A trained therapist guides clients through exercises that require them to be present with their body and to talk about different sensations they are experiencing as they begin to release stored emotions. Somatic Experiencing® can help clients gain confidence and the ability to face traumatic experiences with resilience.
Psychologist Peter Levine developed Somatic Experiencing® therapy, based on his observations of wild animals. He discovered animals recovered relatively quickly from traumatic events and theorized that humans might benefit from adopting similar trauma recovery behaviors as animals. The therapy encompasses strategies from the classic “fight-or-flight” response to trauma.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is based on the theory that non-action in the face of trauma results in emotional damage. Due to inaction, these negative memories are frozen. Through the use of cognitive, behavioral and sensory-related treatments, SE helps to free these memories. The goal is to enable the client to resolve trauma-related physical and mental difficulties, thereby facilitating healing and coping with everyday situations in a healthier manner.
How Does SE Therapy Help?
SE helps clients view themselves as a whole person — body, mind and spirit. The SE approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body. Through gentle guidance, clients are able to develop increased tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions. Re-experiencing past trauma in a safe setting is an effective approach for helping clients with post-traumatic stress disorder or sexual trauma begin to heal.
Benefits of SE Therapy
SE therapy helps clients develop the capacity to process and release suppressed emotions associated with current and past traumas. Individuals learn to shift out of negative thinking and depressive states and develop self-regulation skills. This results in greater tolerance and flexibility in relationships and dealing with everyday challenges. Benefits include:
- Reduced anxiety, anger and stress
- Increased energy and positive thinking
- Improved sleep, digestion and concentration
- Reduced trauma-related discomfort
- Decreased need to feel on guard
- Less muscle tension
- Decreased frequency/intensity of nightmares and flashbacks