Why We Can’t Heal Alone: The Crucial Role of Co-Regulation in Trauma Healing

Annie Au | E-RYT 500

Healing from trauma is a complex journey that involves not only the individual survivor but also the support of others.

Among the many elements that contribute to successful trauma recovery, co-regulation stands out as a pivotal mechanism. Co-regulation refers to the mutual interaction between individuals that helps regulate emotions, create a sense of safety, and facilitate healing. In the context of trauma, co-regulation can be a lifeline for survivors seeking to rebuild their lives.

Understanding Co-Regulation:

Trauma can disrupt the body's natural capacity to regulate emotions, leading to heightened anxiety, hypervigilance, and emotional instability. Co-regulation involves the presence of a supportive and empathetic individual or group that assists the survivor in managing these overwhelming emotions. This co-regulator, often a therapist, friend, family member, or even a pet, helps create an environment of safety and trust where the survivor can gradually learn to manage their emotional responses.

The Neurobiology of Co-Regulation:

Neurobiologically, co-regulation has profound effects on the brain. Trauma impacts the brain's stress response system, often resulting in an overactive amygdala and an underactive prefrontal cortex. Co-regulation helps restore balance by engaging the brain's social engagement system, which promotes feelings of safety and connection. When survivors feel supported, their bodies release oxytocin and other neurotransmitters that counteract the stress response, allowing them to enter a calmer state and process traumatic memories in a more manageable way.

Free 21 Day Yin Yoga to Connect Within Program

Receive daily 10 minute Soulful Yin Yoga class in your inbox. Every class comes with a daily affirmation and meridian tips on healing & growth.

Sign Up

Creating a Secure Base:

In the aftermath of trauma, survivors often struggle with feelings of isolation, shame, and self-blame. Co-regulation provides a secure base from which survivors can explore their emotions and experiences without judgment. This secure base not only fosters emotional regulation but also allows survivors to challenge negative self-perceptions and reframe their experiences within a more compassionate context.

Empowerment through Connection:

Trauma can fracture an individual's sense of self and interpersonal trust. Co-regulation helps survivors regain a sense of agency by offering them the chance to connect with others in a controlled and supportive manner. As they gradually experience safe interactions, survivors rebuild their ability to discern between safe and unsafe situations, fostering a renewed sense of empowerment and autonomy.

Here are some helpful questions for reflection journaling:

  • Who in your life has provided you with a sense of safety and understanding during your trauma recovery process?
  • How has this person helped you manage overwhelming emotions and navigate challenging moments?
  • What specific qualities or actions from your support system have made you feel more grounded and empowered?

Long-Term Healing and Resilience:

Co-regulation is not just a short-term coping mechanism; it plays a pivotal role in the long-term healing and resilience of trauma survivors. Consistent and positive co-regulation experiences help reshape neural pathways, gradually rewiring the brain to respond more adaptively to stressors. This shift can lead to lasting improvements in emotional regulation, self-esteem, and the ability to form healthy relationships.

Trauma healing is not a solitary endeavor; it's a journey that benefits immensely from the presence of empathetic and supportive co-regulators. By creating a safe space, facilitating emotional regulation, and fostering a sense of connection, co-regulation plays a critical role in helping survivors navigate the complex terrain of trauma recovery. As we continue to explore the intricate nuances of trauma healing, acknowledging and utilizing the power of co-regulation can pave the way for more effective and holistic recovery strategies.

Interested in learning about trauma recovery and yin yoga? I’ll be leading a 50hr Trauma-Informed Yin Yoga Online Teacher Training. Don’t miss out on this training on trauma physiology and sensitivity teaching. Click here for more information.

Annie Au


Annie is the founder of Soulful Yin Yoga, an exclusive trauma-informed Yin Yoga teacher training program that teaches trauma physiology and sensitivity teaching. Annie infuses Chinese meridians and yogic wisdom into her teachings offering a holistic healing in our modern lives. Learn more about her training here.