Somatic Experiencing®

Somatic Experiencing® is a gentle and effective neurobiological therapy supported by vigorous scientific research that focuses on relieving symptoms of trauma and chronic stress, including PTSD. A client is supported in developing greater sensory awareness and capacity to regulate his or her nervous system toward realizing his or her physical goals and self-healing.

 

What is Trauma?

Trauma has many forms. It could be a shock to the system: a car wreck, a slip and fall, or surgical procedure. Or it could be emotional in nature, like the loss of a loved one or a major life change, yet its aftermath effects seem to linger and remain. (e.g., “I’ve never felt the same since it happened”). It can also include early-life developmental trauma that can manifest as physical, medical or relational issues. Trauma is not the event itself, but rather a human experience involving the perception of danger, either acute or ongoing, whereby the body’s inherent survival energies are activated, and the neurological system becomes overwhelmed. This can result in a “freeze” state, gripping the body and mind in an exhausting, repetitious cycle of the physiological stress response, even when threat is no longer present. Symptoms can manifest as hypervigilance, anxiety, panic, depression, a sense of helplessness and disconnectedness, and loss of vitality. The physiological effects of ongoing stress can result in chronic muscle tension and pain, limited mobility, digestive dysfunction, migraines, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Experiencing trauma is a normal human occurrence, and one’s nervous system’s response is natural. Somatic Experiencing® can help.

 

What can I expect in a Somatic Experiencing® session?

The client is taught to develop awareness and acceptance of physical body sensations to build capacity for self-regulation of his or her own nervous system. By paying attention to only manageable portions of what may activate the nervous system within a session, the therapist helps the client to create and work within a felt sense of safety and protection so that the activation can be felt, understood and clarified without engaging the physical threat response. Thus, the neurological system is provided with a non-threatening environment to renegotiate healthy movement patterns and physical responses, as well as create new meanings and perceptions surrounding a traumatic event. The client is never asked to “relive” traumatic events or have a catharsis. The goal of a session is to allow the body and mind to experience a deep, innate sense of calm, transforming non-useful stress energy into a renewed sense of vitality and purpose. An effective session can be done seated, can include little to no touch, may involve some active movement of the body in space, and will involve verbal interchange between client and practitioner. (cont. reverse)

 

Is an SE session psychotherapy?

No. Elements of talk therapy are used in an SE® session in that the therapist and client have verbal interactions centered on potentially emotionally meaningful material. However, the focus is on subtle physiological changes in the client, such as breath, involuntary movement patterns, changes in musculature, heart rate and temperature as the body responds to and renegotiates changes in emotion and meaning, rather than a focus on psychological aspects or a detailed narrative.

 

Is SE® guided meditation? Is it Reiki or energy work like Healing Touch?

No. Since a session can be effective without touch, and can include little to no movement, it shares elements of these types of practices. But the focus of an SE™ session is always on the client’s subtle cycles through fight/flight/freeze responses and is assisted in down-regulating them toward an experience of safety, support and refreshed calm.

 

INTEGRATED SOMATIC BODYWORK

(For established massage clients)

Based on the therapist’s and client’s agreement, this is for the returning massage therapy client who desires to delve more deeply into self-healing through somatic-based therapy. The client remains fully clothed, whether on the table or not; because of possible addition of emotionally meaningful and/or traumatic material, the client’s felt sense of safety and security can be different than during previous sessions. The nature of a session is likely to feel less like a traditional massage session; the focus now includes attention to the nervous system as it relates to the other systems of the body. Touch is used only as needed to support regulation: this can include soft-tissue manipulation techniques customary in previous sessions, though they can feel more subtle and less assertive. The potential exists for using movement-based techniques as they present themselves. It is recommended that a client allow at least three integrated sessions to decide if somatic therapy is right for him/her.