Somatic Experiencing

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Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a neurobiological approach for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress. Schedule an appointment today.

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Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a neurobiological approach for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress.  It is a talk and touch-based approach that aims at noticing and tracking body sensations and the rhythms of nervous system activation. This process brings awareness to and discharges patterns of stress, tension, and trauma in the nervous system and body. 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.

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.

More about SE

Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a comprehensive form of healing that recognizes the integral relationship between body and mind in moving towards greater resiliency and well-being. SE understands that stress is a natural part of life that affects all of us. Trauma, chronic stress, and overwhelming experiences often contribute to nervous system dysregulation. Frequently our system reacts to challenging life experiences with short-term strategies that are intended to keep us safe. While these responses may have been valuable and necessary at the time, the imprint left behind may no longer be optimal. As strange as it may sound, often the brain will recognize that a stressful experience is over, but the body may still respond as if it is not. We may be left feeling shut down, disconnected, anxious, emotionally charged, coping with physical illness/pain, or other lingering symptoms. Fortunately, our body/mind has the ability to release these older stuck patterns, as we move towards the ability to live in the here and now ina balanced and healthy way. SE is a means of exploring your unique nervous system responses and patterns and cultivating a greater capacity to regulate from the inside out.

Why do we work with the body to resolve trauma?

Recent neuroscience and traumatological research has shown that the “imprint” of unresolved trauma has less to do with the narrative memories themselves (which are cognitive) and much more to do to with the bodily autonomic states connected to those events. Therefore, while top-down cognitive psychological approaches (such as CBT,DBT, and talk therapy generally) can be critical to address the thinking side of you, the embodied symptoms of the trauma will often be best addressed with bottom-up approaches (like SE, EMDR, or bodywork) that work directly to help re-regulate the body-based autonomic nervous system.

How does SE complement and differ from traditional psychotherapy?

Traditional psychotherapy works primarily with thought and often emotion and emphasizes the narrative story. SE also works with thought and emotion while differing in its focus on the body as a means of digesting and integrating trauma and overwhelming experiences. SE incorporates sensitive awareness of one’s internal bodily sensations to reorganize traumatic symptoms bound in the autonomic nervous system.This process aids in strengthening one’s ability to develop more adaptive thought and emotional beliefs and responses. SE involves welcoming the "somatic voice" into the room as a strong participant in the therapeutic process.

How does it differ from bodywork?

SE sometimes may utilize touch work, but in a different way than traditional massage or bodywork. The goal of most bodywork is to manually relax, release, or lengthen tissues.In SE very light “listening” touch is sometimes used as another way to track the cycles of up-regulation and down-regulation in the autonomic nervous system. Additionally, touch may also have a soothing, grounding, containing or otherwise reparative quality.We may intentionally notice the effect of the touch and together watch for signs of bodily settling in connection to some activation. If you do not feel comfortable with touch, or if the session does not call for it, session work will not include touch.

Developed by Alex Greene, LMT, SEP and Jenny Hayes, LCSW, SEP

Somatic Experiencing

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