Somatic Experiencing is a treatment that is used to help relieve psychological and physiological disorders by focusing on physical sensations in the body. It is a form of trauma therapy that was originally developed in 1997 by the psychologist Dr. Peter Levine, a former stress consultant for NASA. The procedure is based on his observations of how animals in the wild are able to react to and recover from life-threatening situations very quickly.
Trauma symptoms in humans are a dysfunction of an individual’s autonomic nervous system, which under normal circumstances helps to regulate many areas of body function. However, following a traumatic incident our bodies often become stuck in a trauma reaction mode, from which the body is unable to restore to a normal healthy state.
What does the treatment involve?
Dr. Levine noticed how, in the wild, animals are able to “reset” their autonomic nervous system by discharging the excess trauma energy – once they are safe from the threat – through shaking, trembling or deep spontaneous breaths.
Somatic Experiencing works in a similar fashion by helping a client to discharge excess or trapped traumatic energy to restore our body’s ability to self-regulate. This approach works by educating individuals on how their body copes with stress and teaching how to track related thoughts and feelings.
It helps clients to recognise the existence of physical tension and how to release it. This tension can otherwise reinforce addictive behaviour and many other types of disorders.