Elizabeth Morelle—What do Shiatsu, TCM, and Somatic Therapy Have in Common?
by Stacy Thomas | October 26, 2020, updated 7 months ago
Elizabeth (Ella) Morelle was inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) when she visited an acupuncturist as a teen. She was fascinated by the ancient tradition’s integration of empirical scientific medicine with the treatment and respect of emotional symptoms. Her interest blossomed into a wider personal study of the relationships between emotion and movement, body and mind.
In her early twenties, she found shiatsu, and it was her “big love” for two decades. As an empath, however, she found that the hands-on nature of the treatment meant she would sometimes take on the anxiety and pains of her patients, so she went searching for a new mode of treatment. She began developing a unique therapy that integrated several different practices, from body energy work to psychology—she now practices as a Counselling Psychologist in Ladysmith, B.C.
Morelle applies her extensive background with shiatsu and bodywork to somatic psychotherapy as well as solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The combination is uncommon, but effective.
“I’m the only person who I know of who’s switched from shiatsu to counselling, and combined the two. It’s totally unique […] because I have this background with bodywork, I’m trained to see with the eye where people are holding tension in the body.”
After shifting away from shiatsu, Morelle received a master’s degree in Counselling Psychotherapy. She says her experience working with energy and her own high level of empathy elevates her counselling. Switching to psychotherapy after twenty years practicing shiatsu might seem like a drastic shift, but Morelle feels that they are complementary—
“That comes from all those years of doing shiatsu, practicing grounding and being centred, being a witness to the body’s process. Shiatsu’s kind of like, you learn to listen deeply through the vibrations of your hand. It’s a very deep listening practice, so all of that kind of trained me for doing counselling.”
Somatic psychotherapy is based on the theory that past traumas and stresses cause disturbances to, and are stored in, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in the body. These stresses present as symptoms that can be observed in a patient’s facial expressions, body language, and even the way that they hold themselves. Disturbances in the ANS can cause pain, anxiety, depression, addiction and other medical issues.
“The fact that I have a background in Chinese medicine always comes into play, and understanding the holding patterns in the body and how energy gets stuck [...] In shiatsu you unblock it by putting your hands on somebody. You feel the quality of the energy [...]. It’s very much the same in counselling[...] it has the same effect. I think that’s why it’s unique, because it’s still energy work.”
SFBT is a goal-oriented therapy which places emphasis on the patient’s present and future rather than on past traumas and issues. It was developed in the 1980s as a response to the concerns of patients who spent years in costly psychotherapy with no results. SFBT aims to implement realistic solutions as quickly as possible. This outcome-based therapy focuses on finding the tools and resources necessary to achieve the patient’s goals.
With empathy and a mind to energy shifting—informed by thirty years of bodywork and awareness—Morelle effectively brings each of her patients to a place of deep relaxation then healing and growth. The unique combination of these different modalities can help heal stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, addictions, PTSD, OCD, phobias, depression and anger.
“I’ve always been a healer, and I use the counselling as a way to provide healing for people.”
Stacy Thomas was born and raised among the orchards of the Okanagan Valley. She studied journalism in Vancouver, B.C., and has worked as a reporter in places such as Germany, Ukraine, Northern B.C. and rural Alberta. Passionate about nature, she now lives in Squamish with her partner Nicki and her rescue dog Harley. She is currently a student of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, where she draws comics and writes poetry.