What is Somatic Experiencing?
Dissociation or disconnection from one’s body is a common reaction to trauma, especially among survivors of physical trauma like assault or abuse. Healing from trauma can be facilitated by somatic experience therapy, a form of alternative therapy.
Peter Levine, PhD developed this treatment based on the idea that PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms can be caused by the body’s inability to release accumulated stress. Practitioners of this technique aim to reduce physical tension through this means.
Somatic experiencing therapy may be helpful with aspects of:
- Substance use disorders.
- Chronic pain
Benefits of Somatic Experiencing Therapy
The trauma that is held within the body may lead to emotional dysregulation. It is believed that somatic experiencing therapy works by releasing the trauma that becomes “trapped” in the body.
Things to Consider
Somatic experiencing therapy doesn’t ask you to relive and process all of your past traumas like some other trauma treatments do, but you will be asked to bring up some of these painful memories. If you do this, you may feel “activated” or have a lot of energy stirred up in your body. This is sometimes called “feeling triggered.”
This might be hard, but that’s the point. Before you get to this point, you and your therapist will work on “resourcing,” or finding ways to calm yourself when you feel mentally overwhelmed, so that you can deal with these memories when they come up in therapy.
1. Payne P, Levine PA, Crane-Godreau MA (2015). Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology.;6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093
2. Park ER, Traeger L, Vranceanu AM, et al(2013). The development of a patient-centered program based on the relaxation response: the Relaxation Response Resiliency Program (3RP). Psychosomatics.;54(2):165-174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psym.2012.09.001