Somatic experiencing therapy is a unique form of therapy that focuses on the mind-body relation to bring about a positive change. The word ‘somatic’ basically means ‘something that is related to the body so that any somatic therapy will consolidate your body.
Probably, you’ve heard the term psychosomatic which describes symptoms doctors are not able to explain. Thus doctors feel that the mind causes these real body problems. Somatic therapy can help you to learn how to use your body, trust your body, and notice when you are having a physical response to something going on in your mind.
Somatic experiencing therapy is a kind of trauma therapy for the restoration of self-regulation by releasing pent-up survival energy. It relieves emotional and bodily stress that has been trapped within your nervous system following a traumatic experience. It is a body-oriented approach to treating trauma, introduced by Dr. Peter Levine after more than 45 years of clinical practice and multidisciplinary study. Somatic therapy techniques grip the body’s innate healing abilities, release traumatic shock, and restore a sense of relaxation.
How Does Somatic Experiencing Therapy Work?
The SE therapy approach simplifies the completion of natural healing motor responses. It also facilitates the release of suppressed survival energy in the body. SE therapy consequently accesses the origin of trauma signs through awareness, sensing, and mindfulness-based strategies. The approach uses gentle guiding techniques to help you develop better tolerance of redundant bodily sensations and restricted emotions.
Sometimes, somatic experiencing therapy refers to as holistic therapy, which is a psycho-physiological approach or a body/mind therapy. SE has made it possible to learn from and combine the latest cutting-edge scientific research in fields like biology, neurology, traumatology, attachment theory, psychology, and physiology.
Somatic therapy techniques
Different types of techniques may use in SE therapy depending on preferences and training. A few techniques include:
The aim of grounding is to assist you to come back to the relaxing period here and now, something that will soothe your nervous system. Often, when you are feeling activated by depression, anxiety, or trauma, your minds resume the past or ahead to the future. With the help of the grounding techniques, you can root yourself in the present moment to help you realize you’re safe.
A perfect example of a grounding technique is to make you feel, your feet on the ground, twitching your toes to improve your sense of touch. Concentrating on the feeling of your feet on the ground will help you come back to your body. It will calm down your nervous system, too.
The goal of somatic therapy is to arm you with the tools you require to support yourself once you are done with your sessions with the therapist. Part of this technique also involves making you learn how to recognize physical and emotional symptoms. You will come to know which self-regulation tools can help you deal with the symptoms then and there.
3. Titration and pendulation
Instead of diving head-first into the traumatic memories, somatic therapy works to pace this work to help you experience any distress in small doses, and from a place of strength. Titration is the term that describes this process. It may work slowly but carefully releases and discharges the tension from your body at a pace that works for you.
Pendulation supports this process. It guides you gently between stressful situations and calming situations. This aids you work in a balanced way so your mind and body can handle it effectively.
4. Setting boundaries
A boundary setting will make you stay present and react to demands in a way that supports you. It is a key part of any therapeutic work. It helps you recognize your requirements and put boundaries in place that will secure your accessing these needs. Setting boundaries will increase your self-awareness. Here is a key so you can recognize in your body how it feels when boundaries are limited and how you can respond.
Movement helps you to focus more on your body. A somatic therapist will likely use several movements in his work with you. This technique encourages you to use specific postures to help you gain insight into your experience. Your therapist will aid you to follow your physical impulses.
6. Acts of triumph
These can be especially helpful when depression from a past experience becomes trapped in your body in some way. The best way here is to slightly drop into the physical sensations you felt at the time. Act out what your body really wished to do at the time.
For example, it may indicate using your legs to move away from a situation. The hope is that this can help your body get a sense of resolution and the processes of what happened.
Tension may move throughout the body in a sequence when it starts to release from your body. A somatic therapist will help you recognize these sequences as they occur. You are more likely to move through each movement mindfully and as a result, you will ensure that sequence is complete.
Types of somatic therapies
There are several approaches to the SE therapy that sits within the somatic therapy family. Some examples are:
1. Somatic experiencing
This trauma healing modality uses titration and pendulation to help you look into and release physical reactions to past events.
2. Biodynamic psychotherapy
This approach facilitates your tune into the non-verbal communication which your body uses to communicate with you. Biodynamic psychotherapy may also involve massage techniques.
3. Brainspotting (BSP)
It typically looks at the eye positioning in order to access deeper emotions. It relaxes your mind by targeting the physical effects of trauma.
4. Emotional freedom technique (EFT Tapping)
EFT Tapping is also called psychological acupressure. It is a form of therapeutic intervention to help you in a range of problems, like stress, anger, and anxiety. This technique allows you to release blocked energy in the body with the help of a combination of tapping techniques and voicing positive affirmations.
5. The Havening Technique
It incorporates touch, eye movements, and distraction techniques. The Havening technique works to lower anxiety and stress related to past memories.
Related: Health Benefits of Massage Therapy
Is Somatic Therapy Effective?
Somatic Experiencing therapy is effective for the treatment of trauma. All the reviews that studied the effectiveness of somatic experiencing (SE) on post-traumatic signs resulted in positive results.
Additional research on somatic therapy and trauma examined that incorporating the body to promote grounding, boundaries, touch, and movement can be instrumental in the healing process. The research claimed that after using somatic therapy, 44.1% of participants no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.
Risks of Somatic Therapy
Risks of somatic therapy may include;
- Misinterpretation of touch
- Breaking down defenses
- Abusive touch
- Inappropriate regression
Researchers studied that all of these risks are found in the abuse of the therapeutic relationship. These risks may often become misguided criticisms of the therapy usage. Misinterpretation of touch and abusive touch is risky because of the inherently intimate nature of being physically close and emotionally vulnerable. Abusive touch can be a double insult as it misuses the therapeutic alliance inappropriately and is also recognized as a physical assault.
Inappropriate regression is a regression lacking therapeutic purpose. It can result in an infantile dependency between you and the somatic therapist. It is usually addressed by delivering improved and credible standards for training.
How Much Does Somatic Therapy Cost?
The therapy sessions can vary from 60 to 90 minutes and the cost mainly depends on the level of the therapist’s expertise and the location where he’ll provide his services. A general search concluded that somatic therapy typically costs around $100-225/per session.
Who Can Benefit from Somatic Therapy?
Somatic experiencing is the best therapy for childhood trauma, PTSD, and stress treatment. The following trauma symptoms indicate that SE can be beneficial:
- Sleep issues
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder
- Hyper-alertness or over-reactions to perceived threats
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
The experiences that can be effectively processed with somatic experiencing techniques are:
- Accidents or natural disasters
- Emotional abuse or neglect
- Invasive medical procedures
- War and combat experiences
- Physical or sexual assault
- Birth trauma
Somatic therapy can help you if you suffer from a wide range of mental issues like addiction, trauma, grief, stress, depression, and anxiety. It can also help you to heal from past trauma and abuse. Anyone who is currently going through sexual dysfunction and problems in their relationships can benefit from somatic therapy.
Also, if you have not got effective traditional treatments for digestive disorders, chronic physical pain, and other chronic disorders, you may benefit from somatic therapy.
What to Look for in a Somatic Therapist?
You should look for a somatic therapist who is licensed and has expertise in the mental health profession with supervised training in somatic therapy techniques. It’s also necessary to look for a therapist you feel comfortable discussing your personal issues.
Related: What Is Psychedelic Therapy?
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