The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.
THE SE APPROACH
Offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others.
Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.
HOW IT WORKS
The SE approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
WHAT IS A SESSION LIKE?
An SE session is held in a calm and safe environment with the client’s comfort at the forefront. The sessions are generally done sitting down, although table work is an option and often different exercises will be used depending on the needs of the individual client. The session will use focusing techniques to help the client connect with the felt sense. The therapist then looks for different ways to discharge any excess energy and help the client find a space of internal calm and well being.
Sessions normally last an hour in total.
SO HOW IS YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM?
A healthy nervous system has the capacity for sympathetic arousal which facilitates movement and action. This allows us to play, to work, and in the case of survival responses, to fight or flight.
At the same time, the nervous system has an older system whose function is to allow us to rest and digest, and in cases of survival responses, it takes us into shutdown as a protective mechanism to feign death until the danger has passed.
A healthy nervous system will be able to move between these two functional states, depending on the necessity at any give time, and once the need has been met, to return to a more balanced state. This play between sympathetic arousal and para-sympathetic arousal has been called a dynamic equilibrium by Dr Peter Levine.
Unfortunately, this fluid functioning can be disrupted by events with a traumatic effect and this dynamic equilibrium breaks. This leads to the nervous system effectively getting stuck on one or either of these systems, leading to the creation of many symptoms.
Taking Somatic Experiencing® sessions will help create a more resilient nervous system, less prone to stress and more capable of bouncing back quickly if that does happen. During the sessions you will learn to recognise signs that the body’s defence responses are activated and learn simple and effective tools to help regulate those responses.
Here are some of the symptoms and syndromes you can use Somatic Experiencing® to work with:
- Anxiety, fear, phobias and panic attacks
- Acute stress and feelings of overwhelm
- Anger, rage and conflict
- Insomnia and nightmares
- IBS and Digestive Problems
- General and specific social anxiety
- Obsessions and OCD
- Muscle pains and weakness
- Breathing problems
- Involuntary tics, jerks and contractions
- Exhaustion and chronic fatigue
- Amnesia, forgetfulness and being “spaced out”.