Somatic therapy, also known as somatic experiencing (SE) therapy, is a new form of psychotherapy. Somatic approaches are focused primarily on the body rather than the mind.

Somatic experiencing therapy addresses problems like chronic and post-traumatic stress by focusing on body awareness rather than thoughts and emotions. SE is sometimes called a bottom-up approach to treating trauma-related conditions. While talk therapy discusses thoughts and feelings in the “higher” parts of the brain, SE begins with exploring the more “primitive” parts of the brain.

SE is based on the idea that trauma is preserved in both the body and the psyche. Some people may endure an upsetting or terrifying event and then develop a maladaptive stress response. Because somatic experience practitioners think that physical movement, such as mild shaking and posture adjustments, can allow for a physical “release” that aids healing and recovery, in this instance the body’s alert system becomes “stuck” in an overly reactive state. Restoring equilibrium to the neurological system may involve talking through and becoming conscious of physical experiences.

Eventually, PTSD symptoms may lessen if bodily sensations associated with comfort, safety, and trauma are recognized and processed.

Somatic Psychotherapy Techniques:

Certain therapeutic approaches are used in the somatic psychotherapy process, albeit the exact methods used will depend on your practitioner. Here is a rundown of some typical methods that a somatic therapist could employ:

  • – Building rapport: As with all therapy, somatic therapy starts with getting to know you and your therapist. During the first few sessions.
  • – Psychoeducation: Your somatic therapist will also discuss trauma, SE treatment, and healing techniques with you during your first session. They will go over important ideas like healing vortices—positive actions taken to reduce stress and feel better—and trauma vortices, which are emotional tailspins caused by overwhelming recollections of trauma.
  • – Resourcing: You use self-calming techniques during the resourcing process by concentrating on a secure and tranquil condition inside of your body. Your somatic therapist could ask you to explain how you feel, for instance, if you’re seated across from them. Saying something like, “This couch feels comfortable, and my shoulders are relaxed,” is one way you may respond. You may employ those comforting emotions as a means of calming yourself when you’re upset.
  • – Pendulation: Pendulation defines what happens next in a manner similar to how a pendulum swings back and forth. You alternate gradually between recalling the painful event and replenishing, which is centered on a calm physical condition. As you discuss these feelings with your SE provider, they will offer guidance. You can briefly explain the start of your traumatic event and how it felt in your body, such as pressure in your chest and trembling in your legs, following describing your safe spot on the sofa. Usually, pendulation begins in the third or fourth session of SE treatment.
  • – Titration: Titration is the method your therapist will assist you to return to when you feel calm and at ease, in case you become overwhelmed during the pendulation phase. You may progressively go over and handle distressing memories by using this technique.

Talk therapy can help you understand what occurred and start to feel better as the painful memory becomes less physically intense. Your therapist may go over your symptoms in these sessions and ask how well you’ve been able to control your emotions since the prior one.

Types of Somatic Therapy:

  • Somatic Experience Therapy :

One particular kind of body psychotherapy is called somatic experience therapy. However, other related therapeutic approaches could employ body-focused methods or be categorized as somatic therapy.

  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy:

Another type of body psychotherapy is called sensorimotor psychotherapy, which combines, among other techniques, somatic therapy, attachment theory, and cognitive approaches.

  • EMDR:

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic approach developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It’s primarily used to address trauma and painful memories by facilitating the brain’s natural healing processes.

During an EMDR session, the therapist guides the client through sets of bilateral stimulation, which can involve following the therapist’s hand movements with their eyes, listening to alternating sounds, or feeling taps on their hands. This bilateral stimulation is believed to mimic the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, where processing and integration of memories occur.

The process involves several phases:

  1. History Taking: The therapist works with the client to identify target memories or experiences to focus on during the session.
  2. Preparation: The therapist helps the client develop coping skills and relaxation techniques to manage any distress that may arise during processing.
  3. Assessment: The client is asked to bring up the target memory while simultaneously focusing on the bilateral stimulation. This allows the client to access the memory while also staying grounded in the present moment.
  4. Desensitisation: Through repeated sets of bilateral stimulation, the intensity of the emotional and physical responses associated with the memory gradually decreases.
  5. Installation: Positive beliefs and emotions are introduced to replace the negative associations with the memory.
  6. Body Scan: The therapist guides the client in noticing any residual tension or discomfort in the body and helps them process and release it.
  7. Closure: The session is brought to a close, and the client is encouraged to engage in self-care activities to help integrate the processing that occurred.

EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as other anxiety disorders, phobias, and depression. It’s a structured therapy that aims to help individuals reprocess traumatic experiences in a safe and controlled environment, ultimately leading to decreased distress and improved overall functioning.

  • Brainspotting:

Additionally, brainspotting differs from somatic treatment.This strategy encourages the notion that your gaze influences how you feel. Similar to somatic therapy, relatively little research has been done on this kind of care.

  •  Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP):

Relationships are seen as crucial to healing by AEDP therapists, who place a high value on clients’ fundamental emotions. They effectively communicate with clients, sharing their encounters and observing actual signs to help profound turn of events, as opposed to customary treatment. Because it focuses on rapid brain alterations through in-depth emotional investigation, this approach distinguishes AEDP.

Benefits of Somatic Therapy:

  • Somatic Healing Teaches Mindfulness:

First off, practising somatic therapy is a great way to cultivate awareness. In somatic therapy sessions, meditation is frequently employed as a means of managing symptoms of PTSD. It works by making you more conscious and granting you greater control over your concentration.

It works by making you more conscious and giving you greater control over your concentration. It gets easier to meditate the more you practise. It might be difficult for someone with PTSD to stay present at the moment, therefore it will help you to practise more.

Many people with PTSD find that it gets easier to concentrate on things when they meditate over time. If you want to take advantage of this somatic approach, you must meditate daily and gradually extend your sessions. Don’t anticipate this talent to come to you right away; it might take some time to develop, especially if you have PTSD.

  • Somatic Healing Increases Bodily Awareness:

One method of somatic healing is body scanning. It helps you become more aware of your body by allowing you to focus your attention on different parts of it. By doing this, individuals with PTSD can develop awareness and feel more in tune with their bodies.

Dissociative disorders, in which a person feels cut off from their body, feelings, and environment, can occur in people with PTSD. Enhancing your body awareness can help you create a more robust mind-body connection, which will facilitate the management of dissociative experiences.

You may simply practise certain somatic practices at home to raise your awareness of your body. Here’s a brief summary of a few:

  • Body scanning: Begin by settling in and unwinding. Make a habit of focusing attention on certain body areas. Starting with your bread and working your way down to your feet is helpful. There are a ton of free YouTube videos that walk you through the procedure.
  • Tapping or shaking: Try shaking or tapping different body areas to shake off the dissociation or freezing feeling. 
  • Yoga with mindfulness: When doing yoga, be very mindful of your body’s needs. Pay great attention to your breathing and pay special attention to how your positions feel as you concentrate on them.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: First, tense various muscle groups; hold the position; notice the physical feeling; and last, release the tensed muscles. By doing this, you may improve your awareness of your body and learn to control your tension and anxiety.

These body awareness exercises are beneficial for people with PTSD, particularly in times of dissociation. Those who suffer from PTSD may find it difficult to feel more in tune with their bodies; using them might assist.

  • Helps Regulate Negative Emotions:

People with PTSD who are unable to control their nervous system or manage unpleasant emotions might benefit from somatic healing. There is a high rate of anxiety, tension, and irritation among those with PTSD. Patients who effectively manage these emotions can function better in day-to-day life.

The goal of somatic therapy is to assist in addressing these emotions. Improved mind-body connection enables patients to better analyse, express, and control unpleasant emotions.

Relaxation techniques and stress and anxiety reduction are major components of many somatic healing approaches. To lessen unpleasant feelings, you can, for instance, engage in muscle-relaxation activities, meditation, and grounding exercises.

Anxiety arises from PTSD as a result of difficulties focusing or recalling crucial information, or fearing events from the past. Those who have PTSD frequently experience constant concern as a result of their difficulty focusing. These somatic healing techniques might help patients feel less emotional and more centered.

Additionally, yoga, dancing, and stretching are encouraged forms of movement-based rehabilitation in somatic therapy. People with PTSD can relax and become more aware of their body by letting go of excess energy. It’s also a great way to help the body let go of tension.

All things considered, somatic treatment is ideal for discovering fresh, healthful approaches to handling the unpleasant feelings that might accompany PTSD.

  • Somatic Healing Helps With Trauma Symptoms:

Trauma is a factor in certain mental health patients, which exacerbates their symptoms. For addressing trauma and promoting its healthy recovery, somatic healing is fantastic. Patients pick up coping skills that enable them to physically let go of stress, which also supports their overall health.

After trauma throws the flight or fight response out of balance, somatic therapy helps to retrain it. In order to properly release trauma from the body, patients learn how to balance out their nerve systems via the use of breathwork, body scanning, and other grounding techniques.

In other words, a lot of mental illness sufferers also have unrecognized trauma in their bodies. They can unwind and more effectively control other PTSD symptoms if they learn constructive strategies to let go of it.

How Somatic Therapy Works in Practice?

Similar to how talk therapists are educated to work with thoughts or cognitions, somatic therapists are trained to work with bodily sensations.Here is a brief rundown of how it works:

It starts by asking the client to list any bodily symptoms that they are experiencing (tightness, tingling, nausea, etc.). Then, in order to better grasp the experience, the therapist probes with questions, and closely observes the way the sensation changes throughout the body. From there, they use various techniques to manipulate the feeling to change it from one of dread to one of safety.

By concentrating on the body’s reaction to the trauma rather than the event itself, the healing process is sparked and the risk of re-traumatizing the person is decreased. We may not be able to reach the traumatic residue through memories, but we may access it more through the body.

An experienced somatic therapist is required to oversee this procedure. Therapists often tell clients that they are not alone in processing their trauma. It’s critical to process trauma in a therapeutic alliance based on trust. Before we can self-regulate, we need to co-regulate with someone else.

5 Ways to Practise Somatic Therapy at Home:

Patients with trauma and PTSD can raise their awareness of the neurological system by adhering to these basic guidelines, even if working with a skilled therapist is the ideal course of therapy.

Patients with trauma and PTSD can raise their awareness of the neurological system by adhering to these basic guidelines, even if working with a skilled therapist is the ideal course of therapy.

  • Keep track of your body’s sensations all day. Treating trauma and PTSD, two conditions that have a history of traumatic events can benefit greatly from emphasising and recording positive experiences. When you see a brief burst of elation or excitement, ask the patient, “What are the sensations of feeling good in my body?” Shoulder suppleness? Are legs feeling heavy? belly warmth? There isn’t a correct response. By creating a mental “snapshot” of this emotion, the nervous system is taught how to feel in control.
  • Look for security inside the framework. Structure and regular expectation-setting help reduce chronic stress-related activation or alertness while promoting a sense of safety. For example, we feel safer knowing that the day will begin with a shower and conclude with cleaning our teeth.
  • Establish a solid foundation. A healthy neurological system is built on a foundation of nutrition, exercise, and sleep. For those who have experienced trauma and mental illness, developing healthy behaviors can be difficult, therefore it makes sense to go over these fundamental concepts often. Examine foundations and make necessary adjustments if a patient appears disoriented and overwhelmed.
  • Notice agency. Trauma and PTSD are the antithesis of control. Controlling the body’s muscular movement is the first step in somatic treatment. Focusing on the aspects of life that offer options helps one become more aware of what is within control as opposed to what is random.
  • To relax the nervous system, communicate with it. The little reminder that this is not a survival scenario might help to calm the body’s activity. Patients can indicate to their bodies that  everything is OK by:

    – Walking and speaking more slowly when you’re moving or speaking swiftly.

    – Selecting a regular activity, like getting in the car after leaving the house. This is a cue to evaluate if your shoulders, back, or jaw muscles are tense. Then, at that instant, release it, even a tiny bit.

    – Moving intuitively is something to practise. Ask your body whether it wants to move in a certain way at a natural stop in the day. Maybe the patient wants to extend their neck or shake their hands. One useful method of communicating with the body and providing for its needs is to ask the nervous system what it needs to feel better and then listen for the response.

It’s critical to keep in mind that little is more and that slow is quick. There’s no magic bullet, but symptoms will gradually get better as the chronic stress response resolves.

Parting Notes

At The Insight Clinic, our skilled practitioners in Barrie and Whitby utilise a variety of somatic psychotherapy techniques tailored to your unique needs. From building rapport and psychoeducation to resourcing, pendulation, and titration, we guide you through a journey of self-discovery and healing.

But the benefits of somatic therapy extend beyond the therapy room. By practising somatic healing techniques at home, you can increase bodily awareness, regulate negative emotions, and even address symptoms of trauma. From body scanning and tapping to yoga and progressive muscle relaxation, there are numerous ways to incorporate somatic healing into your daily life.

Take the first step towards a happier, healthier you by booking your online therapy session now. Whether you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, relationship issues, or simply seeking personal growth, our compassionate therapists are here to support you every step of the way.

Somatic Therapy

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

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