How Somatic Experiencing Aids in Recovery
What is Somatic Experiencing (SE)? It’s an effective, non-invasive, step by step approach for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress. SE uses bodily sensations to connect with and gradually release the energies held in the body as traumatic symptoms.
Somatic Experiencing is a mixture of the fields of biophysics and psychology, and it is gaining recognition because of its effectiveness in helping trauma victims recover. The therapy is a versatile one because it can be applied across the board, to children who have been in an accident or to victims of violence or sexual abuse.
How Does Somatic Experiencing Work?
SE was developed by Dr. Peter Levine, and its purpose is to help an individual move forward from the ‘frozen’ imagery or memory of their traumatic experience. The therapy borrows from the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, which means that when an individual encounters a traumatic situation, their response would be to either fight back or run away from it or not act at all.
So what can an individual expect in an SE session? An SE therapist will start by taking things slowly and establishing a safe environment. The individual will be asked to track body sensations, to focus on them and relax. During the session the individual’s symptoms may get may get reactivated, and the SE therapist will monitor them and help the individual find resources within themselves such as inner strength or external resources like supportive relationships that enable the individual to remain calm and feel supported in that moment.
As the individual goes back and forth between the symptoms and the resources, it allows them to slowly increase their tolerance for the physical sensations, emotions or memories of the trauma. The therapist will guide the individual in a process to release the blocked energy, asking questions like “ what does your body want to do now, that it could not do back then?” and invite them to make the movement. The nervous system may start to release pent up energy in various ways such as shaking, feeling heat or completing a physical movement. This lets the body know the threat has passed and the nervous system goes back into balance. This increases resiliency to stress and increases a person’s vitality and capacity to actively engage in life, resulting in a new integrated healing experience.
- What Can Somatic Experiencing Help With?
- SE can help with various traumatic experiences like:
- Severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse during childhood
- Violence or witnessing violence
- Rape or assault
- Experiencing natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes
- Catastrophic injuries or illness
- Loss of a loved one
- Living through war
During a moment of fear or trauma the body emits adrenaline, and if it isn’t released, the individual’s reaction can stay with them for years and hold them back on many levels. Pent up adrenaline and emotion related to the traumatic event can cause physical and emotional blockages which can be released by Somatic Experiencing Therapy.
At Blueprints for Recovery we provide personalized support for young adults. Our staff can help resolve addictive behaviors and get you on the path to recovery and healing.