We recommend a minimum of 10 therapy sessions and we regularly assess the prevalence of symptoms throughout engagement.
Emily has had a specific interest in trauma since she started her private practice in Central Victoria in 2010. – she understands trauma on a personal level and found that there was no amount of talking about our traumatic experiences that would shift the pattern of survival and defensiveness in her Autonomic Nervous system.
Initially starting her career as a life coach, equine therapist and Transpersonal Counsellor she has honed her skills and immersed herself in 4 years of study with International Trauma Treatment Modality “Somatic Experiencing International’. Founded by Dr Peter Levine.
In 2015 she partnered with Federation University in a research project that studied the efficacy of her therapy model over three cohorts (children, youth and adults) . The research highlighted and validated the efficacy of this treatment across all three cohorts.
Since the research project Emily has continued to train and develop her skills in trauma treatment and is continuing to collate date and evidence on the therapy she delivers and the outcomes achieved with clients.
What is Somatic Experiencing?
Somatic Experiencing is a body oriented approach to treating trauma that focuses on processing traumatic memory, calming the nervous system and releasing traumatic shock from the body.
Peter Levine developed the approach by observing how animals behave in the wild. He noticed that after being faced with a threat, animals are capable of returning to a regulated healthy state relatively quickly. Humans on the other hand tend to remain stuck in hyper-vigilance after experiencing trauma far more than animals do. Peter concluded that this happens because moving out of a trauma response often involves coming back into contact with painful sensations.
For more primitive animals, this is a process they cant resist. But as humans with higher order thinking, we’re capable of over riding and avoiding those uncomfortable experiences. The goal of Somatic Experiencing therefore, is to help a client reconnect with their inherent ability to tolerate distressing emotions.
SSP (Safe and Sound Protocol)
SSP is another therapy we incorporate which also does not require ‘talking about our trauma’. A non-invasive auditory intervention designed to reduce stress, enhance social engagement, and improve auditory sensitivity and behavioural state regulation. It involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune and regulate the nervous system.
The program is based on Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory and is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising and systematically challenging the auditory system with specially processed music. The music focuses on the frequency envelope of human speech, which helps improve the functioning of two cranial nerves important for promoting overall social behaviour. These cranial nerves are:
Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve): Helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies.
Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve): Enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.
The SSP has demonstrated benefits for individuals with trauma, anxiety, sensory processing differences, and more. It can be used as a standalone intervention or in conjunction with other therapeutic approaches and modalities.
Somatic Equine Therapy
Drawing upon principles from polyvagal theory and Somatic Experiencing our equine therapy horses support and deepen awareness to clients specifically around bodily expression, sensation and activation of the social engagement system. They can also bring awareness and support to the natural oscillation that occurs within mammals nervous systems of fight / flight / freeze and safety, connection and attunement. (Sympathetic and parasympathetic arousal).
Drawing upon resources such as being present to sensory awareness, sensation, orienting, following impulses, attunement, connection and movement are all behaviours they naturally incorporate in order to maintain equilibrium within their nervous system. Horses are Somatic and naturally and intuitively function from their intuition and bodily sense. They have a heightened awareness of body posture, tone of voice, our facial tone, and our autonomic state. They can pick up on this and often reflect this back to us bringing awareness to how we are presenting and what we are projecting out to others in a non judgemental way.
With this increased level of awareness supported by interactions with the horses we can start to become more responsive to our autonomic nervous system and less reactive to the signals it is sending us. The horses offer us feedback and support in a very clear but non judgemental way.
Community Members Experiences
Emily’s Stable Trauma Counselling has been a game changer for me. After over 10 years and a vast array of other therapies this has been my light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like nothing else I have experienced and I am so grateful. I was losing hope that I couldn’t get any better. It is so different to regular therapy , you have to trust the process, but I promise you, it’s worth it. Fundamentally I feel like its supporting / processing / releasing thoughts and feelings stuck in the body, some that have been there for many years . Some you might not have even known were there.
How to Register
Registration & Contact
Simply register your details with us by filling out our Trauma Symptom Survey. (TSS) All information you share with us is completely confidential and will only be used to assess your level of risk and to get in touch.
We Hear You
Assessment & Discussion
We will then assess the results of your survey and contact you to confirm you want to progress. We will then confirm the dates, times and location of your two face to face sessions.
Confirmation & Committment
By confirming your registration you are committing to 2 face to face sessions and a minimum of 10 subsequent remote sessions (either by phone or video conferencing). If you have any questions or concerns please get in touch.