Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body (soma) centered healing modality developed by Dr. Peter Levine over 45 years ago. It is not psychotherapy. It first and foremost, addresses the lingering effects of trauma held in the body by resolving and discharging powerful, incomplete survival energies.
Dr Levine's extensive study of trauma and recovery in the animal world led him to question why we, as humans, suffer in extended states of pain, flight, fight, or immobility. He discovered that trauma is in the nervous system. Not in the event!
When a traumatic event occurs (accidents, poison, sudden loss, surgery, etc), a powerful protective circuit between the body and brain activates. Our fight, flight, freeze impulses respond and the body may begin to tremble, cry out, or run. These responses are physiological reactions to trauma discharge energies that signal back to the brain, "Hey! Im alive and safe!" and the further need for fight, flight, freeze passes through. With the circuit completed, you return to a state of calm and balance.
If however, the body is too overwhelmed to respond successfully (surgical procedures, MVA, etc.), this response energy becomes suppressed in the body tissues. You may be unable to fight or flee. Over time, you may come to accept the impact of the event, but your body's memory remains stuck in the past! Without the "all clear" signal from the body, the impact continues to live on in the tissues as real as the moment the trauma occurred.
SE addresses the resulting stress of trauma accumulated in the body and nervous system.
The guiding principles of SE are safety and containment. In SE, we slow down the experience, in a titrated way, allowing the body and nervous system to process events in the present moment, to finally complete a circuit interrupted by trauma. We begin to reacquaint with our bodies as allies!
What can SE help with? To name a few categories:
- Chronic pain
- Cancer Therapies
- Chronic Fatigue
- Irritable Bowel
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Pre/Post Surgery
- Birth Trauma
- Natural Disasters
- Sudden Loss
What is a session like?
SE employs awareness of body sensation to help "renegotiate" and heal, rather than re-live or re-enact trauma. Typically, sessions are done seated, and may transition to tablework. Our first sessions focus on resourcing and establishing safety. If we don't feel safe, our life energy is diverted away from healing! We ask, "Where do you feel your "story" in your body?" We will listen closely to the story and pacing of your body's language to resolve and integrate your experiences in an empowering way. Following the body's inherent wisdom, we are led to experience and complete what didn't get to happen during the traumatic event.
If you've never had SE before, we will also develop a common language to best work together.
How can I tell if it's working?
Clients report feeling more at ease, have less anxiety, less anger, more aliveness, and less pain. There is a sense of a coming home to oneself.
I have studied Somatic Experiencing ardently, completing a rigorous three year program to earn my Somatic Experiencing Practioner (SEP) certification. In addition, I have taken numerous Master Classes with Dr. Levine, studying specifically about treating syndromes, surgical and anesthesia trauma, and depletion of life energies. I also am a Teaching Assistant at all levels of the SE curriculum and am an approved session provider.
How can I learn more about Somatic Experiencing?
Please visit me at www.traumahealing.org
In an Unspoken Voice by Dr. Peter Levine
The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
"Completion and Remembering" an article by Dr. Peter Levine