Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Many people have never heard of Somatic Experiencing (SE). Somatic Experiencing is a newer type of trauma therapy that focuses on restoring self-regulation by releasing stored survival energy trapped or stuck in the physical body.
SE therapy helps to relieve emotional and bodily stress which has ended up trapped within the autonomic nervous system after a traumatic experience.
There are many types of trauma that humans experience over their lifetime. The residual emotional pain can show up in the body as physical pain.
The word somatic refers to the internal experience of the body and how it is perceived. SE therapy is a body-oriented approach to trauma treatment. SE was developed by Dr. Peter Levine who has worked extensively with patients with post-traumatic stress disorder – many of whom have served in the US Military and worked in regions of active war combat. He has studied and implemented SE work for 45 years in his practice and today has an institute where SE is taught globally to fellow body workers, therapists, and similar healing workers. Somatic therapy techniques help the client release trauma that is stored on a cellular level and in the brain. The healing takes place by utilizing the client’s body to activate it’s innate healing abilities. As a result, the client will fill relaxation and a relief from the present symptoms which lead to a long-term improvement of health and wellness.
How Can Somatic Experiencing Work For Me?
One of the reasons somatic trauma therapy works so well is because it is based on the biological responses to stress. Did you know that we share stress responders with other mammals? Animals in the wild experience life-threatening events and yet are not traumatized by these experiences. Dr. Levine found that humans often interrupt the natural sequence of processing a threat response. While we experience the same adrenaline response to a threat as animals do, we do not get rid of the resulting energy from that trauma. This can be for multiple reasons. Often, we are afraid or ashamed of the physical sensations of trembling, shaking, or running away. These are natural ways to expend that energy and through it one can allow the nervous system to discharge fully and re-set to baseline. As humans, we often stop that process and try to control it instead.
Who Can Benefit from a Somatic Experiencing Session?
You may be asking yourself how this can help you. As previously mentioned, almost all humans have experienced some form of trauma at least once in their lifetime. For most people it may have happened more than once.
Trauma can be a single event that felt like it was life-threatening, or it could be the result of cumulative stress that over time builds up leaving a person feeling trapped or helpless. This often happens when a person experienced childhood trauma like abuse. This is also an effective treatment for anyone diagnosed with PTSD.
These trauma symptoms indicate that SE might be helpful:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Hyper-alertness or over-reactions to perceived threats
- Suicidal thoughts
- Eating disorders
- Sleep issues
- Substance abuse
Some of the experiences that are effectively processed with somatic experiencing techniques include:
- Natural disasters
- War experiences
- Invasive medical procedures
- Physical or sexual assault
- Childhood emotional abuse or neglect
- Domestic violence
- Birthing trauma
What Does A Somatic Experiencing Session look like?
Sessions differ based on the type of practitioner you are working with. Stacey Inal incorporates traditional psychotherapy with somatic experiencing to help your mind and body connect with past trauma in a safe environment. You will be guided through the process and you have control of how you want the experience to go. Therapists are trained to monitor clients through the process to ensure that regulation coincides with the exercise. Understanding what your body is feeling is essential.
1. We will sit face to face while you describe the traumatic event in detail. This intervention can be done via telehealth as well.
2. I will work with you to gently release the lingering physical stress.
3. You will be taught to recognize and utilize the micro-movements that protect the body.
4. Facilitating your ability to process the physical sensations and emotions as they are released.
5. You will be guided to the realization that the danger is gone and that the mind and body can reset.
6. You will learn how to recognize and regulate your stress levels in the face of future challenges.
7. Talk therapy along with somatic experiencing can be highly beneficial in helping process any memories, upset feelings, and help the regulation be continued.
SE therapy teaches you the skills needed to increase self-regulation and help work through traumatic experiences. You have the ability to improve your mental health after traumatizing events and your body will learn how to regulate stress and recover faster. The end result will be that you will feel lighter and better. You will be able to tackle stressful situations and your body will innately know how to respond. In turn, you will feel more confident knowing that you can handle the hard moments in life.
Maternal Mental Health
Monrovia, CA 91016
© 2023 by Stacey Inal, CA LMFT #120626 Los Angeles, California.