Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a naturalistic therapeutic approach that offers a new and hopeful perspective on healing trauma through body-oriented interventions. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, it provides a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated psychological states. Theoretically, SE views humans as unique beings with an instinctual capacity to heal, as well as the ability to learn and harness that innate capacity. Dr. Levine studied the impacts of stress on the nervous system and was captivated by how wild animals are routinely exposed to life-threatening situations yet are rarely traumatized. By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually “immune” to traumatic symptoms, Dr. Levine argues we can begin understanding how to heal human trauma.
The main principle of SE explains that trauma stays within the body as a physical sensation, which the body perceives as a constant threat to the nervous system that causes significant dysregulation, disconnection, and dissociation. The SE approach works by facilitating the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. Clinicians that utilize SE gently guide clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions. Through the experience of witnessing the natural healing processes of the human nervous system, SE employs awareness of body sensations to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma. Learning to bring conscious attention to these natural processes gives people a boost in self-awareness and confidence in their capacity to change and heal. In other words, SE helps people learn how to settle and release physiological activation in their bodies, often resulting in a return to a sense of regulation and mastery in their lives.
SE is beneficial for treating trauma and stressor-related disorders, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, grief, substance use disorders, PTSD, and chronic pain.
If you would like to learn more about SE, please explore the following resources:
- Website: traumahealing.org
- Books: “In an Unspoken Voice”, “Waking the Tiger: Healing from Trauma” - Dr. Peter Levine
- YouTube videos:
- Origin of Somatic Experiencing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0PsQFoz48g&t=8s
- Case Example: Nature’s Lessons in Healing Trauma: An Introduction to Somatic Experiencing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmJDkzDMllc
- Trauma, Somatic Experiencing and Peter A. Levine, PhD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByalBx85iC8&t=1s
Therapists who specialize in Somatic Experiencing Therapy:
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