What Is TRE (Trauma/Tension Release Exercises)?

Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) were created by clinical social worker David Bercelli, Ph.D. TRE is a modality for helping people release stress, tension, and trauma by:

  • Becoming more grounded in their bodies
  • Becoming more aware of their habitual patterns
  • Releasing tension, stress, and trauma
  • Developing greater emotional resiliency and aliveness
  • Increasing a sense of connection to themselves and others
  • Becoming more attuned to the present moment

It is a method that has been used in war zones, community and wellness centers, and even with the U.S. military for healing. TRE works by helping you to learn to shake to get rid of stress. This is an instinctive behavior for both humans and animals. Think about it: does your dog or cat shake when a storm comes? Have you ever trembled during an important speaking event or interview? Have you ever felt “shaken” after a near car accident? This is because stress hormones are pumping through your system to help you fight back or run away.

According to Peter Levine, the creator of Somatic Experiencing, shaking is not only normal but necessary. It helps living beings calm down after a threat has passed, and signals to the brain that the threat is over. Shaking is seen as a sign of weakness in Western cultures, so most people tense against their tremors. This adds extra tension on top of stress, and the brain never gets the message that the stressful event has passed. This means your nervous system never gets to feel calm or safe because it believes it needs to remain vigilant.

75% of both psychological and physical complaints are stress-related. Therefore, learning how to release stress through TRE can have a transformative impact on your health. TRE transforms stress and trauma by helping people find and “turn on” their natural shaking response. This is done through completing a few physical exercises, under guidance, and then allowing the body to shake and do whatever else it needs to do to instinctually heal. Emma Donovan, MA, LPC, PLPC, is a Certified TRE Provider and leads TRE in Saint Louis, MO.

What It Can Help With

Results cannot be guaranteed, but here are some of the reported issues TRE (tension release exercises) has been shown to help people find relief from.

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma symptoms
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stress-related pain
  • Chronic pain conditions, especially ones without an apparent medical cause

5 Benefits of TRE

1. Gain a sense of groundedness. Grounding includes getting in touch with your internal state, other people, and the environment through engaging with the 5 senses. The grounding component alone is a great resource for people struggling with trauma and symptoms such as anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and attention difficulties through exercises that help you get in touch with yourself, your environment, and the people around you.

2. Come back to your body. The tremors themselves provide an excellent point of focus for people who are out-of-touch with their bodies or generally want to become more mindful. The tremors are quite novel to many people, and I’ve frequently heard from clients that it is much easier to remain present in TRE than it is during a body scan or meditation practice since there is more to pay attention to. TRE has even been nicknamed “shaking meditation!”

3. Learn to emotionally self-regulate. TRE helps you learn what your “edge” is, physically, mentally, and emotionally, through an emphasis on mindful awareness of your internal experience. It also helps you become more empowered because you have the choice to stop at any time. This is an especially important resource for trauma survivors to regain a sense of personal empowerment. TRE also helps you monitor and influence your internal state, making it a strong self-regulation practice by putting the power back into your hands not only during TRE practice but also in emotionally tough times in daily life.

4. Become mindful of your patterns. TRE is also a way for you to become more familiar with your personal patterns. For example, if you struggle with concentration in daily life, feel tense in new situations, or space out, these patterns are likely to play out in your TRE practice. Thus, TRE builds mindful awareness of patterns that may not be serving you so you can begin to shift them.

5. Discharge stress and relax. The tremors help you let go of stressful energy and are particularly helpful for burnout, anxiety, stress, and trauma. If you suffer from these issues, it can be challenging to concentrate, slow down, connect with others, and meditate. TRE is a practice to discharge this energy and bring you to a state of calm presence you may not have experienced before. In some cases, TRE can help you process traumatic situations by trusting your body and allowing it to do what it needs to heal and regenerate itself.

Qualifications & Details

Emma Donovan, MA, PLPC, LPC, completed the TRE Global certification process and is now a Certified TRE Provider. In addition, she is also a holistic therapist and wellness educator. She can teach TRE one-on-one, in groups, embedded within private therapy or coaching sessions, or as a stand-alone service. Sessions are conducted in her office in Saint Louis, MO. Groups are available upon request. Contact for rates. Use the contact form or call 636-465-9054 to get in touch and schedule a session.

Copyright Emma Donovan, 2019, 2020. All Rights Reserved.