• 1Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, USA
  • 2Foundation for Human Enrichment, USA

Here we present a theory of human trauma and chronic stress, based on the practice of Somatic Experiencing® (SE), a form of trauma therapy that emphasizes guiding the client’s attention to interoceptive, kinesthetic and proprioceptive experience. SE™ claims that this style of inner attention, in addition to the use of kinesthetic and interoceptive imagery, can lead to the resolution of symptoms resulting from chronic and traumatic stress. This is accomplished through the completion of thwarted, biologically based, self-protective and defensive responses, and the discharge and regulation of excess autonomic arousal. We present this theory through a composite case study of an SE treatment; based on this example, we offer a possible neurophysiological rationale for the mechanisms involved, including a theory of trauma and chronic stress as a functional dysregulation of the complex dynamical system formed by the subcortical autonomic, limbic, motor and arousal systems, which we term the core response network (CRN). We demonstrate how the methods of SE help restore functionality to the CRN, and we emphasize the importance of taking into account the instinctive, bodily based protective reactions when dealing with stress and trauma, as well as the effectiveness of using attention to interoceptive,
proprioceptive and kinesthetic sensation as a therapeutic tool. Finally, we point out that SE and similar somatic approaches offer a supplement to cognitive and exposure therapies, and that mechanisms similar to those discussed in the paper may also be involved in the benefits of meditation and other somatic practices.

Keywords: Trauma, stress, interoception, Meditation, Somatic Experiencing, Autonomic Nervous System, Limbic System, premotor system, Core Response Network, Polyvagal Theory

Citation: Payne P, Levine PA and Crane-Godreau MA (2015). Somatic Experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Front. Psychol. 6:93. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093

Received: 30 Oct 2014; Accepted: 17 Jan 2015.
Edited by:

Wolf E. Mehling, University of California San Francisco, USA

Reviewed by:

Norman Farb, Baycrest, Canada
Peter M. Wayne, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA
Cynthia Price, University of Washington, USA

Copyright: © 2015 Payne, Levine and Crane-Godreau. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Mardi A. Crane-Godreau, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, USA, Mardi.Crane@Dartmouth.EDU