by Evie Rose, Voices from the Scars
Introduction: This capstone project examines the power of somatic awareness, coupled with Gestalt, and their collective ability to change how I interact with my clients and in everyday life.
Significance: To accentuate the impact of Somatic awareness in my healing journey with Gestalt.
Purpose: To document observed changes in myself, and my clients, after experiencing the synergistic effects of Gestalt and somatic awareness.
Setting and Participants: The setting is a private, individual coaching session with Melisa Pearce that occurred on the Touched by a Horse campus in Elizabeth, Colorado.
Capstone Description/Process: In November of 2020, I had a session with Pearce that changed my relationship with my body via Gestalt. The mind-body connection became the foundation for this healing experience. Gestalt, practiced at a conscious, mental level demonstrated that it has the ability to heal the body.
Somatic experiencing can effectively heal people from trauma. What has occurred in your mind is stored in your body. Pearce’s creative use of Gestalt to explore the trauma scripted within my mind, accompanied by the invitation to focus on the concurrent physical sensations in my body, facilitated behavioral change and healing.
Under Pearce’s skillful guidance, resultant physical tension stored in my body induced by trauma, was released concurrent with its causal memories. Pearce’s use of Gestalt in this progression led to the release of traumatic memories stored in my body and the release of the associated muscle tension as well.
Capstone Results/Impact: Pearce’s staged coaching method resulted in the removal of emotional barriers that were impeding me from progressing as both a person and a practitioner. Pearce knows that trauma can reshape the body leading to the inability to feel pleasure and trust. Pearce used various Gestalt techniques of trauma processing to rebuild the ability for me to be aware of what I feel. Pearce made it safe again for me to inhabit my body, be aware of what I know and tolerate what I feel.
This combination of Gestalt and somatic awareness is a powerful coaching technique experienced by me to be a catalyst for behavioral change. It’s impact on the potential to heal others going forward is limitless.
Capstone Evaluation: This rendering of my personal experience with Pearce was evaluated in the context of the pairing of Gestalt with somatic awareness. The principles and practices of each were examined separately, and then collectively, for their combined synergistic impact.
The evaluation results confirmed what I directly experienced during the process. That being the combination of Gestalt, combined with somatic awareness, has the ability to foster behavioral change and emotional healing.
Future Directions: Somatic awareness is a form of coaching that uses the body as a mechanism for healing mental health issues. In Gestalt, there is a correlation between conscious/physical experience and cerebral activity as in the mind-body connection referenced above.
Thus, future areas ripe for further exploration could include having clients train to become more aware of their physical sensations and how they relate to their thoughts and feelings. Also, instructing clients on how bodily sensations can reveal emotional stress.
Finally, further examination and analysis of Pearce’s use of a staged coaching technique allowing for the release of traumatic memories stored in the body followed by the release of the related muscle tension is recommended.
Acknowledgments: It is with a profound sense of gratitude and love that I acknowledge Melisa Pearce as my mentor, guide, teacher, and healer. My thanks go out to Lorrin M my EGCM® coach, and my GCM® Coach Marsha for their support. Heidi Soper for her guidance in exploring how my body expresses pain from my past experiences. Thomas & Jaclyn Manzione for their editing efforts.
Levine, P. (2010). In An Unspoken Voice. North Atlantic Books
Pearce, M. (2019). What the Heck is Gestalt? Touched by Horse, Inc
Van Der Kolk, Bessel (2015). The Body keeps the Score. Penguin Books