Having a well-stocked tool box of coping skills to support clients as they learn to manage day-to-day stressors, as well as, regulate during trauma processing is essential. We know that each client is different and helping them find several coping skills that help them can be a bit of a challenge. If you are like me, you might have your favorites, but it never hurts to keep adding new ones.
Each Client is Different
I have learned that each client’s nervous system is different, and their systems all respond differently to the coping skills that I teach them. I usually start with three basic coping skills to access which type their system responds to the best. The three categories I use are orientation, grounding, and nurturance.
Orientation types of coping skills use the five senses to help regulate the system. Grounding types of coping skills are more body-based skills working with imagery and sensations. Lastly, nurturance types of coping skills engage either support from one’s self or from the environment.
Once I know which category of coping skills a client responds to best, I teach them a number of skills from that category to ensure they have a positive experience with accomplishing self-regulation. I find it can be empowering to clients to feel that they have some ability to regulate their emotions and their body’s response to their emotions.
3 Favorite Coping Skills
Below are my 3 favorite coping skills, there is one from each category.
I learn visual orientation during Somatic Experiencing training. It is allowing our head and neck to follow our eyes as our eyes slowly find things in our environment that are pleasant. After a couple of seconds of a client following their eyes, I will ask them to go back to the thing that was the most pleasant and track sensations in their body as they take that thing in visually.
I learned safe/calm place in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) training. I guide the client through creating a safe/calm place using as many of the senses to create that place as possible. For example, what do you hear, see, feel, taste, and smell. As a client is creating and experiencing this safe/calm place, I encourage them to track sensations in their body. There is a protocol in EMDR to follow, but if you are not EMDR trained it has been successful for clients without the bilateral stimulation.
Self-Touch and Talk
I learned Self -Touch and Talk coping skill in Somatic Experience as well. This one encourages the client to place a hand on the part of the body where they sense the most dsyregulation. For example, there may be tightness in the client’s chest. I would encourage the client to place a hand over their chest applying enough pressure to feel pleasant. Then I would invite them to say to themselves or out loud what they need to hear in that moment. Again, I encourage them to track the sensations in their body as they bring their attention to the touch and say the words to themselves or out loud.
These are just three that I enjoy using, I am continuing to grow my tool box and I encourage you to do so as well. Each of our clients are different and having a well-stocked tool box will help you be prepared to help them as they work on maintaining stabilization inside and outside of sessions.
What are your favorite coping skills to teach clients?