Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: A Complex Trauma Treatment Approach for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Extant literature suggests that more attention is needed to the development of therapeutic options designed specifically for survivors of human trafficking (APA, 2014). In particular, therapeutic models that use a somatic, experiential approach to intervention targeting complex trauma impacts may be more helpful than solely symptom reduction (APA, 2014; Choi, Klein, Shin & Lee, 2009; Hopper, 2017b; van der Kolk, 2014). Particularly, research suggests that trauma-focused group yoga increases self-compassion, and creates connection and community building on a mind-body-spirit level (Price et al., 2017; Clark et al., 2014; Crews, Stolz-Newton, & Grant, 2016) and reduces trauma and stress-related symptoms (van der Kolk, Stone, West, Rhodes, Emerson, Suvak, Spinazzola; 2014). This presentation introduces a structured body-based group intervention (STARS; Hopper et al., 2018) that has been designed to address complex trauma in survivors of human trafficking and integrates Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TC-TSY). TCTSY incorporates yoga principles and practices and aims to support emotion regulation, stabilization, and skill building for adults with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Consistent with complex trauma theory, results from STARS pilot programs found that experiential groups address the areas of a) Relationship, b) Regulation, and c) Self/identity. As a group intervention, the STARS model that integrated TCTSY provided a new way for survivors to be able to relate to one another and therefore to themselves and provided an approach to facilitate integration for survivors with complex trauma. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

The session will begin by introducing components of complex trauma and essential elements needed to address complex trauma in survivors of human trafficking. The STARS model and the TCTSY model will be discussed and experiences from a pilot program that integrated both approaches will be shared. Experiential exercises will be integrated throughout the session and will end with a discussion incorporating a variety of experiential approaches that service providers can use with survivors of complex trauma.

Learning Outcome

  1. Participants will be able to identify useful intervention components for complex trauma.
  2. Participants will have gained exposure to experiential yoga approaches for complex trauma in survivors of human trafficking.
  3. Participants will have engaged in experiential activities that can be used in their work with survivors of complex trauma.

Target Audience

mental health providers; social service providers

schedule Submitted 5 years ago

  • Dominique Malebranche

    Dominique Malebranche - Intersections of Complex and Cultural Trauma in Human Trafficking

    60 Mins

    Human trafficking is often only part of a larger constellation of adversity and traumatic stress faced by survivors. Research has theorized the association between the prolonged exposure to interpersonal trauma human trafficking survivors experience and complex trauma (APA, 2014; Cloitre et al., 2012; Courtois, 2008; Hopper, 2017a; Roe-Sepowitz, Hickle, Dahlstedt, & Gallagher, 2014). Not only can early or repeated interpersonal trauma, such as sexual assault, lead to complex PTSD, but it also impacts a range of responses: emotional, social, physical, and spiritual well-being. In addition, systems of oppression that result in interpersonal trauma (e.g., racism) often intersect and create further challenges for survivors of color. This workshop will introduce the association between trauma theory and social oppression through didactic and experiential activity, as well as discuss complex trauma in survivors of human trafficking and its implications for service planning. Complex trauma impacts and how these reactions increase vulnerability to exploitation, how traffickers play on these reactions as coercive strategies, and how these struggles impact life after the trafficking experience will be explored.