Trauma is not what happens to us,
but what we hold inside
in the absence of an empathic witness.
- Dr. Peter A. Levine
My work invites you into mindful self inquiry, a deepened awareness of the felt sense and opportunities to learn about your nervous system. Our sessions may use a single approach or a blend depending on your unique needs. The work is collaborative, experiential and relational and is offered in person or online. I carefully and compassionately observe and respond to my clients' present moment experience to help them feel seen, to gain skills toward self agency, relieve stress and tension, build healthy self-esteem and to feel more emotionally balanced.
The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to ease the impact of trauma developed by Peter Levine, Ph.D. who noticed that prey animals, unlike humans were able to readily recover after life threatening events by releasing the accumulated energy from intense stress. The SE™ approach slowly and gently releases these patterns, restores connection and offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, freeze or collapse survival energies. SE™ guides clients towards nervous system regulation to help a person feel calm, centered and operating from a place of authenticity. Some feelings clients explore shifting include shame, anger, sadness, self-doubt and pervasive thoughts and fears. SE™ is a collaborative and creative process, often working at a slow and steady pace resulting in deeper states of feeling, personal power and self awareness.
I completed my three year SEP training in 2017. I trained with Nancy J. Napier, MA, LMFT (Beg), Dave Berger, MFT, PT, LCMHC, MA (Int), and Raja Selvam, PhD (Advanced I&II).
I am an active member of Somatic Experiencing® International's (SEI) teaching assistant team.
For more information about SE™ click here Somatic Experiencing
Inner Relationship Focusing
I bring the language of Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF) into all my work. IRF is about having a positive and supportive relationship with yourself. IRF emphasizes being in gentle, allowing relationship with all parts of one's being. This includes parts of ourselves that are in conflict, parts that are critical, parts often denied or pushed away as unacceptable or shaming, parts that are overwhelming and parts that are so buried or subtle they need to be drawn out with patience. IRF helps clients to have a relationship with the felt sense so they can be consciously aware of their inner experience, tapping into a deep sense of knowing that is beyond conceptual understanding. This allows new possibilities to emerge for emotion, thought, and behavior. Clients gain more clarity and learn empowering skills of self-support to bring into daily life. Inner Relationship Focusing was developed by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin, as a refinement and expansion of the Focusing process discovered and developed by Eugene Gendlin.
I have completed all three modules with Maureen Gallagher, PhD who is also faculty at the Somatic Experiencing Institute and integrates IRF and SE™.
For more information: Focusing
and here IRF with Maureen Gallagher
NeuroAffective Touch™, created by Dr. Aline LaPierre, is a polyvagal-informed somatic and body centered approach offering clients a deeply attuned secure presence as a bridge between our verbal and nonverbal selves and body-mind integration. Clients are able to move beyond the limitations of talk when words aren't enough to express the ways they have been impacted by their struggle to love and be loved. Clients report feeling deeply held and seen, more regulated, insightful and feel a more loving connection with self and others. Touch Therapy is used to provide heart-centered connection that supports the release of tension in the muscles and viscera. Work can also be performed remotely using somatic contemplations, intentional touch and client-centered self touch. In person this somatically informed touch work is performed with full consent and clients are fully clothed.
I completed all four training modules with Aline LaPierre, PsyD as my primary teacher. For more information about Dr. LaPierre and this approach: NeuroAffective Touch
Being trauma informed is how I approach all my work, from a nervous system and relational perspective that can help identify and gently soften holding patterns in the body. These patterns sometimes emerge as coping mechanisms that have helped us to manage overwhelming experiences and can be the origin of stress and muscular tension. Bodywork can help bring awareness to internal sensations, can help calm and stabilize an activated nervous system and can support resourcing with a positive sensation or a healthy body function (e.g., pressure on the feet can enhance a sense of grounding).
All bodywork is collaborative, relational and facilitated using clear communication and boundaries, consent and mindful integration of the work that is tailored to the goals and needs of each client. I graduated from the 600 hour massage therapy training program from the Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks. I completed my Associate Polarity Therapy Practitioner training with Ellen Kruegar, LMHC, BCPP, RPE through the Soma-Psyche Institute, NYC.
Helping Clients with Long Covid
In November 2023 I completed a 3 day Biodynamic Visceral Manipulation Course in NYC to learn specific techniques to support health outcomes in clients suffering from Long COVID syndrome to regain their vitality. This course offered a 7 step hands on protocol taught by Carey Benenson Taussig D.O. who has used these techniques to successfully help clients with Long Covid, Lyme and other autoimmune conditions. This work is performed with the client clothed and offered at an individualized pace that allows the client's needs to be addressed through deep listening, touch that is gentle, yet specific (3 layers of sensing - structural, fluidic, energetic) and invites visual imagery, subtle movement and sound when needed to help the client's nervous system resource a different patterning potential.
NOTE: These sessions are not a substitute for medical treatment or mental health care and/or diagnosis. If you struggle with a mental health condition or mood disorder, psychotherapy would be indicated to address and treat those symptoms.
Disclaimer: Mary Catherine Donnelly is not a licensed physician nor psychotherapist, and as such she does not diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical or mental condition or disease.