Exploring Somatic Experiencing Therapy: A Path For Women To Heal Trauma Through The Body
May 23, 2023
Exploring Somatic Experiencing Therapy: A Path For Women To Heal Trauma Through The Body

Written By Stacey Inal  MA, MBA,
Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Women’s Life Coach

Exploring Somatic Experiencing Therapy: A Path For Women To Heal Trauma Through The Body

The first time I heard about Somatic Experiencing Therapy was in my psychology program. The concepts intrigued me because I grew up in a home where holistic medicine was at the forefront of our everyday health. Back in the 1980’s before anyone was on the Kombucha trend, my mother had a large glass jar with a mushroom like thing growing in it. I still remember when one of my friends thought it was cold Lipton iced tea and to her surprise, it was anything but that. My upbringing in Northern New Mexico amongst the Native Americans and Hispanic community introduced me to concepts like herbal medicine, old school healing remedies, and understanding the body’s role and utilization of nature’s resources in recuperating.

One big concept in today’s world is the word “Trauma” and its overall impact on our health.  Trauma can have a lasting impact on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. While traditional talk therapies can help individuals process their experiences, they often neglect the body’s role in healing. This is where Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy comes in. It is a type of therapy that focuses on the connection between the mind and body to help individuals heal from trauma. In this blog post, I will explore SE therapy in-depth and its benefits for women who have experienced trauma. I will delve into different areas of women’s lives where SE therapy can be beneficial, what to expect in an SE therapy session, how to find an SE practitioner, and evidence supporting its effectiveness. I will also share real success stories of women who have undergone SE therapy and discuss some criticisms of this approach. Join me as we explore how somatic experiencing therapy can help women like you heal from trauma through the body.

Understanding Somatic Experiencing Therapy

When I went to my first SE training in Phoenix, Arizona, I found Somatic Experiencing to be a natural therapeutic intervention that made a lot of sense to me. Trauma often presents itself in the body, creating patterns of tension and stress that can be difficult to release. Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET) offers a unique approach to healing trauma by focusing on the physical sensations and responses of the body. Developed by Peter Levine, SET aims to help individuals identify, regulate, and release these patterns of tension through a safe and supportive environment. This therapeutic approach has been shown to help women recover from traumas such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and childhood abuse. Through SET, women can develop greater resilience and self-regulation skills for future stressors by reconnecting with their bodies.

Definition of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Somatic Experiencing Therapy is a unique therapeutic approach that centers around the body’s physical sensations to heal trauma. Developed by Dr Peter Levine, who recognized the natural ability of animals in the wild to release traumatic energy from their bodies, it involves working with a therapist to identify and release tension related to past traumas. SET can be particularly effective for women who have experienced sexual trauma or other forms of violence, as it focuses on the body’s natural healing processes to relieve symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. By reconnecting with their bodies and emotions, women undergoing SET can find relief from the effects of trauma and work towards greater self-regulation and resilience in their daily lives.

Peter Levine and Waking the Tiger

In his groundbreaking book, “Waking the Tiger,” Peter Levine introduced the world to Somatic Experiencing Therapy. Based on a deep understanding of the body’s natural healing processes, SET focuses on releasing tension and trauma stored in the body. By helping clients safely experience and process physical sensations related to past traumas, SET allows individuals to reconnect with their bodies and emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Through guided movements, breathing exercises, and other techniques, SET has been shown to be effective in treating a range of issues related to trauma and stress. Peter Levine’s innovative approach has helped countless women find relief from symptoms related to trauma and reclaim their lives.

Body and Mind Connection

Our bodies and minds are intricately connected, and trauma can impact both in significant ways. Somatic Experiencing Therapy recognizes this connection and offers a holistic approach to healing trauma that addresses both physical and emotional aspects of an individual’s experience. By paying attention to bodily sensations and working through them to facilitate healing, individuals can release physical tension and emotional blockages caused by traumatic experiences. This can help them regain control over their lives and improve their relationships with others. In doing so, Somatic Experiencing Therapy empowers women to take charge of their healing journey and find relief from the debilitating symptoms of trauma such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

How Somatic Experiencing Therapy Can Benefit Women

Somatic Experiencing Therapy offers numerous benefits to women who have experienced trauma. By focusing on the mind-body connection, the therapy helps release emotional and physical tension stored in the body. This type of therapy enables women to feel more grounded and present in their bodies, facilitating emotional regulation and improved self-awareness. Through safe and supportive spaces provided by SE practitioners, women are better equipped to process and heal from traumatic experiences. The holistic approach of Somatic Experiencing Therapy addresses both physical and emotional aspects of an individual’s experience, improving relationships with others and giving individuals back control over their lives.

A Tool for Trauma Healing

Trauma can have a long-lasting impact on an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Somatic Experiencing Therapy provides a powerful tool for healing trauma by addressing the body’s sensations and responses. This form of therapy involves working through bodily sensations to release physical tension and emotional blockages caused by traumatic experiences. By doing so, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve overall well-being. Somatic Experiencing Therapy is a holistic approach that helps individuals regain control over their lives and improve relationships with others. It offers a safe space for those who have experienced trauma to process and heal from their experiences with the guidance of a trained therapist.

Emotional Regulation

Trauma can have lasting effects on emotional regulation, leaving individuals feeling overwhelmed or dissociated from their emotions. This is where somatic experiencing therapy comes in. By focusing on the sensations in the body and learning to regulate them, individuals can improve their overall emotional regulation. Through this therapy, women can learn how to tolerate and regulate their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Over time, regular sessions can lead to increased emotional stability and well-being. Somatic experiencing therapy provides an effective tool for those who struggle with emotional regulation due to past experiences of trauma.

Addressing Reactivity

For women who have experienced trauma, reactivity can often be a significant issue. Somatic Experiencing Therapy offers a unique approach that addresses this problem by focusing on physical sensations rather than just the emotional and cognitive aspects of trauma. By allowing women to process their experiences through the body, SE Therapists help clients regulate their nervous systems and respond to triggers in a healthier way. Through gentle touch, guided imagery, and body awareness exercises, women learn how to release stored emotions and tension in their bodies. This therapy is especially beneficial for those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, or other forms of violence. With regular sessions, women can expect to feel more grounded, connected, and present in their bodies while gaining increased emotional stability and overall well-being.

Exploring Areas in Women’s Lives Where SE Therapy Can be Beneficial

Women experience various forms of trauma throughout their lives, and Somatic Experiencing Therapy can be beneficial in several areas. It provides a path for women to heal from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Women who have difficulty connecting with their bodies or expressing themselves emotionally can find solace in this therapy. Additionally, SE therapy can help women regulate their emotions, address reactivity to triggers and stressors, and process major life transitions such as divorce or loss of a loved one. Furthermore, SE therapy has been known to alleviate physical ailments related to stress and trauma. Overall, SE therapy offers a unique body-based approach that helps women live more fully and healthily.

Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can have significant long-term impacts on a woman’s mental and physical health. Survivors of childhood trauma are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. The body stores the emotional pain and distress associated with traumatic experiences, creating tension and discomfort that can manifest in a variety of physical symptoms. Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) can help women process and heal from childhood trauma by addressing the physical sensations associated with the trauma. Through SE therapy, women can learn to regulate their nervous system and develop resilience to future stressors, leading to long-lasting positive effects. By working with an SE therapist who is trained in the specific techniques necessary for healing, women can experience relief from the negative impacts of childhood trauma on their lives.

Sexual Trauma

Sexual trauma can have devastating effects on an individual’s mental and physical health, with many survivors experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Somatic Experiencing Therapy can be beneficial for women who have experienced sexual trauma by targeting the body’s response to the event. By focusing on the physical sensations associated with the traumatic experience, individuals can gradually release pent-up energy and tension. This approach can help survivors develop a sense of control over their bodies and emotions, enabling them to manage stress more effectively. Additionally, SE therapy offers a safe and supportive environment where individuals can learn to process their trauma in a healthy way, leading to lasting positive changes in their mental well-being.

Relationship Trauma

Relationship trauma can have a profound impact on a woman’s emotional and physical well-being. It may manifest itself in the form of trust issues, low self-esteem, and difficulty forming healthy relationships. Somatic Experiencing Therapy can be an effective tool for women seeking to heal from relationship trauma. By focusing on the physical sensations associated with traumatic experiences, SE therapy can help women identify and release stored emotional pain. The therapy also helps individuals develop more positive self-awareness, build resilience to future stressors, and improve their overall mental health. Through working with an SE therapist, women can rebuild healthy relationships while setting boundaries that support their emotional and physical well-being.

What to Expect in an SE Therapy Session

When attending a Somatic Experiencing Therapy session, it is important to understand that the focus will be on bodily sensations and physical experiences related to trauma. The therapist will create a safe and comfortable environment for you to explore your experiences and guide you through exercises aimed at releasing tension and promoting relaxation. They may use touch or other techniques to help you connect with your body and emotions. The goal of SE therapy is to help clients regulate their nervous system and promote healing from trauma. An initial assessment will be conducted, and tools for emotional regulation and integration of body and mind will be utilized throughout the sessions. The therapist will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan based on your unique needs and experiences.

Initial Assessment

At the beginning of an SE therapy session, your therapist will conduct an initial assessment to understand your trauma history and current symptoms. This information is essential to tailor a personalized treatment plan that meets your specific needs. During the assessment, the therapist may ask you to describe physical sensations or emotions related to trauma that you experience. This helps them gain insight into how your body responds to trauma triggers. The therapist creates a safe and supportive environment where you are encouraged to listen to your body’s sensations and responses during sessions. The goal of this therapy is for clients to regulate their nervous system and promote healing from trauma.

Tools for Emotional Regulation and Healing

Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) can be an incredibly effective tool for emotional regulation and healing. By focusing on bodily sensations and emotions, clients can process and release traumatic experiences in a safe and supportive environment. There are several tools that therapists may use during an SE session, including mindfulness, breathing exercises, and gentle movement. These tools help to promote relaxation, emotional regulation, and greater awareness of the mind-body connection. Through consistent practice of these techniques, women may develop increased resilience and empowerment in dealing with past trauma. SE therapy offers a unique approach to healing that prioritizes the integration of body and mind to support overall wellbeing.

Integration of Body and Mind

The integration of body and mind is a central concept in Somatic Experiencing Therapy. By focusing on physical sensations, SE therapy enables individuals to process their trauma through the body, leading to a more comprehensive and lasting healing experience. Through exercises that bring attention to the sensations felt within the body, such as tension or relaxation, clients develop greater awareness of how their emotions and thoughts are connected to physical sensations. This awareness helps them better understand the root cause of their trauma, facilitating a more sustainable healing process. Ultimately, by integrating body and mind, women can achieve a deeper sense of self-awareness, resilience, and well-being.

Finding an SE Practitioner

Finding an SE practitioner can be a daunting task, but it is essential to ensure you receive the best care possible. When seeking referrals, try to source recommendations from trusted sources such as therapists, friends, or family members who have experience with SE practitioners. It is also vital to research online and read reviews from their clients to gain insight into the practitioner’s expertise and success rates. Another important factor to consider is the location and availability of the practitioner for appointments. However, the most crucial aspect of finding an SE practitioner is establishing a personal connection and trust with them. Schedule a consultation with potential practitioners to assess their compatibility with your needs and preferences. Remember, the right therapist will help create a safe and supportive environment for trauma healing through somatic experiencing therapy.

Personal Connection and Trust

Finding the right Somatic Experiencing (SE) practitioner is a deeply personal process that requires trust and connection. It’s important to research and read reviews about potential SE practitioners to ensure they have proper training and experience in trauma therapy. Women should trust their instincts when choosing an SE practitioner since it can be a vulnerable process. A good SE practitioner should provide a safe and supportive environment for women to explore their trauma through the body. Additionally, practitioners should demonstrate empathy, patience, and professionalism and encourage open communication throughout the healing journey. Personal connection and trust with the practitioner are essential factors that can significantly impact the therapeutic outcome, making it crucial to find an SE practitioner who aligns with your needs and preferences.

Understanding the Evidence Base for SE Therapy

Decades of scientific research have established a strong evidence base for the effectiveness of Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy in reducing trauma symptoms. Studies show that SE therapy can help individuals develop resilience, increase self-awareness, and improve overall well-being. This approach to trauma healing is grounded in neuroscience, which highlights the connection between the body and mind response to stress and trauma. Clinical experience has also shown SE therapy to be a promising alternative to traditional forms of talk therapy. Patients who undergo SE therapy report feeling more empowered, connected, and present in their daily lives.

Research Studies

Research studies have been conducted to explore the effectiveness of Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy in treating trauma. A study conducted in 2010 found that SE therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD in veterans. Similarly, a 2018 study showed that SE therapy could help women with a history of childhood trauma reduce their symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results of these studies suggest that SE therapy can be an effective approach to treating trauma and its associated symptoms. Moreover, SE therapy has also been found to improve the physiological responses to stress, such as heart rate variability and cortisol levels, which can further enhance the healing process. Overall, research suggests that SE therapy can be an important tool for individuals seeking to heal from trauma and regain a sense of well-being.

Clinical Experience

Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) is an evidence-based approach to trauma treatment that is grounded in an understanding of the body’s physical sensations and responses. SE practitioners are highly trained and have years of clinical experience working with clients who have experienced trauma. They understand how traumatic events can become trapped in the body, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and physical pain. By gently guiding clients to release these emotions through touch, movement, and other techniques, SE therapy helps clients reconnect with their bodies and access their innate healing resources. Research has shown that SE therapy can be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving overall mental health.

Success Stories from Women Who Have Undergone SE Therapy

Success stories of women who have undergone Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) are a testament to the benefits of this approach. Many women have reported feeling more connected to their bodies and emotions after SE therapy. They describe an increased sense of empowerment and agency in their lives, having overcome difficult experiences and healed from trauma. Some women have found that SE therapy has helped them overcome physical symptoms related to trauma, such as chronic pain or digestive issues. These success stories highlight the potential for SE therapy to transform lives and provide hope for those struggling with the aftermath of trauma.

Case Study 1: Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can have lasting effects on a person’s mental and physical well-being. Case Study 1 highlights the impact of childhood trauma on a woman who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. Through Somatic Experiencing Therapy, she was able to identify and release the trapped energy in her body, leading to a reduction in her symptoms. This case study demonstrates how SE therapy can be effective for a variety of traumas and how it focuses on releasing trauma stored in the body through physical sensations and movements. Each person’s journey through SE therapy is unique, tailored to their specific needs, providing them with an empowering path towards healing from past traumas.

Case Study 2: Healing from Sexual Trauma

Sexual trauma can have long-lasting effects on a woman’s mental and physical health, leading to anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. Case Study 2 exemplifies how Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SE) can help women heal from sexual trauma by addressing the pain and tension stored in their bodies. Through SE therapy, the patient was empowered to reconnect with her body, release trapped emotions, and overcome anxiety, panic attacks, body pain and migraines. SE therapists use touch, grounding exercises, and gentle movements to facilitate healing. With time, the patient reported feeling more in control of her life and better able to handle future triggers. The individualized approach of SE therapy allows for a unique journey that focuses on the specific needs of each person.


Somatic Experiencing Therapy is a powerful form of therapy that helps women heal from trauma by connecting the body and mind. By addressing emotional regulation, reactivity, and trauma healing, this therapy has proven to be effective for many women who have experienced childhood trauma, sexual trauma, relationship trauma and even physical trauma such as a medical emergency. If you are interested in exploring this therapy further, it is important to find a qualified practitioner who can guide you through the process. While there are some criticisms of SE therapy, research studies and clinical experience show that it can be a valuable tool in the healing journey. On a personal note, I certainly have found this to be true both in my own healing and the healing of my clients.

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