By: PTSD Trauma Recovery
The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. 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.SCHEDULE A SESSION
THE SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® APPROACH
Offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states.
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.
HOW IT WORKS
The Somatic Experiencing® approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
In Somatic Experiencing®, the traumatic event isn’t what caused the trauma, it is the overwhelmed response to the perceived life threat that is causing an unbalanced nervous system. Our aim is to help you access the body memory of the event, not the story. So we don’t discuss what happens if you don’t want to.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SESSION
The SE trauma resolution method does not require the traumatized person to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event. Instead, it offers the opportunity to engage, complete, and resolve—in a slow and supported way—the body’s instinctual fight, flight and freeze responses. This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life. The SE Practitioner offers an environment of impartial and compassionate support to facilitate the release of trauma throughout your body.
WHAT KIND OF TRAUMAS CAN SE® TREAT?
As an SE practitioners, I can successfully work with developmental traumas (such as childhood neglect and abuse and ongoing medical and/or physical issues) and with shock traumas (such as motor vehicle accidents, assaults, operations, and falls)
SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® (SE) psychobiological trauma resolution works with all ages of individuals who have experienced shock or developmental trauma.
HOW LONG DOES SE® TAKE?
The length of time and number of sessions will depend on several factors, including the severity and duration of the trauma(s) and the degree to which the trauma has affected the individual’s nervous system. A conversation with me in the initial session may be helpful in providing this kind of information.
BENEFITS OF SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® SESSIONS
One of the main benefits of Somatic Experiencing is its use in the relief of physical and emotional symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), such as anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, eating problems, numbness, and chronic pain. Although empirical support is limited, a few studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this approach in treating PTSD symptoms among survivors of natural disasters. Somatic Experiencing has also been applied with success to the treatment of various forms of addiction.
Clients who receive this form of treatment often report less tension, irritability, and anger, as well as a greater sense of ease and balance. Since improvements are said to be possible in just one session, this treatment can be particularly useful in situations where a brief form of treatment is needed, such as in emergency situations. Somatic Experiencing is also considered a safe method of treatment since the individual is not re-traumatized during the process. Although traumatic memories are triggered, they are approached indirectly and gradually so arousal remains at a manageable level.
An additional advantage of Somatic Experiencing is the way it can help individuals develop their capacity to self-regulate. Many people find it possible to learn, through somatic experiencing, how to shift quickly and easily out of negative emotional states and how to calm themselves when faced with stressful situations. Anyone wishing to increase their sense of resilience and empowerment may find this mode of treatment to be beneficial.
MORE RESOURCES ABOUT THE SOMATIC EXPERIENCING SYSTEM OF TRAUMA HEALING:
Dr. Levine was inspired to study stress on the animal nervous system, when he realized that animals are constantly under threat of death, yet show no symptoms of trauma. What he has discovered was that trauma has to do with the third survival response to perceived life threat, which is freeze. When fight and flight are not options, we freeze and immobilize, like “playing dead.” This makes them less of a target. However, this reaction is time-sensitive, in other words, it needs to run its course, and the massive energy that was prepared for fight or flight gets discharged, through shakes and trembling. If the immobility phase doesn’t complete, then that charge stays trapped, and, from the body’s perspective, it is still under threat. Somatic Experiencing® works to release this stored energy, and turn off this threat alarm that causes severe dysregulation and dissociation.
Slowly releasing energy. Somatic Experiencing operates in cycles, where you sense your way through the normal oscillations of internal sensation – contraction/expansion, pleasure/pain, warmth/cold – but only at the level that you can handle. This repeated, rhythmic process helps you to develop a greater capacity to handle stress and stay in the present moment, where you belong.
Like other somatic psychology approaches, Somatic Experiencing® professes a body first approach to dealing with the problematic (and, oftentimes, physical) symptoms of trauma. This means that therapy isn’t about reclaiming memories or changing our thoughts and beliefs about how we feel, but we look at the sensations that lie underneath our feelings, and uncover our habitual behavior patterns to these feelings.
Pendulation is a term used by Dr. Levine to describe the natural oscillation between opposing forces of contraction and expansion. Somatic Experiencing® utilizes this philosophy to help a client experience a sense of flow.
In Somatic Experiencing®, the traumatic event isn’t what caused the trauma, it is the overwhelmed response to the perceived life threat that is causing an unbalanced nervous system. The aim is to help you access the body memory of the event, not the story. So we don’t discuss what happened if you don’t want to.
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