Meet the 2022 Peter A. Levine Student Research Award Winner

by | Oct 20, 2022 | ARTICLES, RESEARCH

“Somatic Reclamation: Exploring the Lived Experience of Word Woundings”

In October 2022, Dr. Cacky Mellor was awarded one of two Peter A. Levine Research Awards for her work exploring word woundings and the process of coming into relationship with them. Thank you to Dr. Mellor for building the evidence base for SE!



Hate speech, verbal abuse, and verbal microaggressions have wide reaching and long-lasting traumatic biopsychosocial impact. This research examined a facilitated embodied artistic exploration of word woundings, the negative felt sense of a word.

This research drew primarily on the fields of somatic studies, depth psychology, and expressive arts therapy to explore how the words of others—from verbal abuse to careless verbal slights—can impact an individual physically, psychologically, interpersonally, and spiritually. Concepts from embodied social justice and critical theory are used to examine the possibility of how identifying with and internalizing a wounding word can internalize the oppression that the word represents.


The study utilized a body-centered, art-informed research methodology to explore word woundings. Six volunteers located in the continental United States participated. In one-on-one sessions the participant and researcher worked together in a somatic reclamation process to cocreate a visual representation of the participant’s word wounding and apply the image to their body as part of coming into relationship with it.


The process facilitated a new and deeper understanding of the origin and experience of the wound. The participants reported a transformative experience as a result of the process.


The study suggests that the somatic reclamation process can be utilized to heal personal and collective word woundings.


Dr. Mellor is Visiting Faculty at Lesley University’s Psychology & Applied Therapies department and has a remote somatic private practice, Somatic Reclamation, working with individuals. She has spent the past 15+ years studying the power of words on the body, mind, soul, and society. In undergrad, she studied art therapy and holistic psychology at Lesley University, after which she received her Masters of Education in art-based activism and social entrepreneurship from Lesley's Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences. She earned her PhD in Depth Psychology with an emphasis in Somatic Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Dr. Mellor's current scholarship is centered around the internalization of language, narrative, and trauma on a somatic level and how it affects interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. She is deeply passionate about social justice, the arts, intergenerational trauma, and somatics.