Havening Therapy – healing through touch. An interview with Sharna Hussain
Do you know what ‘havening’ means? It is a new word in my dictionary, that’s why I am asking. Maybe it is also a new one for you. You know, for many of us, English is a second language, and we constantly learn… So ‘Havening’. Just hear it. And imagine a gentle touch on your skin. A touch that is full of love, trust, and compassion. A beautiful connection between two people. Havening. Heaven. Healing. A new therapy approach. And imagine an open-hearted and warm woman who shares with us her experience of working this way with her clients. Today I introduce to you: Sharna Hussain. A psychologist, a Core Energetics somatic psychotherapist, EMDR therapist, and a holotropic breathwork facilitator.
WHAT IS HAVENING THERAPY?
Havening Therapy is a new form of psychological therapy which is suitable for individuals suffering from stress, troubling memories, or problems with mood such as depression and anxiety. It was developed by Dr. Ronald Ruden, a dental surgeon from New York, with a background in hypnotherapy and coaching. He became interested in the work of Dr. Peter Levine a pioneer in body-centered trauma therapies, who developed the Somatic Experiencing (SE) technique. Dr. Ruben in recognising the effectiveness of SE set out to translate what the neuroscience could tell us about how such somatic techniques were able to produce such profoundly transformative changes for people, especially those with complex trauma. Then he created the Havening technique, a somewhat simpler version of SE.
However, Havening like Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Brainspotting belongs to a new category of psychological therapies, known as ‘psycho-sensory therapy’, which all demonstrate how sensory input can change the brain, which is particularly helpful for those suffering from trauma-related conditions, as prior to their development, talk therapies had limited efficacy for such individuals. It should be noted that such somatic psychotherapy techniques have been around for over a century but have only entered the mainstream in this burgeoning age of neuroscience.
HOW DOES A HAVENING THERAPY SESSION LOOK LIKE?
Havening sessions typically focus on an event (event havening), usually a troubling or traumatic one. Or alternatively, the session will focus on a specific emotion, or phobia (transpirational havening), that the client would like to release. In each instance, the client is asked to describe the manifestation of the problem in their body in as much detail as possible and then rate how distressing the felt sense of it is.
After checking the client’s readiness for touch the Havening practitioner touches the client’s hands, arms and face very gently. In instances where the client is not comfortable with touch, they will be guided to provide touch to their own arms, hands, and faces. Self-havening is also effective and a great emotional regulation tool that can be used outside of the sessions in moments when triggered.
The therapist will then use distraction techniques, simply by asking clients to recall different things, such as what they had for dinner the night before, or asking them to come up with the name of 6 places beginning with the letter C. These distraction techniques while very simple, act by taxing the working memory, which in turn leads to the relaxing of the defenses against feeling deep emotions.
HOW DOES HAVENING THERAPY WORK?
It’s like you skilfully bombard the client’s brain with subtle stimuli and then the walls come down. As I tell clients repeatedly in my sessions “you’ve got to feel it, to heal it.” In this way, many people who have suppressed emotions at the root of their issues will be able to access and release them.
The sessions are generally quite cathartic and cause the negative emotions to amplify and this mysteriously seems to prompt spontaneous resolution. It seems we can only heal trauma by really allowing the emotions to be relived and released. And afterwards the same memory or trigger simply does not evoke such a strong reaction anymore.
It is often the case that clients walk out of sessions feeling like they have had a significant breakthrough and gained lots of insights about their issue(s). But the real beauty of this work is that the healing and insights come from within the client, and not from the therapist. Using a neurobiological model though, Dr. Ruden believes that the touch provided to the client helps produce delta waves in the brain and increases serotonin while simultaneously reducing cortisol. As a result of the delta waves opening up calcium channels in the activated neurons of the amygdala pathway, the neuropathways associated with the PTSD, phobia or stuck emotion, are disrupted. The time in which this can be achieved is only a matter of minutes.
For a more thorough understanding of how the process works, and the neuroscientific conceptualizations around it, this video is available on YouTube gives more information.
FOR WHO HAVENING THERAPY COULD IT BE HELPFUL?
This therapy is proposed most helpful for those who feel their day-to-day functioning has been hampered by events in their life, including individuals with severe PTSD. It is also considered able to assist people struggling with phobias, sleep disorders, stress, personal and interpersonal issues.
HOW TO FIND A HAVENING THERAPIST?
Here is a website that has a directory of certified Havening practitioners:
GET TO KNOW SHARNA AND READ MORE ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE:
Necessarily look at the blog on the website 🙂
Share in the comments what you think about Havening therapy. Tell us if you had tried it or you are going to! Let’s talk about our experiences and thoughts… This discussion will be helpful for many of us considering trying this method.