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Working with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

Melody Myers Interviews Expansive Therapy Founders Megan & Nick

Melody:  How did you come to work with Dr. van der Kolk?

Megan: We are always looking for ways to support our therapists and their continued training.  I also have a personal desire to keep our team connected in this new zoom life.  I initially reached out to Bessel’s assistant to see if he might do a one off for us.  A little lecture or something. I struck up a friendship with her and together we created this experience.  I think Dr. van der Kolk's motivation for working with us was wanting to feel that his work was getting disseminated and used in the real world. 

Nick: I do think that he was interested in our practice because he thought we were a true group practice and he liked how we all worked together on cases. He also liked that we served a community with a lot of trauma. I always felt that he was excited by the team cohesion at the practice and that our clinicians were relatively young and hungry for knowledge. 

Melody: How did the collaboration with Dr. van der Kolk impact your practice?

Nick: I feel like it gave our practice a cutting edge understanding of trauma, and the ability to think creatively and outside the box about healing trauma, with the knowledge that every person and every nervous system is different. 

Megan: Yes, totally.  There is no one answer for anyone.  We got this over and over.  It was so great, everyone was super excited, along with being nervous!  Everyone was very awake.  I do think when you get further into training, delving deeper into any one discipline, it’s like the more you know the more you realize that there is so much that you don’t know.  The trauma is stored in the body, but the healing process is not cookie cutter in any way.

Melody: What happened during your experience together?

Megan: The whole practice would gather on zoom for an initial small lecture by him, and then we broke into 3 groups and he would go with one of the groups.  In the small group a therapist would present a case, show a video of the session, and then open it up for discussion with Dr. van der Kolk's leading.  It was incredible to hear what he had to say about the clients and the therapist’s interventions.

Nick: He always gave his honest thoughts and feelings, which was tough at times, but extremely valuable. It often showed us the ways in which the therapist and client were colluding in avoiding trauma. I had to reflect on my own work a lot, and realize that I was just as guilty of this as any other therapist at the practice. The thing about therapy is that you and your client get into a groove together, and you get comfortable in that groove, but that’s the same thing that happens in the traumatized brain - finding a familiar neurochemical groove that avoids the pain, at the expense of the richness of life. 


(Below Photos of Expansive Therapy Founders Left to Right: Nick Fager and Megan Murphy)

Melody:  How did you come to work with Dr. van der Kolk?

Megan: We are always looking for ways to support our therapists and their continued training.  I also have a personal desire to keep our team connected in this new zoom life.  I initially reached out to Bessel’s assistant to see if he might do a one off for us.  A little lecture or something. I struck up a friendship with her and together we created this experience.  I think Dr. van der Kolk's motivation for working with us was wanting to feel that his work was getting disseminated and used in the real world. 

Nick: I do think that he was interested in our practice because he thought we were a true group practice and he liked how we all worked together on cases. He also liked that we served a community with a lot of trauma. I always felt that he was excited by the team cohesion at the practice and that our clinicians were relatively young and hungry for knowledge. 

Melody: How did the collaboration with Dr. van der Kolk impact your practice?

Nick: I feel like it gave our practice a cutting edge understanding of trauma, and the ability to think creatively and outside the box about healing trauma, with the knowledge that every person and every nervous system is different. 

Megan: Yes, totally.  There is no one answer for anyone.  We got this over and over.  It was so great, everyone was super excited, along with being nervous!  Everyone was very awake.  I do think when you get further into training, delving deeper into any one discipline, it’s like the more you know the more you realize that there is so much that you don’t know.  The trauma is stored in the body, but the healing process is not cookie cutter in any way.

Melody: What happened during your experience together?

Megan: The whole practice would gather on zoom for an initial small lecture by him, and then we broke into 3 groups and he would go with one of the groups.  In the small group a therapist would present a case, show a video of the session, and then open it up for discussion with Dr. van der Kolk's leading.  It was incredible to hear what he had to say about the clients and the therapist’s interventions.

Nick: He always gave his honest thoughts and feelings, which was tough at times, but extremely valuable. It often showed us the ways in which the therapist and client were colluding in avoiding trauma. I had to reflect on my own work a lot, and realize that I was just as guilty of this as any other therapist at the practice. The thing about therapy is that you and your client get into a groove together, and you get comfortable in that groove, but that’s the same thing that happens in the traumatized brain - finding a familiar neurochemical groove that avoids the pain, at the expense of the richness of life. 


(Below Photos of Expansive Therapy Founders Left to Right: Nick Fager and Megan Murphy)

Melody:  How did you come to work with Dr. van der Kolk?

Megan: We are always looking for ways to support our therapists and their continued training.  I also have a personal desire to keep our team connected in this new zoom life.  I initially reached out to Bessel’s assistant to see if he might do a one off for us.  A little lecture or something. I struck up a friendship with her and together we created this experience.  I think Dr. van der Kolk's motivation for working with us was wanting to feel that his work was getting disseminated and used in the real world. 

Nick: I do think that he was interested in our practice because he thought we were a true group practice and he liked how we all worked together on cases. He also liked that we served a community with a lot of trauma. I always felt that he was excited by the team cohesion at the practice and that our clinicians were relatively young and hungry for knowledge. 

Melody: How did the collaboration with Dr. van der Kolk impact your practice?

Nick: I feel like it gave our practice a cutting edge understanding of trauma, and the ability to think creatively and outside the box about healing trauma, with the knowledge that every person and every nervous system is different. 

Megan: Yes, totally.  There is no one answer for anyone.  We got this over and over.  It was so great, everyone was super excited, along with being nervous!  Everyone was very awake.  I do think when you get further into training, delving deeper into any one discipline, it’s like the more you know the more you realize that there is so much that you don’t know.  The trauma is stored in the body, but the healing process is not cookie cutter in any way.

Melody: What happened during your experience together?

Megan: The whole practice would gather on zoom for an initial small lecture by him, and then we broke into 3 groups and he would go with one of the groups.  In the small group a therapist would present a case, show a video of the session, and then open it up for discussion with Dr. van der Kolk's leading.  It was incredible to hear what he had to say about the clients and the therapist’s interventions.

Nick: He always gave his honest thoughts and feelings, which was tough at times, but extremely valuable. It often showed us the ways in which the therapist and client were colluding in avoiding trauma. I had to reflect on my own work a lot, and realize that I was just as guilty of this as any other therapist at the practice. The thing about therapy is that you and your client get into a groove together, and you get comfortable in that groove, but that’s the same thing that happens in the traumatized brain - finding a familiar neurochemical groove that avoids the pain, at the expense of the richness of life. 


(Below Photos of Expansive Therapy Founders Left to Right: Nick Fager and Megan Murphy)

Found Nick Fager
Found Nick Fager
Found Nick Fager
Founder Megan Murphy
Founder Megan Murphy
Founder Megan Murphy

Melody: Were there key concepts or takeaways you could highlight about your time together?

Nick: I felt like a big takeaway for me was the importance of what's happening for the client outside of the therapy room, how important it is to establish body practices or connect with activities and communities that activate your nervous system. He taught me to view the client more holistically and to broaden the focus of the work, so it's less about healing in the 45 minutes we have together each week, and more about working with the client to build out their life in a way that is healing to their nervous system. Therapy became more of a creative collaboration. And then in the therapy room, to not put too much pressure on “going there” if the client is not ready and resourced, to let the work unfold naturally and focus on resourcing ourselves as therapists. 

Megan: Right.  Right. It’s such a broad way to look at healing.  How do you go from a person who is continually experiencing aspects of the original trauma, while trying to create a new experience of life where you are free to the beauty of the moment, unencumbered by the past?  I loved that he was also really interested in the healing possibility of psychedelic work. 

Melody: What unique offerings can you provide or unique specializations can you offer because of Dr. van der Kolk's?

Nick: Trauma informed care is sort of a buzzword these days, but I do feel that our experience with Bessel gave our therapists the ability to be with our clients’ trauma in a competent and resourced way. Dr. van der Kolk also inspired us to attend an Internal Family Systems training with the founder of IFS, Richard Shwartz, and we have found that to be an extremely helpful framework for looking at trauma. Modern psychotherapy is all about adding tools to your toolbelt, and I believe that our therapists have a great deal of tools for effectively treating trauma. 

Megan: Yes, and for me, the emphasis on somatic work in general, to actually speak to and with the body.  I’m really grateful that we all got to hang out with him.  I mean, his body of work speaks for itself. Having him critique and supervise and compliment our work, well that just stays with you.  I would say that as a whole our practice is better informed than most on what  trauma actually is, how it impacts the individual and how to  work with it.  Dr. van der Kolk's was very human and curious and I think that encouraged our therapists to lean into this as well.  To let go of the idea that we are supposed to know the client or their experience, and be very free to ask all kinds of questions. I think our therapists think more creatively now about healing trauma and assess what works for each individual client, both in and out of the therapy room.

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© 2023 EXPANSIVE THERAPY | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Stay in the Know

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Drop us a line.

Questions, concerns or need support?


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(917)426-1521

© 2023 EXPANSIVE THERAPY | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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