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Therapist Spotlight: Somatic Therapy with Sarah VanNatta, Ignite Counseling Colorado

Our motto is "Mental Health is More than Meds," and somatic therapy may be a good option for patients who are holding onto trauma in their bodies. We are proud to shine a spotlight today on Sarah VanNatta from Ignite Counseling Colorado who specializes in somatic therapy, and supports our mission to deliver exceptional mental healthcare in Colorado to everyone. Connecting patients to our network of high-quality therapists is part of the holistic philosophy we embrace at Axis Integrated Mental Health. These remarkable individuals are not just practitioners; they are catalysts for transformation, dedicated to guiding our patients toward thriving lives.

Pictures is Sarah VanNatta who provides somatic therapy at Ignite Counseling

What is somatic therapy?

Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to healing that recognizes the intricate connection between the mind and body. Unlike traditional talk therapy, somatic therapy emphasizes the importance of accessing and addressing the body's physical sensations, movements, and gestures as gateways to emotional processing and healing. By tapping into the wisdom stored in the body, somatic therapists help clients explore and release past traumas, unresolved emotions, and chronic stress that may manifest as physical symptoms. Through gentle techniques such as breathwork, movement, and body awareness, somatic therapy empowers individuals to reconnect with themselves on a deeper level, fostering profound healing and personal growth.

Could you share a bit about your journey into becoming a somatic therapist? What inspired you to pursue this profession?

I've had several phases in my life where I've participated in therapy, and some of those experiences profoundly impacted me, motivating me to support others in my community. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to truly hear your story and see you. That's what inspired me to want to be that person for others.

How would you describe your therapeutic approach or style? What sets it apart from others?

My therapeutic style is integrative, holistic, and multidimensional. I like to blend techniques and ideas from various therapy styles based on each client's unique needs. Specific approaches I use include person-centered, humanistic, somatic therapy, and trauma-focused methods. This approach sets me apart by addressing the whole person and exploring all areas and levels of their life and well-being.

What populations or specific issues do you specialize in treating, and why did you choose to focus on those?

I specialize in somatic therapy, which emphasizes the mind-body connection and investigates how past experiences, emotions, and trauma can manifest in physical sensations and patterns. This includes populations experiencing trauma, chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges with somatic components. I chose to focus on somatic therapy because I enjoy exploring the connection between emotions, thoughts, and physical experiences—everything is connected!

Can you share a particularly challenging case you've worked on and how you navigated it? What did you learn from that experience?

I once had a case where the client and I weren't a good fit, but I continued trying to make it work. I sought support through supervision and ultimately referred the client to another mental health provider. I learned that if the client-therapist relationship doesn't feel right, it's crucial to address it. Mismatches happen, and forcing it only delays finding the right match elsewhere.

How do you incorporate cultural sensitivity and diversity into your practice?

I continuously educate myself about my cultural biases, assumptions, and privileges. I respect and honor clients' cultural identities, experiences, and perspectives by discussing their culture and encouraging further dialogue in our therapy. I also consider how cultural beliefs and practices affect the therapeutic process.

What do you believe is the most crucial factor in fostering a strong therapeutic alliance with your clients?

Trust and a sense of safety.

I strive to create a supportive and safe environment for clients by using a trauma-informed approach to care. This involves focusing on cultivating a strong therapeutic relationship and building trust in the early stages of treatment while supporting a nonjudgmental atmosphere where clients are encouraged to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of criticism or shame.

How do you stay updated with the latest research and techniques in the field of therapy?

I stay updated through professional organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA), which provide access to research publications, webinars, and networking opportunities. I also participate in trainings, supervision groups, and conduct my research through reading books and articles.

Can you share a success story from your practice that you're particularly proud of?

I feel most proud when I witness clients experiencing small but significant moments of hope that weren't there before our work together.

A moment that comes to mind is when a client of mine cried for the first time in several years. They reported a struggle in not being able to cry at the beginning of our work together and after a few months of therapy, there was a session where they shed some tears. I believe that being witnessed in their pain and having a person hear their story led the client to a place where they felt safe enough to cry and become more in touch with how they were feeling. I share this specific story because a breakthrough in therapy does not always need to be a monumental moment; it can be something that seems subtle from the outside looking in, but is significant for the person experiencing it.

How do you approach self-care and preventing burnout as a therapist?

Self-care is essential; I have a plan in place for daily, weekly, and monthly self-care practices. If I'm burnt out, I can't fully support my clients. This means maintaining strict boundaries outside of work and prioritizing my health and well-being.

In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions people have about therapy, and how do you address them in your practice?

A common misconception is that therapists have all the answers, which isn't true. Having that conversation opens deeper discussions about being human and navigating life together.

How do you measure progress or success in therapy, and how do you ensure your clients feel empowered throughout the process?

I ask this question at the beginning of therapy work: ”How will we know that progress is being made in therapy?” I think that having a clear idea of what ‘progress’ and ‘success’ mean and look like for the client is vital in having a mutual understanding of the treatment. I ensure my clients feel empowered throughout the process by doing monthly check-ins on the treatment plan, asking the clients how they feel about our work together, and making any necessary changes.

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