About Somatic Experiencing (SE)
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-centered therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine, combining his insights from stress physiology, psychology, biology, indigenous healing practices and neuroscience.
It can also be described as a polyvagal informed approach and is categorized as a bottom-up approach to healing, which means that the centre of attention is the autonomic nervous system. In bottom up approaches, traumatic material is being processed by bringing awareness to physical sensations and non-verbal memories stored in the body. In contrast, top-down modalities approach resolution of inner conflicts by talking and finding new ways to think about it. Trauma resolution without engaging in bottom-up processes is not possible.
However, it would be wrong to say that SE is only a bottom-up approach as top-down processes are often needed – sometimes more, sometimes less – to make new connections, to create meaning and to ultimately integrate the healing work.
How does Somatic Experiencing work and how can it help?
The main premise of a body centered modality like SE is that traumatic stress is stored within the body and that our bodies, equipped with the autonomous nervous system, possess an innate ability to regulate and heal, and to ultimately function with more resilience and ease.
Our bodies hold on to uncompleted trauma responses which can manifest as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, short attention spans, anger outbursts, addictions, feeling numb or “not like ourselves”, and so on. The underlying cause of those symptoms is a dysregulated, “traumatized” nervous system which is stuck in the intricate patterns of protective responses (fight, flight, freeze, fawn).
Healing can take place as the nervous system begins to regulate, to organize, to restore.
A more regulated nervous system enhances our resilience and increases our ability to be fully present and to be actively engaged in our lives and relationships. We can be more like ourselves. We can feel like we have choice, can see possibilities that were not visible and make decisions that weren’t available before.
Here is a 8 minute long video by The Trauma Foundation in which the connection between trauma and the nervous system is explained.
Questions a therapist using the SE approach might ask you are
“As you talk about this, what are you noticing in your body?”
and/or “Can you stay with that sensation?”
and/or “As you notice this sensation, what happens next?”
What questions do you have about the SE approach?
You can read more out more about Somatic Experiencing on https://somaticexperiencing.com/ and https://traumahealing.org/about-us/#about
If you have questions or you want to book a first session, contact me.