Somatic Experiencing: How it came to be in my life
by Lesley Tate-Gould, PsyD, SEP
Executive Director of Lido Wellness Center
Back in 2014 I was working at a residential treatment center and my CEO approached me about my interest in pursuing an advanced certification in treating trauma. He informed me that I could go the direction of EMDR or Somatic Experiencing. I had had some exposure to EMDR, mostly through consultation with colleagues and making referrals for my clients in my treatment center so I knew from first-glance I did not have the stamina required to deep dive into the details of trauma and memories.
I had no prior awareness of Somatic Experiencing, so in the interest of getting a fresh perspective I signed up for Beginner I. I arrived at the training a few weeks later in San Diego, CA ready to embrace some new techniques and methods and enthusiastically get back to the center to implement them with my clients. Then came the bad (or what I initially prior to investigation assumed bad) news… The training was three years in length, with sessions meeting every 3-6 months to allow adequate time for the material to stabilize. Uh-oh… My immediate thought was, “Thank you so much for your time but I’ve got to run.” At that time in my career, committing to three years of anything felt insurmountable.
I had a busy practice, had recently married my husband and had my sights set on growing as a psychologist and building my family. That is, until I completed the weekend and found myself intrigued by this completely different approach. I engaged self-consciously and awkwardly in the triad practice sessions; picture graduate school role-plays at the tune of several hours for several days in a row. I assumed that my “weakest” channel of understanding the world and my place in it was my awareness of my physical sensations. Patting myself on the good therapist back, I felt assured that my strongest channels of understanding myself and others were through thoughts and feelings. However, upon deeper examination, I learned that my sensation channel was my strongest, most attuned channel. I discovered that I have an innate ability to perceive both my subjective sensations and to take notice and honor the sensations of others.
Somatic Experiencing offered me the permission to trust myself, to trust my nervous system and to seek out supportive and nourishing individuals in my personal and professional life. I completed my certification for Somatic Experiencing in 2016, having the privilege of participating in training sessions during and after the birth of our first son, Corbin. I could not have imagined heading into that first weekend that an approach would have such a profoundly connected impact to my greater awareness of who I am as a psychologist, but more importantly who I am as a woman, mother, wife, friend, sister and daughter. Somatic Experiencing, while utilized in all aspects of my practice, is the orientation back to where we have all originated. We are human beings, naturally oriented toward our own inner wisdom, beauty and instincts.