Therapy

What is Somatic
Experiencing Therapy?

The Somatic Experiencing (SE) method is a short-term naturalistic approach that focuses on resolving trauma-related issues.

Overview

Help for trauma survivors.

“The Somatic Experiencing® (SE) 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

Until the person has dealt with and sufficiently resolved the physiological shock, they can't deal with the emotions.

Dr. Peter A. Levine
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Approach

Somatic Experiencing 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.

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Benefits

The results from Somatic Experiencing therapy include relief from shame, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, depression, habits and addictions, patterns and vicious cycles, self-sabotage, syndromes and dissociative behaviors. It brings on a sense of vibrancy and reawakens feelings of centeredness, boundaries, empowerment, being “in the moment”, safety, and joyfulness.

How is it Different?

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.

Unlike traditional talk therapy and other cognitive modalities, the focus is on the biology rather than the biography. Talk therapy works more with the higher brain (cognitive rational mind), while somatic experiencing (SE) therapy 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.

Conversation with Alanis Morissette - Episode 8 with Dr. Peter Levin. In this podcast, Alanis talks with Dr. Peter Levine about stress and trauma recovery, resilience, Somatic Experiencing, and more. Subscribe on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/CWApodcast

A Typical Somatic Experiencing Session

A Somatic Experiencing session is similar to traditional “talk” therapy (for lack of a better term). 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.

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.

In the digital age, Emotional Fitness will be more critical than ever to the quality of our lives. It remains the most accurate predictor of success and happiness. This is because we experience the world emotionally - not cognitively. We make most major decisions based on how we feel - not what we think.

About Shame

Brené Brown brought shame, the underpinning of all emotions and limiting beliefs onto the mainstage. Her research and academic understanding of Shame is nonpareil. Previously, the subject of Shame was not even part of the curriculum in the study of psychology. However, as a researcher, she brings a cognitive understanding to shame, but to heal toxic shame, we must also work with it physiologically.

Symptoms of Shame

  • Shyness
  • Progress followed by pull-back
  • Lack of confidence
  • Regret
  • Social anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling defeated
  • A sense of futility
  • Self-sabotage
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of incompetence
  • Fear of being seen or not heard
  • Vicious cycles
  • Habituated patterns
  • Addictions
  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders

Shame is a ubiquitous human experience. It is used in every culture to socialize children and to protect the tribe. Our physiological reaction to shame helps us to maintain the interpersonal bridges that are imperative for our survival. It not only increases the likelihood of being embraced by and remaining a part of the tribe, but it teaches us how to thrive in community. Without healthy shame, we would lack the self-awareness of our own limitations, have no moral compass and there would be no rule of law. During the pre-verbal, precognitive and pre-conceptual stages of early development, rejection and abandonment equates with death. Shame is an instinctual survival response to a nearly impossible situation. Shame’s function is to lower affect and thereby reduce the risk of falling out of favor with the care-provider. Shame also binds old wounds and grief to the present moment and influences most of our thoughts and behaviors.

Like other developmental trauma, Shame also informs how we come to see ourselves and others. In doing so, it forms our beliefs about who we are and how others relate to us. Over time, these conscious and embodied beliefs may manifest into toxic shame. When shame is internalized and identified with, we spiral into self-loathing and form the belief that we are without value or purpose and therefor unlovable. Toxic shame debilitates us and isolates us from humanity.

Transmuting toxic shame into healthy shame, releases clients from mind fog, isolation, social anxiety, self-loathing, lack of confidence, self-sabotage and perfectionism, and all pervasive nervous system shut down. Truly healing and releasing the underpinning of toxic shame, by transmuting it into healthy shame, restores vibrancy, self-esteem, resilience and self-reliance.

In 1998, says Monica Lewinsky, "I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously." Today, the kind of online public shaming she went through has become a constant. In a brave talk, she takes a look at our "culture of humiliation," in which online shame equals dollar signs - and demands a different way.

About Trauma

Childhood trauma isn't something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.

Download the Aces Test PDF →

Symptoms of Trauma

  • Untrusting of others - or themselves (insecure)
  • Self-abusive or violent towards others
  • Exhausted/void of life-force or unable to sit still
  • Dead behind the eyes or wild/wide-eyed
  • Prone to panic attacks or collapse
  • Disempowered or overpowering
  • Disengaged from life and others
  • Angry or emotional
  • Dissociative or hyper-vigilant
  • Fearful - feel unsafe in their bodies or the world
  • Adrenaline junkies
  • Volatile or shut down
  • Disconnected or clingy and needy
  • Socially anxious or promiscuous

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Self-regulation through sex, drugs, alcohol, exercise, prayer, meditation, food, TV, etc.
  • Avoiding memories
  • Keeping busy
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
  • Repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event)
  • Feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
  • Being unable to express affection
  • Feeling there’s no point in planning for the future
  • Being easily upset or angry
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Irritability and aggressive behavior
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reliving aspects of the trauma
  • Hopelessness
  • Extreme alertness
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Being easily startled
  • Reliving aspects of the trauma
  • Vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again)
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Nightmares
  • Intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma

Trauma Based Syndromes

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Lupus
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Epstein Barr
  • Colitis
  • Tourette's
  • Chronic Pain
  • Restless Leg
  • Chronic Fatigue

How Somatic Experiencing Can Help Trauma

In this video, you will learn about the physiological basis of trauma and how Somatic Experiencing® (SE™), developed by Peter A. Levine, PhD, helps distressed individuals recover a sense of well being, stability and vitality.

This video tells the compassionate story of the healing process of Ray, a marine who had been injured by two explosive devices (IEDs) and diagnosed with both severe PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He was brought to see Peter A. Levine after developing chronic pain, Tourette-like convulsions, cognitive problems and insomnia due to night terrors.

About Depersonalization

Disassociation is a physiological experience in which people feel disconnected from their sensory experience, sense of self, or personal experience. Somatic experiencing can have a beneficial effect on these symptoms.

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