How Can Somatic Experiencing Therapy Help With Trauma?
Somatic experiencing therapy is an effective treatment option for those with trauma symptoms. Learn more here.
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What Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
Somatic experiencing (SE) therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on resolving the symptoms of trauma. The therapeutic approach works by helping individuals regulate their nervous system and process traumatic memories.
Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, SE is based on the idea that traumatic events can disrupt the body’s natural ability to process and heal from stress. SE therapy aims to improve people’s awareness of their emotions and bodily sensations in a safe and controlled environment. Increased physiological awareness can help release trapped energy from traumatic experiences.
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How Does Somatic Experiencing Therapy Work?
Somatic therapy uses techniques such as mindfulness, movement, and touch. The goal is to help individuals become more conscious of and address the physical and mental sensations associated with emotional and psychological distress.
The therapist may work with the client to focus on their breathing, posture, and other physical sensations. This can help develop greater awareness and control over their bodily states. Individuals with trauma symptoms or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can greatly benefit from SE therapy.
Somatic Therapy Techniques
Some specific techniques used in somatic experiencing therapy include:
- Grounding: Grounding engages in exercises that use the five senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste—to help connect with the present. For example, note the colors in the room, listen to music, or chew gum.
- Imagery: Imagery helps create images and utilizes visualization to help process traumatic memories and emotions.
- Pendulation: Here, individuals will alternate between states of activation and safety to help regulate the nervous system.
- Resourcing: During this step, individuals will find or access inner feelings of safety and well-being to help build resilience.
- Titration: At this step, they will gradually introduce traumatic memories or sensations in a controlled and safe environment.
- Tracking: Tracking is when individuals in somatic psychotherapy pay attention to and follow sensations in the body to help release traumatic energy.
- Mindful Movement: Here, gentle movements such as rocking, shaking, and breathing exercises help release stored tension.
What Conditions Can Somatic Experiencing Therapy Help With?
SE has shown significant potential in treating trauma-related symptoms. One study found that 90% of tsunami victims with trauma who received SE therapy reported significant improvements or were symptom-free after an eight-month follow-up.1 PTSD is another condition somatic experiencing can help with. For example, the results from a study evaluating the effects of SE on PTSD showed that 44.1% of patients no longer met the criteria for the disorder. The therapy effectively reduced or eliminated their symptoms.2
Somatic experiencing therapy can also help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. In some cases, SE can help people recover from accidents, injuries, surgeries, and other physical traumas.3
Can Somatic Experiencing Be Used to Help Treat Substance Abuse?
Somatic experiencing therapy can potentially be helpful for individuals struggling with substance abuse. Trauma and other life stressors are common contributors to substance abuse and addiction, making SE a viable treatment option. By addressing these underlying issues, people can better cope with cravings and triggers and lead a more successful recovery journey.
For the best recovery outcome, somatic experiencing should be used in conjunction with other evidence-based treatments. For example, an effective substance abuse treatment plan could involve a mix of SE therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
What Types of Somatic Experiencing Therapy Are There?
There are a few different types of somatic experiencing practices, including:
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a type of psychotherapy that helps improve the lives of those who have experienced trauma. The therapy is based on the idea that traumatic memories are stored in the brain in an unprocessed or fragmented form.
By reprocessing these memories, individuals can reduce trauma symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. According to multiple studies, around 90% of patients no longer meet the criteria for PTSD after three ninety-minute EMDR sessions.4
Hakomi is a body-centered psychotherapy based on mindfulness and the idea that early experiences profoundly impact current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a body-centered therapy that focuses on the relationship between the mind and body. It centers around how movement, sensation, and the body affect the healing process. This therapy is especially beneficial for reducing anxiety, chronic pain, and depression.
Neurosomatic therapy uses techniques such as body awareness, movement, and touch to help clients identify and release patterns of tension and pain in the body. It aims to improve the body’s natural healing process and reduce chronic pain and stress-related symptoms. It’s also known as structural integration or rolfing.
Can Somatic Experiencing Help With Complex Trauma?
Somatic experiencing therapy can help individuals with complex trauma by focusing on their physical sensations and emotions. The idea behind this therapy is that traumatic events can become “stuck” in the body and manifest as physical symptoms such as chronic pain, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. By focusing on these physical sensations, people can learn to process and release the trauma they have experienced.
What to Expect From a Somatic Experiencing Session
During a somatic experiencing session, the therapist will help the client improve their mental and physical awareness in a safe and supportive environment. The therapist may use a variety of techniques such as guided imagery, mindfulness, and movement to help the client connect with their body and release tension or trauma.
The client will also be encouraged to speak about their experiences and feelings. The goal of SE therapy is to help people learn more about how trauma affects their bodies and regain a sense of safety, trust, and connection.
Benefits of Somatic Therap
The following includes key benefits of receiving somatic experiencing therapy:
- Develop bodily awareness
- Transform and release trauma
- Build the tools to improve daily life
- Release tension
- Treat symptoms effectively
Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy a Standalone Treatment?
Somatic experiencing is not typically used as a standalone treatment. Mental health professionals often pair it with other forms of therapy, such as CBT and group therapy. This is because trauma and many other mental health concerns involve physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
By working with multiple forms of therapy, individuals can address all aspects of their trauma. They can also achieve a more comprehensive recovery. This program is not a replacement for other forms of treatment, such as medication and psychiatric care. However, it can effectively complement them, especially if the person is experiencing physical symptoms related to the trauma.
Get Somatic Experiencing Therapy at Profound
If you or a loved one could benefit from somatic experiencing therapy treatment, reach out to Profound today. We offer numerous treatment methods in conjunction with somatic experiencing, including cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed care, and holistic treatments.
We can work with you to create an individualized care plan that best suits your needs. Contact us today to begin your healing journey at Profound.