What is Somatic ExperiencinG?
Somatic Experiencing is an alternative treatment modality aimed at targeting symptoms that stem from mental and physical trauma. This form of therapy focuses on the client's perceived body sensations in order to address the physiology of trauma and stress. The awareness developed in somatic experiencing sessions helps to release physical tension that may remain after trauma or a traumatic event.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a recently developed therapy for emotional and physical trauma. Peter A. Levine, PhD developed this therapy, facilitating a natural recovery of the balance between mind and body. He discovered that when we experience emotional or physical pain, we can stimulate our natural healing mechanisms as a means of helping not only our nervous and muscular systems, but the organs of our bodies to continue to recover. It’s not just about “facing” the pain, or “curing” it by developing high tolerance and/or using medication.
SE builds on several disciplines addressing the physiology and emotional consequences of stress and trauma. SE offers strategies to find out where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze response and to help them to get “unstuck”.
How Does SE Work?
The SE approach facilitates the completion of natural healing motor responses and the release of suppressed survival energy in the body. It consequently accesses the origin of trauma symptoms through sensing, awareness, and mindfulness-based strategies. It uses gentle guiding strategies to help people develop better tolerance of unwanted bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
SE is sometimes referred to as a holistic therapy, a psycho-physiological approach, or a body/mind therapy. Learning from and combining the latest cutting edge-scientific research in fields such as traumatology, biology, neurology, psychology, attachment theory, and physiology, made SE possible. Somatic Experiencing also incorporates the research of Steven Porges’ (The PolyVagal theory) and Alan Schore's research on trauma and attachment issues.
Who is a good candidate for SE?
Anyone who has experienced a threat, trauma, event, or circumstances where there was little or no support, the duration was intolerable or which made them feel stuck, or the event made them feel frightened, very angry, or overwhelmed may benefit from SE therapy. The remaining symptoms of such experiences may be that you are overreacting to the slightest sound or movement, that you are hyperactive, or in a state of shutdown or depression.
In all the the above circumstances, the nervous system becomes overwhelmed and finds it difficult to naturally recover to its healthy place of resilience and equilibrium, potentially causing the person to be in a state of high arousal.
Anyone who wishes to regain a sense of empowerment by learning about and experiencing their body’s natural ability to calm itself after strong feelings or activation caused by a situation they perceive as being stressful or threatening can benefit from SE. It is important to remember that our bodies respond to any perceived or experienced threat - even if most other people did not experience the same or a similar situation or injury as a trauma or a threat.
SE can be helpful for many individuals, both adults and children, who have experienced an event that caused a threat to their safety or to the stability of their world. Such events can include, but are not limited to:
- Physical trauma such as car accidents, whiplash, sporting accidents, high impact falls
- Surgeries, medical interventions, prolonged illnesses, high fever, poisoning
- Inescapable attack, mugging, threat of violence, abuse of any kind, rape, incest
- Drowning, suffocation or choking experiences
- Unrelenting stress, work, bereavement, divorce, loss of a loved one or a pet
- Emotional or domestic abuse, bullying
- Development trauma such as childhood neglect, abandonment or betrayal
- Birth trauma, pre- and postnatal experiences
- Natural disasters, fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis
- Horror, witnessing any of the above
Please note that services are not covered under OHIP, but may be covered by insurance or extended health care benefits.