24 May Engaging the Senses to Find Healing
When Jessie sat down for their first meeting with their Clinical Advocate at WTLC, their heart and mind were racing. They explained to their counselor that they were feeling apprehensive about having to open up to yet another therapist, and that they were having trouble believing that things would actually be different this time. They also described an overwhelming sense of fear for their safety and shared that they hadn’t been able to calm down all day in anticipation of this meeting.
Their counselor validated their concerns and acknowledged how brave it was for a survivor of human trafficking to not only choose to escape their very dangerous situation, but to take it a step further by seeking out treatment. Jessie’s counselor asked whether they would be interested in exploring WTLC’s Sensory Room, a therapeutic space at our Center designed to help achieve calm by engaging the senses through the use of light, sound, and texture.
Jessie agreed to try it out, taking their time to work through the different areas of the room. They were particularly drawn to the bubble tube – a colorful glowing tube filled with water and bubbles – as well as the giant beanbag, which they could relax on while holding vibrating pillows. Their therapist explained the idea that engaging our senses when we’re in a heightened emotional state can help our brain and bodies to slow down and be fully in the present moment.
After spending some time engaging with the various elements of the Sensory Room, Jessie shared that they were feeling much calmer and that their heartrate had returned to normal. They told their counselor that they were very surprised that it had actually worked! As Jessie continued to come to WTLC for their weekly counseling sessions, they continued to use the Sensory Room as a component of their healing plan – sometimes before a session, sometimes after, and sometimes throughout the hour that they were meeting with their counselor.
Often when we are stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, we can feel out of control. While we might not all have a state-of-the-art Sensory Room to go to in these difficult times, there are many other great tricks that allow you to use your senses help ground yourself in the present moment. This can be as simple as taking a look around the room and making a mental note of five things you see around you, holding an ice cube in your hand and feeling the cold as it melts, or placing your feet firmly on the floor and wiggling your toes.