Achieving a state of balance for the body is the goal.
By Christine Graf
After living in war zones in Africa and the Middle East, trauma intervention specialist Dr. David Berceli developed Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) to help the body release stress, tension, and trauma. Berceli believes he’s developed a plan that activates the body’s natural reflex mechanism of shaking or tremoring to release muscular tension, calm the nervous system, and bring the body back into a state of balance. Berceli travels around the world, teaching TRE to first-responders, members of the military, and victims of natural disasters and other traumatic events.
TRE consists of seven exercises that can be modified based on physical limitations. It typically takes three to six sessions individually or in a group with a certified trainer to learn the exercises.
“It’s working the deepest part of our neurophysiology and trying to return the body to a natural state where all of our systems are working in harmony again,” says Donna Phillips, an exercise physiologist, and certified yoga therapist. “As easy as that sounds, there’s a huge complexity to it because stress and trauma are complex.”
Phillips integrated TRE into her practice in 2008, and she is the primary trainer on the East Coast. She has worked with many medical and mental health providers who now use TRE in their practices. She has also worked with Army Rangers and Green Berets and was even invited to Fort Bragg to work with special operations soldiers and their families. “It was profound,” says Phillips when describing her two days at Fort Bragg. “The people I worked with felt like their nervous systems were finally able to down-regulate. They felt safe, and they said they wanted more.”
Phillips says approximately 90 percent of clients have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “People come to me and say, ‘You’re my last chance. I’ve tried everything else,’” she says. “Before I integrated TRE into my practice, it was taking one to two years before my clients were living life again. After I integrated TRE, I was seeing the same results in three to six months.”
Her clients have ranged in age from 3 to 92 and have used TRE to help with chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, and a variety of other ailments. Phillips notes that it is not necessary for clients with PTSD to discuss their trauma with TRE practitioners. “I don’t need to know their stories. That’s one of the beauties of TRE,” she says. “This is the body’s voice. It’s about making people feel safe in their skin.”
Berceli estimates that 60 countries practice TRE, and its use is especially widespread in South Africa. A successful TRE pilot program was launched in 2012 at Cape Town’s SOS Children’s Village, a home for abandoned, orphaned and abused children. It has proven to be highly effective in helping both students and staff members cope with trauma and stress. A study published in the South African Journal of Psychology concluded that practicing TRE could result in significant reductions in stress.
Firefighter Lecky Harrison says he was skeptical when he first tried TRE. But he became a believer after trying it. “As crazy as it seems, it works,” he says.