Somatic Experiencing, referred to as SE, is a type of trauma therapy. Founded by Peter Levine, this modality focuses on the nervous system. When we think of trauma, we may immediately think of a horrible car accident or someone surviving a natural disaster. These are extremely traumatic events. However, there are other types of traumas like emotional trauma and relational trauma that can have a big impact on the nervous system. We typically normalize these and move on. Meanwhile the nervous system is stuck in the loops the trauma created. Just like you would take care of a broken leg or a fractured arm, it is important to take care of the emotional or relational trauma as well. SE can help with that.
Somatic Experiencing is about experiencing the body in the present moment. It may sound counterintuitive but the best way to process the trauma is to acknowledge what the system is doing in the now. This is done by working with sensations, images, emotions, and behaviors. This is not re-living past trauma as that can lead to additional trauma in the system. This is about reconnecting with the body and creating a safe space within. SE can lead to reduction in symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, chronic illnesses/syndromes, etc.
Pause here! Notice what you are feeling after reading the above. Did your heart rate increase? Was there a slight constriction somewhere inside? Did it become quiet? Does it feel like nothing? Take note! This is your system. Your body has its own language and SE provides the translation manual!
What to expect in a session
A Somatic Experiencing session is similar to “talk” therapy except there is no formula or "end result". It is a journey of self-discovery. A skilled Somatic Experiencing Practitioner will help you to track current re-enactments and patterns back to their original wound, the beliefs that were formed around that wounding experience and to the defense structures, coping mechanisms and survival strategies that were put in place to protect you from future similar threats. Through focusing more on what you feel than on what you think about the event, the nervous system is allowed to discharge and reorganize and return to resilience. A majority of the session is about resourcing you and your nervous system.