What is SOMATIC EXPERIENCING®?
Somatic Experiencing (SE™) is a trauma recovery treatment that helps release traumatic shock and "stuck" feelings. Your Somatic Experiencing therapist will verbally guide you through exercises that help you identify where trauma and stress manifest in your body (sensations, postures, movements, etc.), and practice mind-body techniques to resolve it.
These techniques pull from psychology, neuroscience, and indigenous healing practices, and is used by multiple health professions, including medicine, physical therapy, and psychotherapy. At Wellness for Humanity, Somatic Experiencing can be incorporated into your talk therapy sessions, or used as a stand-alone treatment.
Somatic Experiencing may be a good fit for you if you:
Experience out-of-control survival modes, like fight, flight, or freeze, when no emergency is present
Struggle with an inner critic that keeps asking "why you can't just get over it"
Have significant lingering effects from a real or perceived life-threatening situation
Believe you struggle to function and feel like yourself due to the effects of cumulative and/or ongoing stress
How does somatic experiencing work?
The developer of the technique, Dr. Peter A. Levine, studied the nervous systems of animals, who he realized are constantly under the threat of death, yet show no symptoms of traumatic stress. He learned that of the three survival responses (fight, flight, and freeze), experiencing "freeze" can become problematic if it's unable to run its full course.
In fight or flight, the massive physical energy that's built up in response to a threat gets to be discharged through intense movements. After a freeze response, the body must also discharge this energy through shakes and trembling. However, if this energy is not released, the survival-mode phase remains incomplete, and the stored energy becomes "trapped". From the body's perspective, you are still being threatened. This can often come out as frequent dissociation, dysregulated mood, intense anxiety, and panic attacks.
Somatic Experiencing allows your body and mind to find the closure it needs. Like an archeologist, your therapist methodically helps you uncover where old trauma responses reside in the body, and gently guides you through unearthing it. It helps you to effectively heal and release the emerging suppressed emotions.
somatic experiencing faq's
1. Is Somatic Experiencing like talk therapy?
Somatic Experiencing is not like talk therapy. Although there may be some talking, most of your session will focus on what sensations and emotions you are feeling in your body. This is because your body also has a voice and plays a role in what you are working through.
2. What happens in a Somatic Experiencing session?
SE sessions involve small amounts of the traumatic or stressful situation that you are trying to work through. The SE practitioner will be paying close attention to your physical responses (gestures, breathing, muscle tension, posture, etc.). The SE practitioner will check in with you to assess and keep track of body sensations and emotions that you are noticing and are not obvious to the practitioner, such as feelings of heaviness, tightness, dizziness, grief, or anger. It is the practice of an SE practitioner to proceed carefully and cautiously to avoid retraumatizing or triggering you. Should you become overwhelmed the practitioner will help you to feel more comfortable and teach your how to use self-regulating strategies.
3. How fast is the healing process?
The length of time for healing and processing depends on you. Some people feel much better right after the first session and some people take much longer before feeling relief. Ultimately, the stress level of your nervous system will determine the healing process.
4. Who is Somatic Experiencing ideal for?
SE is ideal for someone who has is experiencing stress and can’t think their way out of it. It is great for someone who is logical, but who still feels the emotional effects of stress. SE is also excellent for building or repairing the mind-body connection so that you are able to trust yourself and honor your instincts.