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Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

what is it and how can it help?

The Development of TCTSY

The foundations of TCTSY as an intervention for complex trauma


Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is a facilitated movement practice and“empirically validated, clinical intervention for complex trauma or chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” created at the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts (CTE website). TCTSY continues to develop with feedback from research, participants, and facilitators. Today, TCTSY is centered in a framework of social justice, acknowledging the nature of trauma in oppression.

The significance of each of the core components of the TCTSY model can be explained by the research from the past century into three areas of human behavior, listed below.

Trauma theory
What we know about trauma/complex trauma and how it shows up in people’s lives beyond what’s been codified in the DSM-V (in the US), e.g., depression, anxiety, dissociation, violence, high-risk behaviors.

The importance of our internal felt sense (interoception) for wellbeing. This internal sense operates via our nervous system/brain; trauma changes our brain and can show up as faulty or absent interoception.

The role of healthy attachment in building relational structures upon which most social norms are built.

From the beginning in 2002, the team behind TCTSY have tested and modified TCTSY based on feedback from participations and data from studies quantifying and reporting qualitative efficacy of the intervention in the context of other research-backed forms of treatment (Nguyen-Feng et al., 2019; Nguyen-Feng et al., 2020; Price et al., 2017; Rhodes et al., 2016; van der Kolk et al., 2014). For example, a recent randomized clinical trial compared the outcomes of TCTSY with those of CPT (cognitive processing therapy), the current “gold-standard treatment” for PTSD (the only trauma diagnosis recognized by the DSM-V) and found that TCTSY is at least as effective if not more so (Kelly et al., 2021).

Being that TCTSY was developed in such a way that its efficacy could be demonstrated quantitatively with research, it might sound like it has a narrow application as an adjunctive treatment in clinical settings. In practice, TCTSY is being used with a diverse array of people experiencing complex trauma, and new research continues is becoming available every year to support the efficacy of TCTSY with and without adaptations for specific audiences (Cattie, 2021; Owen Smith, 2021; Spinazzola 2011). Beyond what we have published research to demonstrate, facilitators in the field are bringing TCTSY into schools, residential centers, jails and prisons, and counselor-facilitators are bringing TCTSY into their 1:1 sessions with adults, adolescents, and children from many backgrounds and with a variety of traumatic experiences.

Whether TCTSY is demonstrated to be effective with X or Y population, complex trauma is the common thread.


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