Somatic Experiencing is a pioneering body awareness approach to healing trauma. It focuses on experiencing the ‘felt sense’ in the present moment to relieve the physical, emotional and physiological effects of post traumatic stress disorder and other stress and trauma-related health problems.
Worldwide, over 5,000 health-oriented practitioners in a wide variety of fields use SE. SE practitioners include psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers, nurses, cranio sacral therapists, rolfers, EMDR practitioners, acupuncturists, art therapists, massage and physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths. SE seamlessly integrates into either psychotherapeutic or body-oriented therapies and it can also be used very effectively by itself.
Somatic Experiencing was founded and developed by Dr. Peter Levine who wrote the well-known book, Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma. It is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatised. Instead, they utilise innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with the defensive survival behaviours of fight, flight or freeze. These mechanisms provide animals with ways to deal with trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ”charged” life-threatening experiences.
In this clip you can see the instinctive trauma release of a tranquilised polar bear. He is completely safe during the process.
Although humans have virtually the same regulatory mechanisms as animals, the function of these instinctive systems is often overridden or inhibited by the ”rational” part of our more highly developed brain, the neo cortex, or by learned behaviours. These restraints prevent the complete discharge of survival energies and do not allow the nervous system to regain its equilibrium. The body stays in a state of alertness even if the ‘danger’ is no longer present. Over time a variety of symptoms can develop.
Using the innate ability humans have to overcome trauma, SE encourages and utilises the awareness of sensations in the body (or somatic experiences) to help people re-negotiate and resolve the effects of their trauma. The approach allows the instinctual actions that were unable to complete at the time of the trauma to be safely and gradually discharged in present time.
While gently pacing the process so that each individual can safely assimilate the changes within their nervous system, SE® helps return a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to the individual.
The body-oriented psychotherapy approach, Somatic Experiencing® (SE), developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, teaches clients how to track sensation in the body through sensate focus to elicit the intrinsic healing capacity for self-regulation and healing that all humans share. Connecting the client to the experience of their innate healing wisdom supports mastery and restores self-confidence and the inner experience of core intactness regardless of previous experiences. Dianne Poole-Heller MA, LPC, NCC, Ph.D, SE Practitioner.
Like a moth drawn to a flame, we may unknowingly and repeatedly create situations in which the possibility to release ourselves from the trauma trap exists, but without the proper tools and resources most of us fail.