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Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing

A body-based technique to release trauma and restore connection

How can Somatic Experiencing® nourish your soul?

According to Somatic Experiencing®, many people store trauma in their body due to a shocking event or unresolved childhood experiences. This trauma can cause issues such as emotional distress and physical pain. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing® focuses on physical sensations as opposed to emotions or memories to assist release and regulation of the stress response.

Somatic Experiencing® therapists help participants gain low-level awareness of trauma (titration), dissipate arousal (discharge) and learn relaxation techniques such as breathing or visualisation to overcome the stress response called ‘freezing.’ By turning off a threat and releasing stored energy, a person may return to a relaxed, self-regulated reality.

Trauma specialist, Dr. Peter Levine, Ph.D., developed Somatic Experiencing® in the 1970s. He holds doctorate degrees in Medical Biophysics and in Psychology and has authored several books such as “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.”

The Somatic Experiencing® framework may be practiced by a range of healing professions. The USA-based Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute™ provides worldwide professional training, ensuring consistent courses via strict contractual obligations with local organisers. The intensive part-time training is spread over three years and involves classroom education, case consultations and practical training. Graduates are then qualified as a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner.

Benefits of Somatic Experiencing®

Somatic Experiencing® may be beneficial for those who have been impacted by trauma or sustained stress. Examples of this may be abuse, accidents, birth trauma, conflict, illness, loss, natural disasters, neglect, and near death. 

Two randomised controlled studies of patients undergoing Somatic Experiencing® showed positive outcomes on symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as chronic pain associated with that event. An additional 2016 study suggested Somatic Experiencing® in conjunction with Play Therapy can assist with “both the prevention and occurrence of post-surgical, Toddler Trauma and resolution of childhood PTSD”. 

Somatic Experiencing® can assist in relieving symptoms related to:

  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Behavioural problems
  • Children’s health
  • Communication
  • Confidence
  • Depression
  • Emotional issues
  • Fears and phobias
  • Grief and loss
  • Life crisis
  • Mental health
  • Personal development
  • Relaxation
  • Stress management
  • Trauma

What to expect from a Somatic Experiencing® session

Somatic Experiencing® sessions can be conducted while sitting, lying or standing. There are no set number of sessions and treatments can take one to two hours. 

Without triggering or retraumatising you, a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner will encourage exploration of uncomfortable sensations and underlying emotions. Unlike exposure therapy, the past trauma does not need to be discussed in detail. 

The practitioner will encourage awareness of signs such as breathing, temperature, heaviness, tightness and dizziness. You may be guided to alternate (or) between feelings of discomfort and comfort. This encourages the awareness and release of pent up emotions while learning self-calming strategies. 

You are likely to be encouraged to practice these awareness and stress-coping skills in everyday life. The use of Fitbits or smart watches may be suggested so that you can monitor your stress signs when not in a session. The intention of Somatic Experiencing® is to reinforce your inherent capacity to self-regulate so you can release trauma and relax. 

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Somatic Experiencing®. 

If you have any concerns at all, also speak to your Somatic Experiencing® practitioner, who will be happy to address these and evaluate whether Somatic Experiencing® is a suitable treatment for you.

References

Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy | Frontiers in Psychology

Psychotherapy l SoulAdvisor

Shiver, shake, quiver, quake | The Optimist Daily

Peter Levine, PhD | National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine 

Waking the Tiger : Healing Trauma | goodreads.com

Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute™ | traumahealing.org

Who Can Benefit From SE? | seaustralia.com.au

Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome Study | Journal of Traumatic Stress

A randomized controlled trial of brief Somatic Experiencing for chronic low back pain and comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms | European Journal Of Psychotraumology

Somatic Experiencing®, Attachment and the Neurophysiology of Dyadic Completion |International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy 

How Somatic Therapy Can Help Patients Suffering from Psychological Trauma | Psychcentral.com

Instructor’s Manual for Resolving Trauma in Psychotherapy: A Somatic Approach with Peter A. Levine, PhD | psychotherapy.net

Peter Levine Describes How Somatic Experiencing Helps Clients Self-Regulate | psychotherapynetworker.org