How NARM Supports Trauma-Informed Bodywork with Dr. Mark Olson, Ph.D.


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In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah Buino interviews Mark Olson, Ph.D., the owner and director of the Pacific Center for Awareness and Bodywork (PCAB), a massage therapy school located in Kauai that integrates bodywork with somatic psychology, contemplative practice, and affective neuroscience with a trauma-informed framework.

Mark describes two main reasons that clients seek massage: they are experiencing either pain or anxiety. “And so right away, we’re already in this [body-mind] world. Anxiety obviously is very mind-based, and pain is a very complex topic that has numerous…elements to it.” Sarah and Mark discuss the importance of a bodyworker meeting the massage client with relational curiosity, rather than meeting them with preconceived knowledge, assumptions or interpretations about what the client is experiencing.

Mark shares the many ways that he is using trauma-informed, NARM-informed principles to train new bodywork students in his school. It starts with training them to invite their clients to be the one that sets the goals for the work, and the fundamental rejection of the dynamic that many physical therapy professionals actively promote: “The client feeling that they’re broken and the therapist thinking that they’re the ones to fix it.” Mark and Sarah see how this dynamic is flawed from the outset, and how NARM has helped them to understand a deeper truth: that the client’s symptoms are present for an important reason that needs to be understood and honored, rather than forced to change.

He shares how being educated in developmental trauma has given him the ability to have more awareness of his own internal reactions when working with clients, and he has experienced a greater sense of spaciousness in himself that “allows for that person to be wherever they are and be just curious about whatever they’re experiencing.”

With his deep understanding of neuroscience and trauma, and by bringing curiosity and an important relational component to the work, Mark is evolving the field of bodywork in an exciting direction.

About Mark: Mark Olson, Ph.D., LMT has an M.A. in Education and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois. He holds a specialty in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuropsychology and Neuroanatomy which focuses on memory, attention, and eye movements. He is the owner and director of the Pacific Center for Awareness & Bodywork, which integrates bodywork with somatic psychology, contemplative practice, and affective neuroscience within a trauma-informed framework. Recently he has been published, writing on the subjects of Pain and Trauma-informed Bodywork.

To read the full show notes and discover more resources visit


NARM Training Institute


The NARM Training Institute provides tools for transforming complex trauma through: in-person and online trainings for mental health care professionals; in-person and online workshops on complex trauma and how it interplays with areas like addiction, parenting, and cultural trauma; an online self-paced learning program, the NARM Inner Circle; and other trauma-informed learning resources.


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46 episodes