Somatic Experiencing (SE)
Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy is a body-oriented therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine in the 1970s. It is designed to help individuals heal from trauma and stress by addressing the physical sensations and body-based responses associated with these experiences.
Somatic Experiencing is based on the belief that trauma can become "stuck" in the body, and by facilitating the release of this trapped energy, individuals can move toward healing and recovery.
Key principles and components of Somatic Experiencing therapy include:
Resourcing: The therapist helps the client develop inner resources and tools for self-regulation. This may include teaching relaxation techniques, grounding exercises, and ways to create a sense of safety and support.
Awareness of Sensations: Somatic Experiencing emphasizes paying attention to physical sensations and bodily experiences as a way to access and process unresolved trauma. Clients are guided to notice bodily sensations without judgment or interpretation.
Titration: In SE therapy, the process of addressing trauma is often gradual and paced according to the client's readiness. The therapist and client work together to explore and release small, manageable pieces of the trauma, which is called titration.
Pendulation: Clients learn to "pendulate" between uncomfortable or traumatic sensations and more comfortable, resourceful states. This helps prevent overwhelming emotions and allows for a gradual and safe processing of trauma.
Tracking: Tracking involves observing and describing bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts as they arise in the present moment. Clients learn to develop greater awareness of their internal experiences.
Completion of Survival Responses: SE therapy recognizes that the body may have incomplete responses to traumatic events. Clients are guided to safely complete these responses, such as the fight, flight, or freeze responses, which can lead to a sense of resolution and release.
Integration: The ultimate goal of Somatic Experiencing is to integrate the traumatic experience into the client's life story in a way that promotes healing, resilience, and personal growth.
Somatic Experiencing therapy is often used to address a wide range of trauma-related conditions and symptoms, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other stress-related issues. It can be applied in individual therapy sessions and sometimes in group settings.
Clients typically work with a certified Somatic Experiencing practitioner who has received specialized training in this approach. The therapy process may involve both verbal dialogue and body-centered techniques, such as movement, touch, and guided imagery, to support the release of tension and the resolution of trauma.
Somatic Experiencing therapy is considered a gentle and non-invasive approach to trauma healing, emphasizing the body's innate capacity to heal itself when provided with the right conditions. It is important for individuals seeking SE therapy to choose a qualified and certified practitioner with expertise in trauma treatment.