Using Pacing to Help Create Safety in Trauma Treatment

Pacing in trauma treatment is the ability to move a client through their process at a speed that supports healing. Pacing looks different for each client. Knowing how to read a client’s cues, checking in with a client, and noticing what resonates with you is important when focusing on pacing.  

Because pacing requires a constant awareness of yourself and your client, it helps to create safety by creating a sense of attunement in the treatment process. It communicates that you are paying attention to what is happening for your client and that it matters to you.  

I think pacing starts at first contact. How we talk and what we talk about can be a powerful pace-setter for the trauma treatment process. I usually don’t call potential clients back or set up initial consultations unless I have time to be regulated and mindful of my pace in speech and questioning. I’m also very particular about how much I allow clients to disclose as well.  

Once we have decided that we are a good fit, I continue to pay close attention in the intake session. I slow clients down and gently interrupt them if I feel they are sharing too much, too fast, and too soon. Again this is just me helping them to be mindful of their own systems and what they can handle, as well as ensuring I can keep them as safe as possible in our time together.

Next I have a pretty standard protocol for the next 3-4 sessions, again hoping to help the client understand that the treatment process is going to take time and preparation. These initial sessions are used to provide important psychoeducation and establish some resources that can be used to co-regulate and self-regulate in times of need.  

Lastly, throughout the rest of the treatment process, I am constantly working to ensure pacing is in alignment with the client’s capacity and the work does not feel like too much, too fast, or too soon at any time. I am not perfect at this, and if a rupture occurs during the work, I am quick to repair and re-establish safety.

Aww, I love pacing. It is the one time we get to slow this world down in a way that truly can be felt in the moment. If you ask me, this is how we should do life in general.

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