Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing

A body-based technique to release trauma and restore connection

How can Somatic Experiencing® nourish you?

According to Somatic Experiencing®, many people store trauma[1] 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'.[2] 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.,[3] 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”.[4]

The Somatic Experiencing® framework may be practiced by a range of healing professions. The USA-based Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute™[5] 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.[6] 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[7] on symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as chronic pain associated with that event.[8] An additional 2016 study[9] 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® may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Anxiety Behavioural issues Communication and self-expression Confidence and self-esteem Depression Fears and phobias Grief, bereavement and loss Mental health Mobility and movement Mood imbalances Pain relief PTSD and trauma Relaxation Stress and tension Show all

What to expect from a Somatic Experiencing® session

Somatic Experiencing® sessions[10] 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[11] 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.


  1. Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy | Frontiers in Psychology
  2. Shiver, shake, quiver, quake | The Optimist Daily
  3. Peter Levine, PhD | National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine 
  4. Waking the Tiger : Healing Trauma |
  5. Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute™ |
  6. Who Can Benefit From SE? |
  7. Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome Study | Journal of Traumatic Stress
  8. A randomized controlled trial of brief Somatic Experiencing for chronic low back pain and comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms | European Journal Of Psychotraumology
  9. Somatic Experiencing®, Attachment and the Neurophysiology of Dyadic Completion |International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy 
  10. How Somatic Therapy Can Help Patients Suffering from Psychological Trauma |
  11. Peter Levine Describes How Somatic Experiencing Helps Clients Self-Regulate |

Frequently asked questions

Somatic Experiencing® is a therapeutic approach that helps individuals who have experienced trauma or sustained stress, such as abuse, accidents, birth trauma, conflict, illness, loss, natural disasters, neglect, and near-death experiences. It aims to relieve symptoms related to PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Somatic Experiencing® can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, fears, phobias, grief, and mood imbalances. It can also improve behavioral issues, communication and self-expression, confidence, self-esteem, and mobility and movement.

During a Somatic Experiencing® session, which can last one to two hours, a practitioner will guide you to explore uncomfortable sensations and underlying emotions without retraumatizing you. The practitioner will focus on signs such as breathing, temperature, heaviness, tightness, and dizziness, and guide you to alternate between feelings of discomfort and comfort to help release pent-up emotions and learn self-calming strategies.

Unlike exposure therapy, Somatic Experiencing® does not require detailed discussion of past trauma. Instead, it focuses on bodily sensations and emotions, helping individuals to become aware of and release trauma through physical sensations. It aims to reinforce the body’s natural ability to self-regulate and relax.

It is important to consult with a medical professional before beginning Somatic Experiencing®. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your Somatic Experiencing® practitioner to ensure that this therapy is suitable for you. Additionally, using tools like Fitbits or smartwatches may be recommended to monitor stress signs outside of sessions.
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