Trauma Informed Surfing?

by Stars Training Academy   1 Comment

There’s a program for Transition Age Youth (TAY) in Orange County, California that offers regular surfing outings to its members. These young people learn how to power through crashing waves, find their balance on a hurtling plank of fiberglass, and manage their fears enough to discover the joys of the Pacific. To the casual observer, the group looks like any other beginner surfing class. But under the watchful eyes of the program staff, these brave young people with emotional and behavioral difficulties gain more than just skills carving waves. They can begin to develop a sense of control and confidence, acquire a mastery of their own fears, and just plain have fun.

For traumatized people, these are no small things. Traumatic experiences can compromise self-confidence and perpetuate a sense of lost control and personal power. Young people with histories of neglect and abuse can feel adrift in an overwhelming ocean of pain and intermittent terror. Activities that help young people practice self-regulation skills can be invaluable steps towards healing.

In his book, Waking the Tiger , Peter Levine, PhD, describes the concept of “pendulation.” Pendulation refers to the movement between feeling regulated (calm and in control) and feeling dysregulated (aroused, frozen or anxious). Dr. Levine contends in his approach called “Somatic Experiencing” that helping traumatized people progress from a state of dysregulation to a state of regulation is vital for recovery.

Other TAY programs provide a great variety of opportunities to practice emotional regulation. A TAY program in Fresno offers rock climbing classes. The same Orange County program also involves youth in horseback riding. Many other TAY programs offer sailing, camping and hiking. These kinds of “out-of-the-box” activities create opportunities for bonding, for exposure to potential recreational interests, and for young people’s growth and healing.

What out-of-the-box activities do you offer your young people or have you seen used elsewhere?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lara September 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Could you please tell me what the name of the program that is using surfing and horses in Orange County?

Thanks

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