The word somatic comes from the Greek word soma, or living body. Somatic experience therapy is a holistic therapy that studies the relationship between the mind and body in regards to psychological past. Our bodies, according to somatic psychologists, hold on to past traumas. These traumas can be reflected in body language, posture, and expression.
Awareness is key when going through the somatic therapy process. Having a sense of the present moment is the foundation for progress throughout the therapy. Somatic Therapy is different from other types of therapy in that the attention is typically directed towards what feels or is good in the moment and then focusing on the experience from that state.
What Is Somatic Therapy?
The theory behind somatic therapy is that trauma symptoms are the effects of instability of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is disrupted by past traumas and with treatment through somatic therapy the ANS may again return to homeostasis. In some cases, past traumas may manifest physical symptoms.
Treatable Physical Symptoms Include:
- Digestive issues
- Immune system dysfunction
- Hormonal imbalances
- Sexual dysfunction
- Neurological problems
Somatic therapy has been found to be useful addressing a number of issues.
Additional Issues That Somatic Therapy May Benefit Include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Medical issues
The Somatic Process
The therapy sessions usually involve the patient tracking his or her experience of sensations throughout the body. A main goal of somatic therapy is the recognition and release of physical tension that may remain in the body in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Benefits of Somatic Therapy Include:
- Reframes and transforms current or past negative, abusive, and overwhelming experiences
- Greater sense of oneself
- Greater resilience to stressful situations in the future
- Greater sense of calm, positivism and hope
- Greater confidence
- Reduced discomfort, strain, and worry
- Substantial sense of clarity and meaning
- Heightened ability to concentrate
- More active and engaged in daily activities
One method a therapist may use is titration. Using the resource state, a place of safety, the patient is guided through traumatic memories and asked to try and notice any changes in the way they feel when the memory is recounted. The physical stimuli is usually natural, gentle and small. If physical symptoms occur, they are attended to at length.
Another commonly used method is the pendulated method. Pendulation refers to the movement between homeostasis and instability. In this method the patient is moved from a state of homeostasis to a state where physical symptoms are present and then are helped to return to the state of stability. This process is repeated adding more levels of instability which is believed to be resolved in previous exercises. In most cases discharge will occur. Discharge is stress that is stored by the nervous system that is released during a session. Discharge can include experiences discomfort, nausea, twitching, or flushing of the skin.