Did you know? Counselors and therapists are starting to incorporate somatic therapy by focusing on the connection between the body and mind to cure a range of mental illnesses.
Somatic Experience Therapy for Trauma and Stress Disorders
Somatic Experiencing Therapy is a multidisciplinary mind-body therapy. When people have a traumatic experience, they might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD-related trauma that may last for a few weeks, months or even years. It helps a patient to listen to oneself and reset their body to recover from a traumatic experience.
What is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic Experiencing Therapy or Somatic Therapy is a post-traumatic therapy method that encourages people to connect with their nervous system to deal with traumatic memories. Painful memories are stored differently in the brain. Hence, trauma patients suppress such memories in order to avoid reliving the negative experience. Somatic therapy helps a patient put all those terrifying memories together to make a coherent narrative. This allows the patient to build resilience with somatic techniques to shut down parts of the lower brain (that typically reacts to triggers related to the painful experiences).
What is Somatic Touch Therapy?
Somatic Experiencing Touch Therapy goes a step further from just talking to the patients, and the therapist uses hands and forearm to touch and enhance the patient’s therapeutic experience.
Examples of Traumatic Experiences That Cause PTSD
Here are some examples of a traumatic experience:
- Loss of a Loved One
- Fatal Accident
- Childhood Abuse
- Stress at Work
- Violent Incidents
- Medical Trauma
- Loss Due to a Disaster
People tend to feel stuck in the past as they feel bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, and difficulty concentrating on anything.
History of Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Peter A Levine, Ph.D., introduced Somatic Therapy or Somatic Experiencing Therapy to help people dealing with traumatic experiences and other such stress disorders. He studied the survival instinct of animals in the wild and observed their overwhelming energy to overcome dreadful situations through body movement. For example, an animal might shake off their nervousness after a predator attack. Somatic therapy is based on the same principle, where humans need to ‘shake off’ some of the survival energy in order to overcome a painful incident.
Somatic Cell Gene Therapy
Somatic experiencing therapy is sometimes confused with somatic gene therapy. But the two are different. So, what is somatic gene therapy? It is changing, introducing or removing genetic material, specifically the DNA or RNA, to repair a gene and treat a specific disease or diseases in humans.
How Does Somatic Therapy Work?
People find that somatic therapy helps them unlock the emotions they associate with suffering or trauma in stressful situations. Somatic experiencing therapy has 3 key phases: orientation, observation, and titration to help the patients deal with stress or trauma.
In the orientation phase, patients are expected to get familiar with their inner feelings and thoughts. In a hyper-connected world, trauma patients must reach within (in a comfortable and safe environment) and understand who they truly are.
In the observation phase, the patient is expected to observe the dreadful experience as a third person. It helps them to rationally witness the incident and single out the emotions from that incident that trigger trauma or stress.
In the titration phase, the patient is taught somatic experiencing techniques to loosen the burden associated with the terrifying incident. Humans tend to pent up frustration and anger without knowing the ways to vent these out. Through this process, people can erase the negative emotions from their memories.
Types of Trauma Treated with Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Somatic Therapy is used to treat 2 types of trauma:
Somatic Experiencing is used for treating shock trauma. This is a type of trauma in which a single life-threatening experience or traumatic episode caused intense shock, fear, helplessness, or horror (such as a horrifying accident, assault, or natural disaster).
Somatic Experiencing is used to treat developmental trauma. This is a type of trauma that is a result of psychological damage incurred by an individual as a result of stressful childhood experiences accompanied by neglect by the primary caregiver. This results in emotional wounds that can last well into adulthood.
What Does a Somatic Therapist Do?
Somatic therapists teach somatic therapy techniques to patients to help them identify their emotional issues. They help the patient become more aware through breathing and grounding exercises, massage, voice work, and sensation awareness. The patient can learn where the emotions are located in the body rather than holding them up in the brain. Once identified, it is easier to release them.
What Happens in a Somatic Experiencing Session?
During a somatic experiencing therapy session, the patient is encouraged to identify the smallest amount of survival energy to heal the body. The somatic therapist can help the patient with a range of issues with different somatic psychotherapies. The right therapist will use the most appropriate and suitable therapy to provide holistic healing to the patient. Somatic therapists also track sensations in the patient’s body and help to integrate the unconscious emotions into conscious awareness.
Somatic Therapy Treatment for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Somatic therapy is a technique that explores the human potential to address stress, anxiety and depression in patients. This type of therapy may also help the patient address conditions like sleep problems, respiratory issues, chronic pain, muscle aches, and digestive issues.
Tips to Find the Best Somatic Therapist
Here are some tips to find the right somatic therapist for you:
- The therapists’ primary role is to make the patient feel relaxed and earn their patient’s trust.
- Patients can either opt for individual sessions or group therapy sessions.
- If the patient is searching for professionals offering somatic therapy in Toronto or somatic therapy in Vancouver, he or she must search for an experienced and licensed Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP).
- Somatic therapists help the patient to achieve an increased awareness of their responses to stress.
- Somatic therapy helps a patient to align the body, mind, heart and soul. It can help a patient to become self-aware and move on with their life.
Mindfulness and Somatic Therapy
First, let’s understand the term mindfulness. A mindful state means to be completely present of where the person is and being aware of one’s actions rather than being overwhelmed by the situations or surroundings. It is being present in the ‘present moment’.
Somatic mindfulness builds an integration between the mind and body. It involves healing techniques like different somatic and body processes, breathing, mindfulness practice, and restorative yoga. People proactively learn to apply practical skills to unleash emotional distress, manage physiological symptoms better, and gain greater emotional resilience.
Healing with Somatic Experiencing
The connection between the body and the mind can help a traumatized individual open up to new possibilities. Somatic therapy can help the patient reach heightened awareness about how they respond to stress and rise above the tragedy that stops them from experiencing the joy of life.