Somatic Experiencing


I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation.
Peter A. Levine


Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body oriented therapeutic approach used to develop resilience and heal the impact of trauma and traumatic stress. It was developed by Dr Peter Levine who founded the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Healing Institute.  SE can help to restore our sense of wellbeing and our ability to connect with presence, curiosity and a sense of our own empowerment.

What is trauma and traumatic stress
Trauma can be described as anything that overwhelms and pushes us beyond our capacity to cope. This can include shock trauma such as accidents, injury or invasive medical procedures, or developmental trauma in which we have experienced ongoing stressors in our childhood environment that we were powerless to change. Trauma can be something that we have a memory of having occurred, or in the case of developmental trauma we might not have conscious memories yet experience problematic patterns that stop us from engaging in life as we wish to.

How does SE work?
Trauma and stress impact the lower brain and autonomic nervous system and can lead to patterns of response that become problematic and life limiting. Because these responses are held in parts of our brain that are not controlled by cognition, we may have awareness of our difficulties yet find ourselves powerless to change them.
Somatic Experiencing works with fixated patterns of response and thwarted survival energy that has become bound into the body and nervous system, and through this addresses the root cause of symptoms.
This is done through gently guiding clients to develop their ability to be with difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions, gently releasing what has become stuck. In doing so, we work directly with the language of the individuals nervous system.

What happens in an SE session?
Sessions are mostly done seated and as you talk about what you are working with, you will be asked to share impressions of sensations that you experience in your body in the here and now. This could include tightness, heat, shakiness, expansion or relaxation. Other aspects of experience may arise in the process such as images, emotions, movement and impulses in the body, as well as new realisations. The SE practitioner will guide you in ways to increase awareness and track and follow sensations and impulses within your experience and in your body, and to come to a place of rebalance within the nervous system.

Principles of SE that are used in sessions:
Resourcing, establishing and supporting a reliable felt sense of goodness and safety within the body
Tracking, developing awareness of sensations and changes in the body
Titration, working slowly and checking in as to what feels manageable
Pendulation working with the natural flow between expansion and contraction. Moving between comfortable and less comfortable sensations and experiences
Completing Responses: Following movement impulses in the body.
Discharge Allowing gentle release which may come about through deeper breaths, changes in temperature, trembling or a sense of moving sensation in the body or tears.
Integration and settling: Allowing the body time and space to really sense into and integrate changes.

Things that Somatic Experiencing can help with include:
Developing Resilience
Self regulation
Anxiety
Depression,
Fatigue / lethargy
Irritability
Mood swings.
Areas in our life that feel stuck.
Phobias,
Obsessive thinking / OCD
Shock trauma such as accidents or injury
PTSD
Developmental Trauma and CPTSD
Emotional Trauma
Difficulties within relationships
Feeling more grounded and connected to ourselves and life.


For more about SE you can read my more in depth blog post here