About Somatic Experiencing®
About Somatic Experiencing®
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is one of the most effective trauma healing tools taught worldwide. It is an approach that allows the therapist to guide the client through challenging states and situations and offers a basic approach to understanding and managing the effects of shock and trauma. The bodily experiencing method works directly with the client’s autonomic nervous system, allowing the client to complete innate defensive responses and restore balance to the nervous system.
Created by Peter Levine, PhD, this therapy works on the principle that trauma gets trapped in the body, leading to some of the symptoms people with PTSD or people who have experienced trauma might experience. Through this method, practitioners work on releasing this stress from the body. One aspect of this disregulation is known as the freeze response, to our body’s primitive defense against danger. This response would activate if someone were being chased by a tiger. Unlike the “fight or flight” response that takes place in response to an acute threat, which causes the sympathetic nervous system to increase heart rate, breathing, and focus, the “freeze” response can cause the opposite.
Through working with body awareness, titration, pendulation and resourcing, the SE method develops the ability to become aware of and process one’s own stress reactions, restoring healthy self-regulation of the nervous system and emotions. SE offers tools for working with acute stress as well as different categories of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Working through the path of resources and self-regulation is a very effective method that does not burden the client by re-enacting or repeating the trauma, allowing them to restore their own capacity and ability to live a full and joyful life.
Somatic Experiencing is based on the premise that our body and nervous system have a tremendous capacity for self-healing, and if given the right stimulation and conditions to do so, they are able to repair incomplete defensive reactions and gradually release the energy of trauma from the system completely without the client having to go through retraumatization and debilitating cathartic processes. Somatic Experiencing gradually restores the healthy self-regulation of the nervous system and restores the sense of safety, relaxation, wholeness, joy and meaning in life to the traumatized person, that they have lost as a result of the trauma.
A person on a rational level can have processed the entire event. They know why it happened, that it turned out well in the end, but the body seems to have a life of its own. Peter A. Levine found during his research that post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of not discharging the energy that a person activated when threatened. The purpose of Somatic Experiencing Therapy is to release this energy and bring the person back to their life.
Somatic Experiencing is not a psychotherapeutic method in the classical sense, yet it is used around the world by psychologists, psychotherapists, physicians, physiotherapists and other bodyworkers, midwives, doulas and other helping professions. Somatic Experiencing works with both adults and children.
What can Somatic Experiencing® cure?
Typical causes of trauma include:
- Falls, accidents, trauma, or even being present at such an event
- Medical interventions, procedures with anesthesia, hospital stays
- Experiencing an act of violence against oneself (e.g. physical attack, rape), but also being present during violence against another person
- Long-term stress
- Natural disasters
- Difficulties or increased stress during prenatal development, childbirth or the first months of life
Typical symptoms of trauma:
- Reduced ability to cope with stress
- Chronic fatigue or depression
- Concentration disorders
- Increased alertness or sensitivity to external stimuli
- Numbness of body parts or general dissociation
- Panic attacks from inadequate emotional reactions
- Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
- A wide range of psychosomatic issues
Other issues related to malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system.
Course of treatment
We, who practice somatic experiencing, believe that a person’s inner feelings affect their physical body, and we use various forms of mind-body exercises to release trauma blocks from the mind and body.