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Somatic Experiencing: A Mind-Body Approach to Trauma Recovery

Trauma is a deeply upsetting and often overwhelming experience that can have lasting effects on our mind, body, and emotions. While traditional talk therapy can be helpful in processing trauma, it may not be enough to address the physical symptoms that can accompany it.

Somatic experiencing is a mind-body approach to trauma recovery that can help to address both the physical and emotional reactions that may result from a traumatic event. This type of therapy focuses on the regulation of the body’s nervous system in order to help the individual to feel safer and more grounded.

This mind-body approach to healing from trauma is based on the idea that a traumatic event makes a person’s autonomic nervous system unstable, which stops the brain from processing the painful experience. Unresolved trauma can lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, as well as physical symptoms like chronic pain, digestive issues, breathing problems, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, and more.

How Somatic Experiencing Can Help Process Trauma?

When we experience a traumatic event, our fight-or-flight response is triggered. This self-protective mechanism helps us to either fight the threat or flee from it. However, sometimes the threat is too overwhelming and we freeze. This can happen if we are paralyzed by fear or if our bodies go into shock. When this happens, the trauma can become locked into our nervous system. Somatic experiencing is a therapy that can help to release this locked-in trauma. It uses breathing, awareness exercises and gentle touch to help the body relax and release the trapped energy. As a result, somatic experiencing can help us heal from the effects of trauma.

Somatic experiencing treatment can teach us how to restore our body’s ability to self-regulate, so we can become more tolerant of uncomfortable physiological sensations and suppressed emotions.

What Is a Somatic Experiencing Session Like?

The first somatic experiencing therapy session is typically an intake session where the therapist will ask about your history and what brings you in for treatment. During the session, you will be asked to focus on your breath and pay attention to your body sensations. The therapist will help you to notice and label the different sensations you feel. This process can be helpful in identifying and processing trauma memories stored in the body. The goal of the first session is to establish rapport. When you and your therapist have established trust, you may begin the process of addressing trauma.

The key principle of somatic experiencing is titration, which refers to the process of slowly and deliberately bringing up traumatic memories or emotions in order to reprocess them. This is done with the guidance of a therapist, and the goal is to help the client reach a place of resolution and completion. The therapist will also help the client to identify resources that can be used to counterbalance the effects of the trauma. This may include positive memories, feelings of safety or feeling the ground beneath their feet. Once the client has accessed these resources, they will begin to pendulate between the trauma and the resource, gradually increasing their ability to tolerate the trauma while simultaneously feeling safer and more grounded. Over time, this process can help to heal the effects of trauma and restore a sense of wellbeing.

If you are ready to start your healing journey, contact us to book a 15-min discovery consultation with one of our therapists.