Here are some of the leading research-supported strategies for improving and maintaining physiological self-regulation. These activities can be helpful for anyone, and in particular can be helpful for those who are experiencing extra emotion around their trauma-focused therapy.
Yoga is an organized system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation derived from Hindu traditions in Yoga. Medically-based, trauma-focused yoga therapy is studied and practiced within an evidenced-based framework that focuses on the increase in physiological and psychological health and well-being. However, there is no special reason to believe that the researched form of yoga is more beneficial than other types.
Rhodes, A., Spinazzola, J., & van der Kolk, B. (2016). Yoga for Adult Women with Chronic PTSD: A Long-Term Follow-Up Study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 22(3), 189–196. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0407
Payne P, Peter A. Levine PA, Mardi A. Crane-Godreau. Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 93. Published online 2015 Feb 4. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093
American Psychological Association (APA)
Mindfulness Meditation is a practice that involves acceptance through non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings as they arise in experience. The practice involves techniques of breathing and posture that focus on the moment by moment awareness of feelings, thoughts, somatic sensations, and the environment around us.
Kelly, A., & Garland, E. L. (2016). Trauma-Informed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Female Survivors of Interpersonal Violence: Results From a Stage I RCT. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72(4), 311–328. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22273
Thompson, R. W., Arnkoff, D. B., & Glass, C. R. (2011). Conceptualizing Mindfulness and Acceptance as Components of Psychological Resilience to Trauma. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 12(4), 220–235. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838011416375
Overview of Mindfulness Meditation research at UCLA
Neurofeedback therapies work to train the brain to function in a calm resting state, which involves the regulation of emotion and the stress response. This is a gradual process that involves positive feedback strategies that focus on the efficiency of brain function in terms of regulatory processes.
Rosaura, P. A., Witteveen, A., Denys, D., & Olff, M. (2015). Breathing Biofeedback as an Adjunct to Exposure in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Hastens the Reduction of PTSD Symptoms: A Pilot Study. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 40(1), 25–31. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-015-9268-y
Hamiel, D. (2005). Children Under Stress and Trauma: The Use of Biofeedback, Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, and Mindfulness for Integrated and Balanced Coping. Biofeedback, 33(4), 149–152.
Othmer, S., & Othmer, S. F. (2009). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-The Neurofeedback Remedy. Biofeedback, 37(1), 24–31.
Links to Research: http://www.fwneurofeedback.com/research-on-ptsd/
Regular, vigorous sustained exercise for 30 minutes or longer can mediate the impact of various mental health conditions. From treating anxiety to mood enhancement to brain regulation, research is continuing to indicate that exercise can significantly aid in the recovery from mental health conditions.
Harte, C. B., Vujanovic, A. A., & Potter, C. M. (2015). Association Between Exercise and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Trauma-Exposed Adults. Evaluation & the Health Professions, 38(1), 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163278713494774
Newman, C. L., & Motta, R. (2007). The effects of aerobic exercise on childhood PTSD, anxiety, and depression. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 9, 133–158.
Rosenbaum, S., Vancampfort, D., Steel, Z., Newby, J., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2015). Physical activity in the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 130–136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.10.017
American Psychological Association (APA)
Animal-assisted Therapy is based on the relationship network and process of relating between client, animal and therapist. The broad goals of animal-assisted therapy are to restore and maintain physical, cognitive and emotional functions of the client.
O’Haire, M. E., Guérin, N. A., & Kirkham, A. C. (2015). Animal-Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01121
Mims, D., & Waddell, R. (2016). Animal Assisted Therapy and Trauma Survivors. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 13(5), 452–457. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761407.2016.1166841
Journaling and expressive writing are forms and ways of processing the internal experience of events that have occurred in the past by bringing clarity to the emotional and cognitive content of the experience. Differentiating the components of the experience and re-integrating them within a grounded understanding of oneself in the present, is a way to re-narrate the experience and come to terms with the past event in a safe present context.
Chan, K. M., & Horneffer, K. (2006). Emotional expression and psychological symptoms: A comparison of writing and drawing. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 33(1), 26–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2005.06.001
Hirai, M., Skidmore, S. T., Clum, G. A., & Dolma, S. (2012). An Investigation of the Efficacy of Online Expressive Writing for Trauma-Related Psychological Distress in Hispanic Individuals. Behavior Therapy, 43(4), 812–824. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2012.04.006
Baikie, Karen A., and Kay Wilhelm. “Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11.5 (2005): 338-346.