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EP:38: Somatic Therapy with Basya Pessin
Basya’s clients are in all kinds of pain; she works with a lot of trauma and sexual abuse.
This wasn’t something she specifically chose, it happened organically. In school, Basya chose to pursue the area of substance abuse and did her internship at a substance abuse clinic which wasn’t right for her. She then transferred to working with trauma cases and sexual abuse.
Basya lives in Pomona and is a licensed clinical social worker. She sees clients privately and teaches new social workers at Sara Schneier college. Teaching is a lot of work but she really enjoys it. She always leaves teaching with an energy and loves to know that she is involved in helping other people be there for more people. She started off working in a clinic, which she loved, but she had to be constantly “on” with no break. She had incredible supervisors and learned a lot from them. In the clinic, you’ll get the best kind of experience because all different types of people move through clinics. However, Basya always knew that she wanted to open a private practice so that she could work for herself.
People don’t go into the field of social work for a paycheck.
The people who enter this field, and are willing to deal with the heaviness that comes with it, care tremendously about their clients. It’s not just a job to them or else they could’ve gone into a different field. People entering this field always have something to give before they even know it. It’s natural to doubt yourself and think what can I offer my clients? Basya always thinks that no matter what, she has provided her clients with a safe space to unload and this in itself is special. It’s hard to remember that it’s not personal when you don’t mesh with a client and feel like you can’t help them. This feeling of imposter syndrome is not something that goes away with time. There is a lot of inner work involved in maintaining feelings of self worth. The way we behave, is the way we model our clients to behave.
Therapists are usually trained from a cognitive perspective at first, but Basya didn’t connect to this.
When she trained in somatic work, she connected to it right away because it was a different way of approaching things. We all have a nervous system which is there to regulate our body. We all have the capacity to regulate ourselves, but throughout life we lose this ability. You don’t need to remind yourself to breathe, but when you are in a situation where you forget to, you need to remind yourself to breathe in and out. The somatic approach is about relearning to regulate and find calm in your nervous system.
We hold a lot of our experiences in our body. It’s not about thinking and what’s going on in your brain, but about what’s going on in your body.
When you go through something that’s violating or painful, you don’t have time to think it through. Your brain protects you from thinking. What’s available in that moment is the part of you that acts and only afterwards do you have time to process. We need to address what happened from that felt-sense experience- what you felt in the moment and what your body experienced. If you don’t address what happened when your brain wasn’t there, how are you going to process it using your brain? In talk therapy, therapists are so interested in the details of what happened. Contrastingly, in somatic work, when figuring out how an experience felt in the body, you don’t need to discuss every single detail. It’s not always safe to go back to that experience for a person in an abuse situation. Sometimes people get uncomfortable with somatic work and feeling inside their bodies. A lot of people have been told to focus on what their body looks like on the outside and this causes us to stop focusing on the inside.
The things that we learn and relearn happen in little bites.
When a new neural connection is made in your brain, every time you have a new positive experience, it starts to attach these neural experiences together. Imagine walking through a field of grass. It may be hard to walk through the grass the first time. Now imagine a shortcut that people have been taking for years. The grass isn’t even there anymore and it’s so easy to walk though. When you keep doing something again and again, your brain starts to create a pathway. In the beginning the path is really hard to get through, but each little bit adds up to create a pathway in your brain. We’re not permanently one way so brains are able to reshape.
Basya wants people to know that therapy is a very real thing.
Going to therapy looks like a “cool” fad now, especially on Instagram, but therapy is serious and used for real problems. Therapy is a safe space for you to talk. As a therapist, if the only thing you can offer in the moment is just a place to listen to someone, even that is enough. Just to know someone has space for you is a big comfort. Our capacity to empathize is endless. We don’t need to save our empathy for the most intense situations. It’s so important for us to empathize with other people, so that people know that they can empathize with others. When someone doesn’t know how to give empathy, it means that no one ever gave it to them, so we have to show them that empathy doesn’t run out.
Basya Pessin is a Psychotherapist licensed as a Clinical Social Worker. She has been practicing for close to a decade. She sees women, young adults, and teens in her private practice and teaches social work students. She guides clients to build self awareness and discover how their past conditioning contributes to their current struggles and triggers. Through this work, clients can unlearn ways of coping that are no longer serving them and live more mindfully and intentionally. She believes that therapy and healing should be accessible to all humans. Working on emotional health is a privilege that everyone should enjoy and should never be considered shameful.
Contact info: [email protected]
To watch this episode on YouTube, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1X-02QE6-g
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Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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