What is it like to be a couples therapist after you have been trained in Somatic Experiencing®? Dr. Mary Giuffra describes it as “a beautiful marriage.”
Dr. Giuffra, an SE® Senior Assistant, has been a therapist for over 35 years. She is a New York State Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric Mental Health, and a New York State Registered Professional Nurse. Below is a link to a half-hour audio conversation about how she has integrated SE into her couples therapy work.
In this conversation, Dr. Giuffra describes how a trauma perspective enriches the understanding of patterns that are familiar to couples therapists. “When you think about it, the essence of a couple's relationship occurs in the body,” she says. “You're physically attracted, emotionally attracted –it's all in the body.” She talks about recurring patterns in the couple as manifestations of trauma taking over. And she outlines how an experiential approach can help deal with that.
An important characteristic of SE therapy is the quality of attunement and resonance between therapist and client. What happens when the client is not an individual, but a couple? Dr. Giuffra describes how the therapist can effectively be in attuned resonance with the couple. In this way, the SE couples therapist can continue to adhere to a fundamental principle of systems-oriented couples therapy— that the “client” to be focused on is the couple, not separate individuals.
This conversation with Dr Giuffra highlights that integrating SE into a couples practice is not just about using specific techniques. What emerges is a deeper understanding, in the therapist's own body, of what happens when two nervous systems interact:
“The body is the richest database of all: it's so wise,” says Dr. Giuffra. “The couple becomes a system – you can feel that in your own body.”
This is the first in a series of 30-minute audio conversations, each with a different SE practitioner. The goal is to explore how SEPs integrate SE into their practice. The tone is conversational and experiential, to convey a sense of what it's like to see things through this person's eyes. The series at SEPtalk.com is hosted by Serge Prengel (an SEP in New York City).