We know that stressful events can leave powerful effects and “imprints” on our body-minds. Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-centered approach to healing the effects of stress and trauma on our bodies. It was developed by Dr. Peter Levine, based on his 40 years of clinical work in biology, neuroscience and psychology.
In a stressful or traumatic event, there can be an overload of sensation, emotion, or stimuli that was too much for the body to process. In the shock of the event, the body’s experience can be “frozen” in time when the body was overloaded with more than it had the capacity to process. Then, it’s as if the body keeps replaying the event… continuing to respond in the present as if the threat or the trauma from the past was continuing to happen.
One example of a stressful event that can affect the body would be a physical trauma, such as a car accident or severe fall. Other examples could be an abusive relationship, the loss of a loved one, early developmental trauma, or periods of chronic stress and overwhelm.
SE shifts unhealthy patterns in the underlying physiology by allowing the body and nervous system to gently process, complete, and release sensations and emotions on a body-based level.
So if we are healing trauma, is it like therapy?
Somatic Experiencing is different from psychotherapy. (If you are seeking a qualified psychotherapist, I can offer excellent referrals. Many SE clients are also concurrently in talk therapy and find that SE supports the body-centered piece of the healing process).
In SE, we don’t focus on talking about the content of the stressful or traumatic event (in fact, if you prefer, you don’t need to talk about it at all; beyond a couple of basic “bullet points”).
From an SE approach, what we are interested in is not what the content of the story is, but how is that story replaying in the body’s physiology in present time. Because the body tends to repeat the patterns it knows, we need look no farther than the present to see what is happening in the body:
- Is the nervous system stuck in chronic fight/ flight impulses, unable to slow down and relax?
- Is the body collapsed in an underlying “freeze,” unable to mobilize its vital energy and life force?
- Is there a chaotic mix of impulses, with the body bouncing between “fight/ flight” and “freeze”?
These types of ongoing physiological responses to stress can show up as anxiety, depression, extreme muscle tension, or chronic pain.
What’s a session like?
SE sessions can be done seated in a chair or lying on a massage table. We may use touch work (if you choose), but it is different from a massage or myofascial session- rather, gentle holds are used to support safety and settling in the nervous system, as the body begins to unwind and organically connect to its stored experiences. We may also use movement, sound, and breathwork to help the body access its innate energy, capacity, autonomy, and stored memory.
In an SE session, we observe the processes currently happening in the nervous system; assess where energy is stuck and needs to be completed or released; and support the body in safely discharging or integrating the energy and stimuli that it’s been subconsciously working so hard to manage.
Common results that clients report from Somatic Experiencing sessions include increased energy, sounder sleep, greater ease and flow in daily life, a release of creative “blocks”, and a new ability to feel relaxed, present and comfortable in one’s own body.
SE sessions can be done in person, or online over Zoom.
You can purchase single sessions, or a package of 4 sessions at a discounted rate. Packages must be used within 6 months.