What is Somatic Experiencing®?
The Somatic Experiencing®techniques were born from the multidisciplinary work of Dr. Peter A. Levine. Soma comes from Greek and refers to the body. By focusing awareness on sensations in the body we can safely release stored traumatic shock in a manageable way.
What is SE used for?
SE is used to help rebalance a nervous system that has been thrown out of whack by stressful or traumatic events in a person’s life. This may be a single occurrence such as a physical or sexual assault or a fall or traffic accident. It can also be the result of chronic stress built up over time such as that from emotional abuse or developmental trauma.
The energetics of the event(s) remain buried deep in the subconscious, outside of space and time. Though the incident itself may have happened many years ago, its energetic signature remains active, and this is at the core of most trauma symptoms. We can’t simply wish the energetics away: we must release them gently in order to avoid retraumatization. This is done by helping the sufferer to become ever more aware of uncomfortable feelings and emotions, and then helping them to process these things so as to release the old energy that is trapped within. By doing this, we are able to break the trauma’s energetic patterns, which allows us to walk out of the darkness into the light.
What happens during a session?
During your first (intake) session I will mostly be asking you questions to get the whole story before we begin to unravel the knots. While it is very tempting to want to jump right into the healing process, it’s important to get an accurate overview in order to come up with an effective treatment plan.
SE sessions are fluid in order to allow what needs to come up to do so in a natural way. There is no set formula for appointments, and we will always work within your own personal comfort levels.
Sessions are usually done seated in a chair, couch, or on cozy floor cushions, depending on your preferences. We may also do SE Touch work if it is called for. As we work, I will be tracking the very subtle signs that indicate what is going on in your body. At times, I will have you pause in your narrative to ask you to share an impression of the sensations that you are feeling in your body. These may be a tightness or pain in a particular area, heat, shakiness, nausea, expansion, relaxation, and so on. We may also do standing exercises or movements as appropriate to help release the energetics that arise.
What about touch?
While SE does not primarily involve physical contact, there may be some occasions where touch support will assist in the release and healing process. This could be for support or containment or to help you ground. I may also use it for energetic healing. Touch work can be done seated in a chair or lying on a treatment table. I will always ask first for your permission to be touched, and for any boundaries you might wish to have set. It is perfectly acceptable to refuse touch work, and your preferences will always be honored.
Benefits and Risks
SE may offer you many benefits such as an increase in your ability to self-soothe and feel empowered. However, there may also be risks as with any treatment that focuses on healing trauma. Although SE is designed to help you resource and work with manageable amounts of discomfort, you may experience challenging feelings, images, or thoughts. Furthermore, as with any stress reduction treatment, there can be no guarantee that you will reach your goals. That said, many people report that SE has helped them tremendously and has created positive change in their lives. Learning how to reorganize “body memory” is often a vital to learning how to relax and calm your nervous system.