What is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
HELP FOR TRAUMA SURVIVORS
What is Somatic Experiencing?
“The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.” - Taumahealing.org
THE Somatic Experiencing APPROACH
“Offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others.”
A Typical Somatic Experiencing Session
Somatic Experiencing is not a formula or an equation. It is a journey of self-discovery. All of us have had wounding experiences, but not all of them were traumatizing. But unresolved past traumatic events increase the likelihood of being traumatized again in the future. A skilled Somatic Experiencing Practitioner will help you to track current re-enactments and patterns back to their original wound, the beliefs that were formed around that wounding experiencing and to the defense structures, coping mechanisms and survival strategies that were put in place to protect you from future similar threats. Through focusing more on what you FEEL than on what you THINK about the event, the nervous system is enabled to discharge and reorganize and return to resilience.
We can become traumatized when we are pre-verbal, precognitive, and pre-conceptual. If we can become traumatized before we have the capacity for thought, words, language, and perception, then how can the wound of trauma be psychological in nature? There is a psychological component, however, but it is has more to do with how, in hindsight, we have compartmentalized, suppressed or defended ourselves against the pain and fear of the original wounding experience.
A lot of time and attention is spent getting the client resourced (feeling better). Delving into past events cathartically is avoided, as that can re-traumatize and further set trauma into the system.
How is it Different?
Unlike traditional talk therapy and other cognitive modalities, Somatic Experiencing therapy is a short-term naturalistic approach that focuses on resolving trauma-related issues. A Somatic Experiencing session is similar to traditional “talk” therapy (for lack of a better term), except that the focus is on the biology rather than the biography. Talk therapy works more with the higher brain (cognitive rational mind), while SE focuses on the lower brain (animal survival instinct) responses, the autonomic nervous system, and the “felt” sense.
Touch can also be incorporated as a way to resource the client with a sense of support and to increase attention and connection to sensation and the body itself, but this is not a massage. The client may remain seated or recline during the session.