Lido Wellness Center Blog
How Somatic Experiencing Therapy Can Help with TraumaJune 2, 2022
The following are several common questions we hear about somatic therapy: “What is somatic experiencing therapy?” “How exactly does a somatic therapist help?” and “Does somatic therapy actually work?”
For those unfamiliar with trauma healing, this may be a new practice. Perhaps you or a loved one are ready to heal and wish to take a more holistic approach rather than relying solely on prescription medication. The Lido Wellness Center multidisciplinary team is here to help you answer all of these somatic therapy questions and share what you need to know about this insightful treatment.
What is Somatic Experiencing? (SE)
Somatic experiencing is a type of trauma therapy. This practice operates on the principle that past trauma can become trapped in the body and eventually lead to symptoms such as PTSD. Through this somatic experience, practitioners work to release that stress from the body.
First developed and practiced by Dr. Peter Levine in the seventies, somatic experiencing is designed to help patients increase their sense of awareness of their internal experiences. Dr. Levine, along with several researchers, conducted a study that demonstrated somatic experiencing helped restore core response network functionality (CRN) while considering the instinctive and natural reactions and protective mechanisms.
They found that this practice proved effective when dealing with trauma and stress by using the patient’s attention to interoceptive, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic sensations. In laypeople’s terms, attention to gut instincts, physical movement, and tactile feeling.
The human body possesses natural ways of regulating trauma response and the nervous system. Somatic experiencing practices natural release techniques of the negative symptoms of trauma.
Somatic practitioners and therapists believe the body’s inability to fully process a potentially traumatic event causes negative symptoms such as anxiety, shame, and aggression. Unresolved trauma can influence more serious physical, emotional, and mental health issues.
What To Expect During A Somatic Experiencing Session
Somatic Experiencing is a whole-body-focused therapy, so professionals may apply it across various disciplines such as psychotherapy, medicine, psychiatry, physical therapy, and even teaching.
A patient’s first somatic experiencing session will often be different from the sessions that follow. A commonly practiced form of somatic therapy involves the patient discussing their concerns, similar to other mental health therapies.
Going beyond discussion, somatic experiencing guides the patient’s focus toward the underlying physical responses. Moving the focus from the body, we strengthen the mind-body connection through exercises such as visualization, grounding, breathwork, meditation, dance, and massage.
There are also several subgroups of somatic experience that may be employed at the discretion of the practitioner including bioenergetic analysis, biodynamic psychotherapy, and brain-spotting. These are therapies that blend body, medical, and analytic modalities together for an even more comprehensive approach.
Somatic Experiencing Techniques
Each somatic experiencing session will be unique. However, there are several common threads to give a clearer picture of what to expect.
The therapist will help the patient develop a stronger awareness of their body, summon emotional resources, or encourage emotional release.
Grounding is a technique that requires contact with natural elements such as earth, fire, wind, and water to receive the positive electrical charges that can improve mental health.
Alternating the patient’s focus from a stressor to something that relieves tension is an effective way to help release tension.
Does Somatic Therapy Really Work?
Trauma is captured not only in the mind but in the memory banks of your physiology. Think of the common “fight, flight, or freeze” mechanism that can be triggered by a myriad of different events that all vary from person to person.
A study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that somatic experiencing was an effective treatment for people with PTSD. Over 44% of patients included in the study reversed their PTSD diagnosis. Those who didn’t reverse the diagnosis experienced a reduction in negative symptoms.
Somatic experiencing has been closely associated with other successful mindfulness techniques. But it takes a unique therapeutic stance by promoting healing without forcing an explicit retelling of past trauma.
Somatic Experiencing Therapy: Orange County’s Best
At our premier trauma treatment center in Orange County, Lido Wellness Center employs a whole-body, holistic approach to health, including mental, physical, and emotional wellness. Our center is a compassionate, patient-centered treatment center and a haven for people suffering from a variety of disorders and conditions.
If you or a loved one would like to learn more about somatic experiencing therapy and mental health treatment, contact our offices today for a confidential assessment.