Rachel M. Urbano, PsyD, is a 2011 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • Victor Pantesco, Ed.D. (Committee Chair)
  • Theodore Ellenhorn, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
  • Colborn Smith, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


surviving therapists, trauma, bodily sensations, adaptions

Document Type


Publication Date



The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to highlight the ways “surviving therapists” adapt to the inner-spaces in which they are still affected by their traumas. Surviving therapists are defined as therapists who identify as having experienced a trauma caused by another human being while maintaining an observational stance in relation to their body and self-experience. Therapists are not immune to the lasting effects of trauma: they may experience somatic reactivity and painful affective states in working with trauma patients. As surviving therapists have experienced events they may unconsciously choose to keep out of awareness, they may rely on adaptations in the face of regression, repression, and dissociation. A phenomenological method using a grounded theory approach was used to explore and document the ways surviving therapists utilize somatic sensations in their work. Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom” is used as a device to mirror participants’ processes of using metaphor to bridge the gap of symbolized and unsymbolized clinical experiences. Themes that arose from interview data included regulation style, regulation as cue, identity, metaphor of the journey, aggression/protection, and the sweet humor of life. Participants detailed the ways in which they used bodily sensations as cues to unconscious processes occurring interactively in the room or simply within and highlighted interventions based on these cues. Themes derived from this study can be used to generate strategies of training, supervision, and personal reflection to aid in the continued struggle for surviving therapists to survive.