Rudolph “Rudy” Skowronski, LCSW


Rudy is one of the founding members of Island Institute for Trauma Recovery. The clinicians at the island came together as a group to form a practice with others who had the same views around therapies specifically for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These beliefs are what binds us together in both treatments for our clients and in educating other clinicians in ways see their clients more holistically. This is what led us to begin our Brainstorming Series of trainings to help both ourselves and others to understand the neurobiology and instinctual reactions behind the human reaction to psychological trauma. In this way we can better understand people who struggle with the past and see them as individuals with unwanted reactions rather that individuals who are “disordered.” Once individuals see themselves differently it can be a motivator for real and lasting change.

My training includes International Certification in EMDR, Trauma Certification in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and training in Structural Family Therapy, among others. I have also explored the relationship between neurobiology and emotions through study and trainings.

In exploring neurobiology and emotions I also developed a different way to look at the ways that emotions are sustained in people’s lives. I call this Dominant Emotional States. If you would like to know more, read on.

Dominant Emotional States are developed to protect individuals from past emotional difficulties. It is important to understand that the emotions that we feel on a daily basis may be a subconsciously sustained pattern that protects us from feelings related to traumas from earlier in our lives. Through exploration of these emotional states, we can sometimes gain a sense of the emotions that are underneath the familiar emotions. This exploration gives us a chance to explore emotions and the related somatic responses that exist in relation to both the dominant emotions and the primary emotions that are related to past events.

Dominant Emotional States just happen and they shape the way we view the world.  They are maintained by the same part of our brain that allows us to drive our cars without being mindful of the process. These states are sustained by the chemicals that we feel as emotions. The more we feel an emotion, the more we need to feel that emotion.  Our emotions become a state that is familiar to us and in some ways these emotions are maintained the way we would maintain an addiction.  We see the world in ways to both feed and justify and sustain our emotions on an implicit basis.

Because of the prevalence of these Dominant Emotional States in our lives, it is important to identify and understand them.  This is where mindfulness comes into the picture. When we effectively learn to be mindful we can find our way through the Dominant emotions, and then can learn to sit with the emotions underneath.  Once we can acknowledge the deeper or Primary Emotional State and sit with it, we can learn to modulate the Primary Emotional State, which can benefit us in many ways. Many of the individuals I work with report finding a place of quiet inside themselves, which they have never been aware of before.

So when it comes to actually working with people, we (the client and I) begin by exploring the client’s ability to name and sense emotions within themselves. This varies by client, from being very adept at identifying emotions to not being able to identify them at all. Wherever the client’s ability lies is fine; that is where we work.  We then work to guide the client to pair the emotions that they are feeling in the moment to the body sensations that they are experiencing in the moment. When working in this manner it is important to keep the client in present emotions and sensations.  This is how we begin to teach and coach the client to develop mindfulness around emotions and awareness of body sensations. The client is coached in moving between the body sensations and emotions. Typically, when the focus is on the emotions they increase. As the client’s focus moves to the related body sensations, they typically modulate or lessen.

As the client learns to do this, usually in a few minutes, we then work to gather the history regarding the client’s past and how their past impacts their present. We work to sort all of the emotions and establish their relationships to the client’s life.  I work with the client to sort through anxiety, sadness, depression, or whatever the client is feeling. We work to separate whatever comes, staying focused in the present, until we get to the core emotion of fear or terror.

When we get to the fear/terror the client is guided into connecting the emotions to the related trauma, guided to stay out of the memories and coached in modulating the emotions. The client is taught to modulate those emotions and sensations outside of the traumatic memory, prior to reprocessing with the Dominant Emotional State protocol or any other trauma-reprocessing model such as EMDR.

This process allows the client to experience and modulate the emotions and body sensations in a way that is less overwhelming and allows the client to reprocess trauma in a less intense manner.