... from traditional talk therapy in many ways. The primary focus is on the somatic response to trauma – the trapped survival energy connected to the trauma – rather than the dialogue about the trauma itself. The therapist’s goal is to help you understand how your body regulates stress and track your own “felt-sense” experience. You won’t be required to talk at great length about the trauma and risk being flooded with painful emotions and bodily reactions in the process.
Therapy sessions are typically done on tele-therapy these days although I've been working that way from the start of my somatic psychotherapy practice. Sessions will usually be weekly. At the start of treatment, the therapist will use the first one or two sessions to discuss your treatment goals and gather your personal history.
Therapy will be a collaborative process between you and the therapist. As you talk, both you and the therapist will observe and track how you react in terms of your bodily sensations, as well your thoughts and feelings. This will help you become more in tune with your own reactions, while increasing your tolerance for those reactions that cause distress.
In somatic psychotherapy shock trauma often responds well to just a few sessions. Developmental trauma, however, often requires longer treatment, and is often used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy.
Benefits of Somatic Psychotherapy
There are many potential benefits to be gained from Somatic Psychotherapy. They include:
• Greater ability to live fully in the present, and let go of the past
• Restoration of the body’s natural ability to self-regulate; i.e. to spontaneously return to a state of relaxation following a stressful situation (rather than getting stuck)
• Improved self-confidence
• Increased psychological resilience
• Decrease in anxiety
• Alleviation of depression
• Enhanced sense of well-being and vitality
• Sense of being empowered
• Release of emotions that had previously been suppressed or blocked
• Greater awareness of bodily reactions to stress
• Deeper and more fulfilling relationships with yourself as well as others
• Greater ability to reach your potential in life
• Increased energy
• Improved ability to trust
• Enhanced focus and concentration
• Improved mental clarity
• Sharper memory
• Decrease in or elimination of chronic physical pain
• Less prone to accidents
• Improved mind-body awareness
• Greater sense of hopefulness and optimism
• Inner peace
• Decrease in anger
• Stronger sense of mastery over your life
• Greater ability to handle stress
• Relief from troubling somatic symptoms
Advantages of Somatic Psychotherapy
There are many advantages to using Somatic Psychotherapy as a treatment for unresolved trauma. One of the primary advantages is the reduced risk of being re-traumatized during therapy as you talk about or re-live the traumatic experience. By preventing levels of arousal from overwhelming you (through titration, pendulation, and resourcing), you’ll be more likely to stick with therapy and finally heal from the past.
Other advantages of include:
• A focus on the somatic response to trauma, which is often minimized or ignored in regular talk therapy
• Increase body awareness facilitates innate healing without requiring therapy clients to relive the trauma in therapy
• A focus on gradually releasing “stuck” survival energy, which occurs at a pace that feels safe for you
• Restoring your innate ability to self-regulate provides greater resilience to stress than insight alone
• The healing process comes from within, which is empowering
Indications for Somatic Psychotherapy
If you consider all the potential types of trauma discussed above – and especially the less obvious types of trauma – it’s easy to see that the indications for SE are quite broad. In fact, almost anyone who’s suffering from psychological distress can benefit from this particular approach to therapy.
Indications for SE include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
• Military veterans who’ve been in combat
• Civilians traumatized by war
• Patients experiencing post-surgery trauma
• Individuals who’ve been in a motor vehicle accident
• People dealing with chronic pain
• Individuals who’ve experienced
• domestic violence
• rape or any other type of violence
• childhood abuse or neglect (both children and adults)
• serious or chronic illness
• natural disasters
• any life-threatening experience
• prolonged or severe stress
• death of a loved one (including a pet)
• debilitating injury
• painful divorces
• Anyone who’s witnessed something horrifying or traumatic
Somatic Psychotherapy can be used with both adults and children. See Client Feedback for comments on treatment with children.
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