Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing;
a biological approach to healing trauma.

Somatic Experiencing addresses core nervous system functions. It resolves stuck symptoms of past difficult events that remain in the brain. A somatic approach allows us to get more and more settling with every session.

What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing therapy addresses the stress of trauma. Relational abuse, car accidents, surgeries, or impact falls to name a few. Balancing internal experience with external orientation, in the presence of safe and reliable support, we free up subtle tension forces in the body. With Somatic Experiencing we are left feeling calm, safe, and supported in the world. Curious what a session looks like?

Somatic Experiencing Therapy

somatic experiencing heals trauma by leveraging our naturalistic intelligence.

How does Somatic Experiencing work?

Somatic Experiencing reduces the effects of stress from past difficult events, increasing spontaneity. You may feel more internal stability and ease in a single session. This early beneficial effect sets the stage for the careful working through of past trauma and other symptoms of PTSD.

Somatic Experiencing falls within the mindfulness approaches to therapy, supporting the body and mind in a seamless flow. Bringing more resource, clarity, and general ease in the body allows us to stay grounded during states of challenging activity. This includes highly stressful states from past traumatic experience.

Therefore, the more somatic sessions we have, the greater our internal capacity will be. We can resource and ground during states of stress that would otherwise be overwhelming and cause anxiety, depression, or other trauma symptoms. This capacity is incredibly supportive for future endeavors.

How do I know if it’s working?

Client’s report feeling more ease, less anxiety, irritability, frustration, anger or other emotional triggers in a few sessions. That said, depending on the kind of trauma and the amount of stress involved, it is hard know at first how many therapy sessions we need.

What if I have complex trauma from early relational abuse?

Complex trauma, such as childhood physical abuse or emotional neglect, requires longer term therapy to fill in the developmental gaps. For more information on complex trauma please read, Complex Trauma and Somatic Experiencing. Car accidents, natural disasters, surgery, or an assault are considered shock trauma. The resulting traumatic stress locked inside the body can be worked through in less frequent visits.

Does a typical Somatic Experiencing session involve touch?

Some Somatic Experiencing practitioners may use bodywork. However, it is used carefully and in the context of developing further safety and containment within the therapeutic relationship.

Somatic Experiencing supports your movement from the passive state of dissociation to the active sympathetic state of action. However, touch work is not a requirement to healing. As more grounding occurs we will explore sensations, impulses, emotions, and other sensory experiences. Tracking these sensations in relationship to all of your experience keeps us from going too far into traumatic memories, getting lost, or overwhelmed. This brings us in touch with an appreciation for the simple ordinary pleasures of being alive.

What will Somatic Experiencing help me with?

A few common symptoms of stress impressions from past traumatic experience are: insomnia, emotional triggers, chronic physical illness, startle response, feeling jumpy, social anxiety, outbursts, or addictive behavior. Somatic Experiencing is also a strong tool in supporting the restoration of stability and integration after a spiritual crisis. Spiritual crisis can open the body’s containment strategy more than it can safely process.

How to choose a Somatic Experiencing Therapist

Somatic Experiencing therapists come to this work from therapies such as Massage, Acupuncture, psychotherapy, and western medicine. When exploring the possibility of working with a somatic experiencing practitioner find out what other therapeutic forms of training they have had.

Somatic Experiencing is a complete therapy of it’s own. It is also a supplemental therapy to address traumatic material arising to the surface through other forms of therapy. As we open in our respective therapies the body may release stuck traumatic material from the past. This can be confusing and difficult without enough training in the biology of stress forces.

A Somatic Experiencing practitioner will spend a few sessions resourcing, establishing safety, trust, and helping you to establish a comfortable connection to your body. You should feel a sense of safety and confidence in the containment during the early process, not feeling overwhelmed or concerned that you will be taking on more than you can. A good Somatic Experiencing practitioner will work with your body’s pace to manage and integrate difficult experience in an empowering way.

What are some common trauma symptoms

• anxiety, phobias, excessive thinking/worrying, and panic attacks
• depression, quick mood swings, feeling stuck or lethargic, chronic fatigue
• sleep disturbance, digestion problems, difficulty making decisions
• isolating or avoidance behaviors, shyness, shame
• attraction to extreme sports, dangerous situations
• being extra sensitive to sound, light, touch, or transitions

Contact Joel: 510-229-9765 Oakland Office

Integrative Trauma Treatment

With a clinical concentration on trauma, I have wonderful collaborative experiences working with Acupuncture and Naturopathic practitioners. I have found their specific skill and understanding around the structural complexities of long-term traumatic stress on the body to contribute to my client’s restorative health. For more on this Integrative Trauma Treatment approach, please see Acupuncture and Somatic Experiencing as well as Naturopathic Medicine and Somatic Experiencing.

For a Somatic Experiencing approach to working with families struggling after a birth, please see birth trauma recovery, also an integrative approach.
More reading on Somatic Experiencing

Peter Levine

In “Completion and Remembering” Peter Levine reveals how he sees the body of a traumatized individual, through his theory of Somatic Experiencing, as a kind of freeze frame of stuck self-protective responses. When the muscles throughout the body tense in patterns of highly charged readiness, become unable to complete that which they are readying for, then there is no discharge of the energy. The somatic response is held captive inside. Somatic Experiencing sees true resolution of trauma as the completion of incomplete survival responses and the ensuing discharge of truncated survival energy.

In “Healing Trauma Through the Body” Ariel Giarretto speaks of Somatic Experience practitioners as having the job to assist the client in tracking experience internally, and assisting in the return to self-regulation. For traumatized clients, entering into the body and into contact with felt experience is the way through symptomatic distress. Somatic experiencing does not avoid but takes the client into the source of the trauma symptom, knowing this as the clear way to finally healing trauma. Through following the body’s wisdom we are led to experience what didn’t get to happen in the past traumatic event.

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