How The SIBAM Model Can Help You Overcome Trauma

February 17, 2022
The SIBAM model, developed by Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing, describes how we create a complete experience. Through his work, he identified the channels or component pieces that build a complete experience. When we experience trauma our relationship to the experience fragments. Some parts of the experience get over-emphasized (like a sound or a smell) and others become under-emphasized (like bodily sensation during the event).

How The SIBAM Model Can Help You Overcome Trauma


Written by Kianna Morgan, a therapist in training and MSW student. Kianna is passionate about trauma-informed practices and enjoys writing as a way to share empowering information with people suffering from trauma and chronic stress.

What is the SIBAM model and how can it help me heal from trauma?

The SIBAM model, developed by Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing, describes how we create a complete experience. Through his work, he identified the channels or component pieces that build a complete experience. 

When we experience trauma our relationship to the experience fragments. Some parts of the experience get over-emphasized (like a sound or a smell) and others become under-emphasized (like bodily sensation during the event).

Through SE, you can begin to reconnect and rebalance the flow of the channels in the SIBAM model. This process allows the body and mind to find an integrated pathway towards resolution and a more complete experience of yourself. 

The following are brief descriptions of the channels that SIBAM works with:

  1. Sensation: This involves all information coming from your body. It can include things like muscle tension, your relative position in space (like how far or close to something you are), along with sensation from your organs (like heart, lungs and gut). 
  1. Image: This refers to our sensory impressions; sight, taste, smell, sound and touch.
  1. Behavior: Here we are exploring observable behavior. This broad ranging category includes gestures, facial expression, and posture. As well as observable autonomic changes (like an increase in heart rate observed via the pulsation of the arteries in the neck) and visceral changes (like the sound of gurgling in the belly that points to a change in the digestive organs).  
  1. Affect: Affect refers to our emotions and their felt experience in our body. 
  2. Meaning: Language is the primary means for expressing meaning. The words we use capture the totality of our experience, which is formed through the first four components of this model: S-I-B-A.


How can the SIBAM model help me manage triggers?

Trauma creates fragmentation in the coherence of experience. Sensation becomes separated from images. Affect becomes separated from meaning. Behavior becomes separate from affect. In the words of Yeats, the center does not hold. Our inner experience, literally, begins to fall apart.

When a person has experienced trauma, some of the channels of the SIBAM model get overly activated which can lead to fixed or narrow behavioral options. For example: If a sound like squealing tires (this is the Image Channel) and an emotion like panic (this is the Affect Channel) get overly activated and their connection reinforced, then the effected person may spend a lot of energy avoiding scenarios where they could be exposed to squealing tires. Perhaps driving starts to become its own trigger and they limit their driving or travel as a result. 

Through SE and the SIBAM model they will build the capacity to track how their body feels when they hear the tires squeal. That sensation may point to a behavior their body wanted to engage with at the time of the initial trauma, like turning away or running away. That information can then be harnessed into somatic practices that let them engage with the fight/flight experience and discharge that energy. 

The fuller experience of what happens when they hear tires squeal along with the discharge of the fight/flight energy may also help them find new meaning around the sound. Additionally, as they discharge the fight/flight energy they may also find that the sound becomes less triggering and they are able to ride in cars and travel more easily and comfortably than they had before. 

Working with a somatic therapist, they will engage with this process intentionally and gently. Their somatic therapist will help them honor their boundaries and through that build their tolerance for the trigger over time. 


Red Beard Somatic Therapy has a team of somatic therapists that specialize in applying interventions that help you heal from trauma

At Red Beard Somatic Therapy we create a safe holding space for you to connect with your body and heal from trauma. Our team is dedicated to empowering you so that you can live your life to the fullest and connect with the core self that lies underneath symptoms linked to trauma. We will teach you tools to calm your nervous system and develop new belief systems that will transform your life.

Our trauma informed somatic therapists would be honored to support you.  Book with us now to begin your healing journey.



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