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Somatic Experiencing

Hands

What is Somatic Experiencing therapy (SE)?

Somatic Experiencing therapy explores how the body internalizes and expresses deeply painful experiences, applying a naturalistic, mind-body approach to aid in trauma recovery. Somatic Experiencing is informed by a deep understanding of, and keen attention to, the neurobiology of trauma. 

 

Somatic experiencing practitioners use a framework called SIBAM (Sensation, Imagery, Behavior, Affect, and Meaning) to help clients incorporate their bodies in processing lingering symptoms of traumatic stress. While most therapeutic approaches use cognitive methods to access and anylize memories (“top-down" therapy), Somatic Experiencing uses a “bottom-up” approach, beginning with bodily sensations before returning to the realm of thoughts or ideas.

Who is it for?

Anyone, really. Somatic Experiencing was designed for people who struggle with trauma related problems, like acute stress disorder and PTSD. It can resolve symptoms like persistent fear, flashbacks, chronic pain, fatigue, dissociation, outsized anger, self isolation, and more. However, it is my belief that SE can be helpful for anyone and everyone. It is abundantly worthwhile to be more connected with our bodies. Doing so can leave us feeling happier, healther, and more alive. And who wouldn't like that?

What happens in a Somatic Experiencing session?

In our first session, we will do an intake-interview to go over your concerns and overall health history. During this interview, I'll ask you questions centered around assessing how your body responds to stress. We'll talk about the Somatic Experiencing process and you'll be invited to ask and share any questions or concerns you may have. 

 

In later sessions, we will work on increasing your "interoception" skills. Interoception is your ability to notice sensation in your body. We will also focus on developing skills and techniques for emotional and physical regulation. As you become more comfortable and confident, we will begin to deliberately and rhythmically move between feelings of stress and sensations of safety and calm. This process of going back and forth between states is called "pendulation," and it helps our nervous systems gradually return to a state of equilibrium; rather than living in constant activation, overwhelm, or collapse. 

As time goes on, we will delve more deeply into specific traumatic events and how they show up in your physical system. We will work to resolve thwarted fight and flight responses, as well as moving you out of freeze and collapse so that you can be present and at ease in your day-to-day life. It will be up to you to decide how much you want to recount memories out loud, as our focus will be on how these memories manifest physically in the here and now. 

Ultimately, SE is about regaining nervous system coherence. This means that our bodies can react appropriately to stressful situations in the present, recognize when danger has passed, and then return to feelings of calm and connection with ourselves and the world around us.

Can Somatic Experiencing therapy be done virtually?

Remarkably, yes it can. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us somatic therapists online, and we found out that SE is just as effective over Zoom as it is in person. Follow your preference and do what is most convenient and comfortable for you.

 

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