What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented approach to healing trauma and other stress-related disorders. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, SE focuses on the innate ability of the body to regulate and heal itself after experiencing overwhelming events or chronic stress. The premise of SE is that trauma is not stored in the event itself, but rather in the nervous system’s incomplete response to that event. By gently guiding clients to tune into their physical sensations, SE practitioners help clients resolve these incomplete responses, restoring the body’s natural equilibrium and resilience.

What happens during somatic experiencing therapy?

During a somatic experiencing session, the practitioner will work closely with the client to help them become more aware of their bodily sensations and responses. This may involve gentle touch, guided imagery, or other techniques to help the client tune into and process the physical manifestations of their trauma or stress. The goal is not to re-live the traumatic event, but rather to help the client’s nervous system complete the natural defensive responses that were interrupted, allowing for a sense of completion and integration.

a woman getting somatic experiencing with a counsellor in london ontario

What does somatic healing look/feel like?

As clients engage in somatic experiencing, they may begin to notice shifts in their physical, emotional, and even cognitive experiences. Some common signs of somatic healing include:

  •  Reduced physical tension or pain
  • Improved sleep and digestion 
  • Increased emotional regulation and ability to self-soothe 
  • Greater sense of embodiment and connection to the present moment 
  • Decreased reactivity to triggers or reminders of past trauma 
  • Improved relationships and ability to engage authentically with others

Ultimately, somatic healing is a deeply personal process, and each individual’s experience will be unique. The key is learning to trust the innate wisdom of the body and allow it to guide the healing journey.

How can somatic experiential therapy help you process trauma?

Somatic experiencing offers a gentle, non-invasive approach to processing and integrating traumatic experiences. By focusing on the body’s sensations and responses, SE helps clients bypass the cognitive and emotional defenses that can make traditional talk therapy challenging for trauma survivors.

Through SE, clients learn to track and tolerate their internal experiences, building the capacity to be with difficult feelings and sensations without becoming overwhelmed. This allows the nervous system to gradually complete the defensive responses that were interrupted during the original traumatic event, restoring a sense of safety and control.

Over time, as clients become more attuned to their bodies, they may also begin to uncover and release the unconscious beliefs, emotions, and physical patterns that have been shaped by their trauma. This can lead to profound shifts in how they relate to themselves, others, and the world around them.

Ultimately, somatic experiential therapy provides a path for trauma survivors to reclaim their sense of embodiment, agency, and wholeness – essential steps in the journey of healing and growth.

What should I look for in a somatic practitioner?

When seeking out a somatic experiencing practitioner, it’s important to look for someone who has had specialized training in somatic therapy and/or body therapy.

In addition to their formal credentials, you’ll want to consider the practitioner’s approach, communication style, and ability to create a safe, supportive environment. Look for someone who is attuned, empathetic, and able to skillfully navigate the delicate process of trauma healing.

It’s also helpful to find a practitioner who aligns with your personal values and preferences. Some may have additional specialties or areas of focus, such as working with children, couples, or specific populations. Don’t be afraid to interview a few candidates to find the right fit.

Ultimately, the success of somatic experiencing therapy depends on the client’s trust and rapport with their practitioner. Take the time to find someone you feel truly comfortable and safe with on your healing journey.

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If you’d like to book with a somatic experiencing practioner, contact us or book online. 

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