What is TRE®?

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) stretch and slightly fatigue muscles, a process that induces neurogenic tremors. These tremors release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma, calm the nervous system, and help the body return to a state of balance.


Who can benefit from TRE?

Human beings. Every single one of them.


Why do we need TRE?

Animals in the wild naturally shake after a traumatic experience and don’t suffer from trauma-related conditions such as PTSD. Unfortunately, humans have pathologized this shaking and suppress it to keep from being perceived as weak or afraid.

We can’t evolve quickly enough to adapt to the pace of change today. Fifteen thousand years ago, we actually fought or fled in response to physical threats. Today, our fight-or-flight system gets activated by things like alarm clocks, traffic, and layoffs, and we rarely discharge the resulting survival energy by actually fighting or fleeing. TRE enables us to discharge this energy at will and return to a state of balance.


What’s the purpose of TRE?

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises:

  • Release tension from inside contracted muscles, causing deep relaxation.
  • Enable you to release stress and trauma without the need for effort, conscious control, or even awareness of the releasing process.
  • Help you release stress and trauma without having to re-live or talk about it.
  • Enable you to heal trauma that you can’t remember (because you were very young or dissociated).

How does it feel
when you do TRE?

Most of the exercises that initiate tremoring are ones you’ve experienced before, but the tremoring sensation itself may be new. Tremors spread from the legs, up the spine, and release tension throughout your entire body.

After a lifetime of suppressing therapeutic tremors, some people find it a little challenging to allow them. But once they do, they usually find TRE’s reflexive muscle vibrations pleasant and soothing and report feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TRE?

People who do TRE regularly report that they:

  • Feel less worry and anxiety
  • Experience a reduction in their PTSD symptoms
  • Have more energy and endurance
  • Have improved intimate relationships
  • Experience less workplace stress
  • Sleep better
  • Have fewer conflicts in their relationships
  • Have less muscle and back pain
  • Enjoy increased flexibility
  • Are more emotionally resilient
  • Feel fewer symptoms of vicarious trauma
  • Experience a healing of old injuries
  • Feel less anxiety surrounding serious illness
  • Find relief from chronic medical conditions

Why work with a
TRE provider?

  • A TRE provider teaches you how to activate your body’s tension release mechanism and how to regulate and stop it. Although you can learn TRE from a book or video, self-regulation and titration (or appropriate “dosing”) are best learned from a provider who can assess your circumstances and address your questions.
  • A provider is trained in alternate exercises that enable you to reap the full benefit of TRE while accommodating physical injuries and limitations.
  • Once you’re trained and able to do TRE on your own, you’ll be empowered to release your own stress and trauma and won’t need a TRE provider. However, your provider can continue to serve as a resource if questions do arise during your practice.

Who invented TRE?

TRE was created by David Berceli, who has master’s degree and Ph.D. in social work, a master’s degree in theology, and a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies. He is a licensed massage therapist and a certified field traumatologist.


What led to the creation of TRE?

Dr. Berceli spent a great deal of time as an aid worker in war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East. He observed that humans naturally contract in response to physical and psychological threats. This contraction is instinctive and causes people to curl up to protect their vital organs. His search for an antidote to this contraction led him to create Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises.


What paradigm did
Dr. Berceli reject?

When Dr. Berceli returned to the U.S. after having served in Africa and the Middle East, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and psychotherapy seemed to offer the only road to healing. Although he undertook psychotherapy, Dr. Berceli rejected it as the only valid healing paradigm for those in war-torn countries and natural disaster areas because:

  • People under constant threat usually can’t engage in years-long one-on-one therapeutic relationships with a provider.
  • In those areas, the number of traumatized people vastly outnumber providers.
  • Even if enough providers were available, the people in these areas—many of whom have lost everything—couldn’t afford to pay them.
  • Our bodies have a physical, not just a psychological response to threat. Although psychotherapy can facilitate emotional release, it cannot facilitate the physiological release necessary to discharge stress and trauma.

Dr. Berceli wanted to empower people to heal themselves and developed TRE to do just that.


Does TRE “play well” with other healing modalities?

You can use TRE on your own to relive stress, tension, and trauma, or you can use it as an effective complement to other healing modalities.

 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t use TRE?

TRE is a safe and effective stress release technique for most people. However, it should not be used as a substitute for trauma recovery procedures of a medical or psychological nature.

If you have physical or psychological/psychiatric conditions that require strict regulation, have fragile psychological defenses, a complex history of trauma, or restricting physical or medical limitations, consult your medical practitioner or a certified TRE provider before performing TRE.


Is there any research on TRE?

Yes, and more is ongoing. You can find more information here.


HOW WIDESPREAD IS TRE?

TRE has been taught in more than 100 countries over the last 20 years. Training materials have been translated into seven languages and 35 countries maintain active training and certification programs.


Not-so-frequently asked questions

Here are some other questions we've heard. They're not asked often, but the fact that they've been asked at all leads us to believe others might have them, too.


Is TRE woo woo, hippy dippy, airy fairy, or New Age?

TRE couldn't be less woo. It simply enables you to start and stop your body's natural stress-release mechanism when and where you want to.


Do I have to think about specific memories or experiences while I do TRE?

Absolutely not. TRE should feel deeply relaxing. There is no need to recall, talk about, or re-live distressing memories while you do it.


Can I decide what specific memories or experiences I want to address when I do TRE?

No. Your body has its own wisdom about what it releases when. It's important to follow your body's lead.


Can TRE replace talk therapy?

Yes and no. TRE was originally designed for use in war-torn countries and natural disaster areas, where stressed and traumatized individuals far outnumber aid workers. TRE empowers people to heal themselves and addresses their stress and trauma exactly where it originates: in their bodies.

While TRE can help you release trauma that may be adversely impacting your relationships, it doesn't give you relational skills. For example, it doesn't address things like John Gottman's four horsemen of the apocalypse: criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness—characteristics that enable Gottman and his colleagues to predict which couples are headed for divorce with more than 90 percent accuracy. In our experience, building relationship skills requires cognitive work, and that tends to take place in the context of talk therapy.

However, when people are in states of fight-or-flight or freeze, talking is difficult if not impossible. Therefore, we feel that TRE paired with talk therapy, or TRE then talk therapy is your best bet.


I have social anxiety and I HATE shaking! Are you serious? If I do TRE, I have to do what I hate most?

Yes, but here's the thing: as Carl Jung said, "What you resist persists." Shaking is your body's way of bringing balance to an overstimulated nervous system, and your body needs to do it. TRE enables you control when and where you do it. If you gave your body a chance to shake at home, would it shake less in public? Worth a try, don't you think?


 I was in menopause, but after doing TRE, my period came back. What's up with that?

Menstruation can cease for all kinds of reasons, and stress is one of them. It's possible that you had stress-related amenorrhea, and that your period returned because TRE reduced your stress. However, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out other possible causes of bleeding.