What is Somatic Experiencing®?
Somatic Experiencing is a body-centered approach to emotional healing and the resolution of trauma. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine over the past 40 years, Somatic Experiencing offers a safe, gradual way to help trauma survivors develop their own natural ability to eliminate the excess energy caused by overwhelming events.
How does it work?
Somatic Experiencing is a naturalistic way to assist in the healing of trauma. SE is based on 40 years of research and experience by Dr. Peter Levine and the understanding that animals in the wild, though constantly threatened by predators, are rarely traumatized. These animals, he noted, had built-in mechanisms that allowed them to release high amounts of energy after they were chased, injured or nearly killed and then to return to normal. Dr. Levine concluded that the same regulatory process exists within human animals. SE is a system of techniques that support people to access this process that aids in recovery from traumatic events.
Although humans have virtually the same instinctive self-regulating mechanisms as animals, we often inhibit these processes out of embarrassment or shame, decreasing our own capacity to heal. When we fail to discharge the high levels of arousal associated with survival these massive energies stay trapped in our neuromuscular and central nervous system and wreak havoc on our bodies and our minds. It is this trapped energy that develops into a whole constellation of post-traumatic symptoms including pain, anxiety, anger, depression, intrusive thoughts and imagery, and cognitive impairments. Somatic Experiencing provides the steps needed to reconnect individuals with the innate wisdom of their bodies. This approach uses education about and awareness of your body sensations as a primary tool.
What does a session look like?
The setting for a Somatic session would look very much like traditional talk therapy… seated in comfy chairs or on a couch perhaps with a tea, however, that is where the similarity ends. During your SE session the conversation will be around encouraging you to engage in focused awareness of your bodily sensations to discover innate self-regulation and healing. At times; if appropriate and agreed upon by you and your practitioner; touch may be used to guide, support and contain your experience of your body.
Who would benefit from Somatic Experiencing®?
SE can benefit anyone who has experienced something overwhelming.
This can include but is not limited to:
- Adults with a history of childhood abuse
- Long periods of immobility due to injury or casting
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Injury due to many causes
- Major overwhelming life changes
- Preparation for surgical procedures
- Recovery from surgical procedures
- Dental procedures
- Military experience and exposure to natural disasters.
In general, SE is a powerful antidote to those dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).SE would probably not benefit those with severe psychotic disorders.
If you are currently seeing another therapist to address other concerns and wish to incorporate SE into your healing process, discuss this need with your therapist. SE therapy for trauma issues can be used with other approaches.
What are the benefits of Somatic Experiencing?
Eliminate or significantly reduce the symptoms of trauma:
- Improve sleep, digestion and concentration
- Decrease frequency and intensity of nightmares and flashbacks
- Decrease anxiety, angry outbursts and depression
- Ease physical discomforts associated with the traumatic event
- Decrease need to feel on-guard
- Decrease muscle tension
- Increase of energy
…All of the above will then increase physical health and wellness
Improve sense of connection to others:
- Decrease isolation or detachment from others
- Improve sense of belonging
- Increase sense of feeling alive and “real”
- Increase capacity to feel confident and capable
- Deepen sense of connection to the spiritual world
Somatic Experiencing with Melanie Maure has been an integral part of me discovering how to live a more balanced and whole life. As a result of Somatic Experiencing®, I am becoming more attuned to the physical cues my body gives in major and minor life stresses, and am learning how to listen to those cues! For anyone who is packing the physical results of previous trauma, I implore you to see Melanie and discover healing and wholeness.”
When I first heard of Somatic Therapy I wasn’t 100% sure whether it would work or not. Somatic therapy, for me, has been better than anything else I have tried! What I love about it is that it not only works with and acknowledges your thoughts and feelings, but concentrates a lot on your body. It looks at the entire picture. Melanie creates an atmosphere that is warm, accepting, and most of all safe. I am more aware of my body in regards to how it reacts to certain situations (both past and present) and am learning the tools to work through them. I would, without any hesitation, recommend this therapy to others. Melanie has helped me change my life for the better, and I will forever be grateful for that.
When I was going through my somatic healing process I would literally feel my body releasing the tension. The meditation process and learning about how my body can hold onto stress was amazing. Through Mel’s instruction I am now able to release that tension on my own. Now when I feel my body going “out of whack” whether physically or mentally, a quite moment with my somatic teachings and the releasing of tension I can feel whole again.
Personal Trauma Evaluation Quiz
Use these questions to help clarify the possibility of trauma in your body. If you have answered yes to several of these questions then consider Somatic Experiencing as a way to help renegotiate the traumatic energy in your body.
- Have you experienced any form of violence, rape, assault, abuse, undergone surgical or dental procedures with anesthetic, been in military service in a war zone, suffered a car or other accident or any other type of violent occurrence that felt in the moment as if it put your life at risk?
- Do you find your mind going over and over a particular incident that occurred, or reliving an incident again and again, as though you’re there?
- Are you very easily startled by sudden noises—a car backfiring, shouting, a loud engine?
- Do you find yourself having difficulty being in crowds? If you go to the movies, do you find yourself sitting in the back row to make sure that no one is sitting behind you?
- Are you hyper-vigilant, always “looking over your shoulder,” making sure you’re in a place that feels safe?
- Are you often agitated or irritable without knowing why?
- Have you become less social?
- Do you frequently feel anxious out of proportion to actual events?
- Do you have nightmares, dread going to sleep, have difficulty staying asleep, or awaken extremely early in the morning?
- Have you witnessed another person being killed or brutally injured, and felt powerless to change the course of events?
- Have you suffered an intense loss or personal disaster?
- Do you suffer from undiagnosed illness or pain with no apparent physical origin? …such as IBS, migraines, chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia?