What TFML is
Trauma-Focused Movement Language (TFML) is an embodied process of co-creating internal and relational healing and empowerment, built on two foundations: the neurobiology of trauma that is common to all survivors and the experience of trauma that is unique to each survivor.
TFML aims to support survivors in exploring, expressing and processing traumatic memories by providing a framework that survivors can adapt in ways most meaningful to them with the guidance and support of the survivor facilitator.
As an approach, TFML reverses traditional dynamics:
1) TFML is body-based, not talk-based, based on the understanding that trauma is embodied and healing must be felt and experienced, not just talked or thought through.
2) TFML is survivor-led, not clinician-led, based on the belief that survivors do not require to be cured or fixed but guided and supported to reclaim their power, heal, and grow through and beyond trauma.
TFML was created by Laura E. Fischer as part of her own healing journey. Laura first developed TFML as a trauma-sensitive creative practice, supported by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She was then awarded an Improvement Leader Fellowship by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CLAHRC NWL and the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, which she used to investigate the application of TFML to improve the experience and outcome of EMDR therapy for adult survivors of childhood trauma; giving control to survivors and means to ground themselves, self-regulate, and process traumatic memories more safely.
Many people resonated with TFML’s approach and requested workshops, which have since then been offered to a range of survivors. In an evaluation conducted by UCL, it was found that survivors participating in TFML described the experience as ‘safe’, ‘supportive’, ‘healing’, and ‘empowering’. When asked about the future direction of TFML, participants wished to see TFML as a longer intervention with weekly workshops. Based on this feedback, Laura is further developing TFML and doing a research project on the embodied experience of childhood trauma with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London. Find out more on the Research page of this site.
TFML was highlighted in The Lancet Psychiatry through a series of twelve images published as covers for the journal’s 2019 editions, along with an article. The first sketchbooks and videos of TFML are held in the Central Saint Martins Museum Collection.
Who is TFML for?TFML is for all adults who have experienced traumatic events, no matter what these are. The majority of people who come to TFML have experienced violence, abuse, or neglect in their childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, but anyone who struggles with trauma is welcome. You do not need to have received a diagnosis to attend TFML workshops. The requirements are more specific when participating in TFML interventions as part of a research project. For more information, please visit the Research page of this site.
How can I access TFML?TFML workshops are facilitated by Traumascapes. You can find out more here: https://www.traumascapes.org/ As part of her research with King's College London, Laura will facilitate a full TFML intervention (10 weekly sessions) with 10 survivors of childhood trauma. You can also find more information on the Research page of this site. If you are interested in taking part, you are welcome to send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How is TFML facilitated?TFML is facilitated by trained facilitators from Traumascapes who are all trauma survivors themselves. Sessions are composed of theory (understanding trauma), practice (exploring healing through moving), and reflection (group discussions) and they usually begin and end with grounding exercises. All activities are guided through invitation as opposed to instruction so that participants have the choice to engage or not, and how much. A structure is provided to guide and support participants but this structure is built to be adaptable and tailorable by each participant. As much information as possible is provided to participants before the start of sessions so that unexpectedness is reduced to a minimum. Ahead of the first session, the facilitator asks participants individually if there are any safety measures they would like to put in place (e.g. protocol on how to respond to triggers). The room is large enough to offer ample space to each individual and a smaller 'breakout' space is also available for people to take some time out from the session if/when needed.
Is TFML facilitated in a group or 1:1?TFML is usually facilitated in a group setting, but 1:1 sessions are also possible. The group dynamic is favoured because it offers peer support and allows for healing to happen relationally as well as internally. Most traumatic experiences are interpersonal and impact both on survivors' relationship with themselves and on their relationship with others. Therefore, both internal and relational healing are important. Yet, connecting with others can understandably be frightening and difficult. In TFML, individual space is given to each participant and interaction with other group members is always optional.
Do I need to disclose what I experienced?No. At no point will you be asked to disclose your traumatic experiences. You may choose to share your experience or thoughts and feelings related to it with the facilitator and/or the group if you wish and this information will be kept confidential, but you are under no obligation to do so. TFML, as a practice, respects that talking about traumatic experiences is extremely difficult and invasive, and therefore does not require this of participants. Survivors retain full ownership of their stories and remain in full control of whether, what, and when they wish to speak about their experiences.
Do I have to know how to dance?No, TFML is not intended for dancers only: it is for everyone, irrespective of ability or background. However, you must be open to using movement (this is defined not just as body expressions but also actions such as breathing).
Do I have to be comfortable in my own body?You should be willing to explore being in your body, but being comfortable in your body is not a prerequisite. As trauma is embodied, it is natural that survivors do not feel comfortable in their bodies. TFML offers tools to safely and progressively explore being in the body in order to connect to the present and express and process trauma. You can choose how little or how much you wish to do this and you can take breaks or stop at any time. You can also decide how to use your body: you may use all of it or just your hands, for example.
Can I contribute to research on TFML?Yes! Research on TFML and the embodied experience of childhood trauma is being conducted by Laura E. Fischer and King's College London. As part of this, a full TFML intervention (10 weekly sessions) will be facilitated with 10 survivors of childhood trauma to partake. You can find out more on the Research page of this site.