“Since 1998, Jessica Schaffer, Nervous System Health Educator, has been guiding people towards a more authentic relationship with their bodies and their overall health. Jessica maintained a successful private practice in Portland, Oregon for 20 years where she offered support for individuals seeking personal growth and transformation. She now offers an educational and wellness model, Nervous System RESET, that teaches people about nervous system regulation and resilience. She is passionate about introducing people to the concept of stress physiology and helping them cultivate tools to better manage and regulate their nervous system responses to stress and trauma. In addition, she runs a professional training program for practitioners who want to incorporate the Nervous System RESET approach into their clinical practices.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: www.NervousSystemRESET.com | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaSchafferNervousSystemRESET/ | Phone: 503-348-6288 | Practice Location: Manzanita, OR
About Jessica Schaffer
A graduate of The Oregon School of Massage, Jessica holds a license in Massage Therapy. In addition, she is recognized as a Master Teacher in the Usui Shiki Ryoho lineage of Reiki and has been teaching since 2002. Most recently, she spent four years as a Certification Trainer and representative of TRE ® (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises ®) where she honed her understanding of working with the body’s natural recovery response of tremor release.
With over two decades of professional experience, Jessica’s deeply intuitive skills and her ability to understand the body both anatomically and energetically, provide a powerful foundation for guiding others into a profound experience of body awareness and neural regulation.
Jessica celebrates the inherent wisdom that lies inside each of us and believes that our individual paths of healing lead us back to this wholeness. She recognizes that healing is best facilitated by creating a safe environment where each person can be witnessed and held respectfully in his/her authentic experience. Her work and teaching are infused with a genuine sense of empathy, compassion and integrity. And she feels honored to support others on their unique paths of personal growth and empowerment.
I have been supporting people’s healing journeys since 1998, for many years as a practitioner of Reiki and shamanic energy work, and more recently, since 2013, as a Nervous System Health Educator. During that time, I have worked with many survivors of both childhood sex abuse as well as survivors of sexual violence. I also come from a biological family that was marked by sexual abuse, so I have a personal awareness that stems from seeing how sexual abuse impacts not just the survivor, but all aspects of a family unit. Although my practice has not been targeted solely on working with survivors, I have extensive experience in supporting healing from this type of trauma as well as supporting care-givers who are focused on advocacy for survivors of sexual trauma.
My work with nervous system health education and regulation is all about helping people reconnect with their bodies as a source of wisdom, power and healing, and as a container of safety. The Nervous System RESET approach and the restorative tremor which is a cornerstone of this approach, offer a direct gateway through our neuro-physiology to nervous system re-regulation. Regulation is a vital and necessary step in helping people break the physiological response to trauma so that they can come into a new alliance with their physical (and thus, emotional and spiritual) selves. With regards to sexual abuse/trauma, there is the added component that the body was part of the wounding. So, it is essential in healing from this type of experience, that individuals have self-care practices which allow them to release the negative impact and sensory experiences held in the body and to redefine a new relationship of partnership with their bodies.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
As mentioned above, part of my interest stems from my family of origin experiences and the impact that sexual abuse had on me growing up and coming into my womanhood. My other interest comes from the fact that I represent a healing approach that has proved to be invaluable for many people who suffer from violence and trauma, whether that be sexual violence or other forms of trauma. So I want to share it with as many communities as possible.
Nervous System RESET is a self-practice. Once it is learned, the individual carries it with them wherever they go. So it is an on-going support for healing and regulation throughout life. I love this fact: that I can help people access something within their own bodies which is a source of healing and empowerment. I believe that this fact alone is paramount regarding the ways in which simple body awareness and restorative tremoring can help survivors of sexual abuse and violence. When so much of the original trauma ties into the feeling of having lost power with regards to one’s own body, what better practice than one that rewrites that relationship to the body as one of safety, engagement and empowerment.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-informed care is not so much about a certain skill set, or work approach as it is about an awareness and consciousness which embraces the fact that most people in the modern world have experienced some degree of overwhelm or trauma in their lives, whether or not they are conscious of this. Thus trauma-informed care for me is really about how I approach life in general. It informs my approach to working with clients professionally, as well as how I interact with people throughout my day.
Trauma-informed care means that I understand that trauma impacts our physiology and leads to nervous system dysregulation. It means that I understand the nuances of that impact. It means that I am caring and kind in my treatment of others, not assuming that others are comfortable with the things that I am comfortable with, being open and sensitive to the fact that my words or actions may be potentially threatening to others. This awareness leads me to be mindful, attuned, and compassionate to others in the moment.
In my professional world this defines how I work with people: How do clients feel coming in to my office space? Are they comfortable with the temperature, my tone of voice, my physical placement in proximity to them? Do they have a sense every step of the way of what we are doing and where we are going with the process? Are they feeling safe and comfortable and empowered to control the pacing of the process? And if they are not, how do we work with that so that they come to feel empowered in the process?
Having a trauma-informed approach means that I also understand in great detail how trauma impacts the physiology of an individual, and that I can make allowances that support an overwhelmed nervous system. Are my instructions clear and easy to follow so that the client can process and digest what we are doing? Am I able to modify our approach so that the client feels safe with the experience they are having? Am I available for follow-up if concerns or questions arise? Am I able to educate the client so that they come into greater understanding about their own body and their nervous system’s responses? Can I act with compassion and understanding when a client forgets their appointment or cancels due to feeling overwhelmed by life? Can I moderate the pace of the healing process to match the tolerance and capacity of my client’s nervous system? Can I help the organism of the individual feel safe and comfortable in a new way? These are the kinds of questions I am attuned to while working with clients.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
As mentioned above, this approach is all about helping people reconnect with their physical bodies in a new and safe way. I have had the privilege of working with many people who are disconnected from their physical bodies, living in an extended state of hyperarousal or dissociation in order to function in life. My experience is that individuals who are survivors of sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse, have this same experience in their bodies.
Because Nervous System RESET is entirely about teaching people HOW to regulate, every individual’s process is tailored to their unique window of tolerance along the way. The pacing of how one learns this approach is defined by their nervous system’s response to the process. Giving someone permission to begin to tune into their body and physical sensations with this amount of attuned control and awareness is a very powerful gift indeed.
I have seen severely dissociated individuals learn (in small doses) how to tolerate sensation in the body, recognize physical signs of their nervous system beginning to move towards overwhelm and shut-down, and eventually, learn how to back away from the stimulus and slow it down so as to provide the nervous system with a new neural pathway of response (i.e., instead of overwhelm and dissociation, they can come back towards grounding and re-integration). In this way, I think of Nervous System RESET as being a form of neural exercises. With this model, we are supporting the individual to be in direct dialogue with their nervous system and to begin to understand the language of the nervous system. Once we do that, people can begin to have a new dialogue with their body, learning to exercise different pathways of neural response based on the experiences they are tracking in the body.
Once this understanding of regulation is in place, I have seen things change for people in remarkable ways in all areas of their lives. People who learn to practice good regulation through body awareness and restorative tremoring, start to regulate themselves in other areas of their lives, including the choices they make in relationships, living and work situations and out in the world. I also see how the rebalancing of the nervous system organically allows individuals to come back into a sense of safety in the physical body. This newfound sense of safety automatically lends itself to engaging socially in a new way with the external world.
Resilience is the ability to rise and fall with the currents of life in such a way that we remain flexible and adaptive in our responses. Good regulation means that our nervous systems can also rise and fall in response to environmental cues. Neural regulation and resilience are inextricably linked. If we want to experience true resilience, we need to start with the body level up. And that means learning how to speak the language of the nervous system so that we can begin to interface directly with it and modulate our stress responses.
Nervous System RESET (Regulating Essential Systems by Engaging Tremors), is an educational and skills-based wellness model that teaches people how to manage and mitigate the effects of stress in their bodies and in their life. The model rests on the core principles of Regulation, Education, Somatic/Self-awareness and Safety, Empowerment and Transformation.
This model aims to activate one’s innate resilience by:
- Emphasizing the importance of regulating and rebalancing the nervous system
- Educating people about how stress physiology and stress activation cycles work
- Guiding people in learning how to track and monitor body sensations as the key to understanding activation and calming cycles in the nervous system
- Introducing people to the idea of internal safety and how to track/cultivate it
- Empowering people with simple, portable skills for developing body awareness and grounding
- Introducing people to the body’s natural recovery response of restorative tremoring
At the heart of these practices is the restorative tremor, a gentle, vibratory or trembling response in the body which is a natural mechanism for stress recovery. By learning how to access this restorative recovery reflex and to work with it in manageable and calibrated doses, you can gradually discharge accumulated levels of stress (be it everyday life stress, chronic and ongoing stress, or traumatic stress) and guide your nervous system back to a healthier, more resilient baseline. This aspect of the practice supports people coming into a sense of empowerment as it helps them understand that they can work in partnership with the body and that the body can become a container of safety rather than simply an overwhelming reservoir of uncomfortable sensations to disconnect from.
In the RESET approach, no exercises are used to access the body’s tremor response, so the sensory experience of the tremoring is generally quiet and tolerable for a wide range of people including those whose systems may be easily over stimulated, such as individuals experiencing Post Traumatic Stress or Complex Post Traumatic Stress, and/ or other complex and early childhood trauma.
The other beautiful component of accessing this natural body-based recovery response, is that we are allowing the body to do the healing for us. With good self-regulation skills, many people find that they are able to release patterns of constriction in the body without ever having to actively know what the trapped energy was about. That means that a cognitive exploration and knowing is not necessary. Narrative has its place in a healing process, but not all stories are available to us. And narrative alone cannot always bring us back to physiologic balance, and in fact, sometimes can keep us locked into patterns of trauma response.
In any way deemed necessary by the individual or group of individuals I work with! A beautiful aspect of Nervous System RESET is that it is modified for each individual based on their experience and tolerance with the process. This essentially means that we are responding to the organism (the whole being) of the individual we are working with, following its lead in terms of indicators of what works and what is too much and needs to be adjusted.
The work is very fluid and creative. I work with people exploring postures of relative safety so that they discover there are ways in which their body moves that are “safer” than their overall and general experience of being in a body. Each person’s self-practice guidelines are unique to them. And I only guide people into self-practice when they are up to speed with their understanding of regulation and feel safe beginning to work on their own without supervision. For some people this can happen after just a few sessions. For others, a longer period of ongoing support may be part of their journey.
During the process, I am constantly orienting the individual(s), providing clear guidance and instruction and permission for them to slow down or stop whenever they want. Bottom line is that the client is always in control, and this fact is something I emphasize throughout the session.
I have presented and taught classes for many diverse groups, including presentations at DAYA Foundation’s Yoga and Social Justice and Yoga Therapy trainings, community classes for Iranian and Iraqi refugees through the Center for Intercultural Organizing, presentation/classes at the Protect Our Children Annual Conference for child advocacy professionals from around the state of Oregon. I also do fairly regular pro bono work for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and individuals on the Oregon Health Plan without financial resources for self-care.
I make it a point to work with people whatever their budget constraints may be. If my regular fee scale is prohibitive for individuals, I always offer sliding scale options to make it work for the client’s budget. I also do a portion of pro bono work and community outreach to give back to the community.