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  • Writer's pictureShalini Cameron

How somatic therapy works






WHAT IS SOMATIC THERAPY?

Somatic Therapy uses the body as its starting point for healing. The word “somatic” is derived from the Greek word “soma” which means “living body.”

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

Everything that has ever happened to you has happened through your body and through your nervous system and has been shaped by every positive and negative experience you’ve encountered.

Whether we have experienced stress, anxiety, trauma , burnout, illness and pain

These patterns have been stored and deeply held in our bodies.

The way you hold your body, the way you move, how it feels to be you in your body, has been formed by your history, your story. And it is simultaneously creating what’s possible for you in the future.

NERVOUS SYSTEM BALANCE

Somatic experiencing works with your nervous system and body

If we do not consequently have the opportunity to process and release the experiences of our past throughout the body-mind system, we may remain stuck in a state of physiological and psycho-emotional disequilibrium. Often this manifests as hyper- or hypo-arousal, disconnection, tension or rigidity in the body.

EMDODIED HEALING Somatic therapy explores bodily tension, gestures, and sensations through a combination of awareness, dialogue, movement, and/or touch. Through connecting and listening to the messages carried in the body, clients are guided to choices that support moving with more ease and freedom in life. that have been lost and disconnected in your life story.

Somatic therapy engages techniques such as

Cultivating Somatic Awareness:

Through developing awareness of the body. We can then work with breath constrictions and tension patterns that are held just under our conscious awareness. Simply bringing awareness to physical sensations creates change.

Grounding

Grounding refers to our ability to experience ourselves as embodied. The aim of grounding is to help you come back to the here and now, something that can calm the nervous system. Often, when we’re feeling activated by stress, anxiety or trauma, our minds rush back to the past or ahead to the future. Through grounding techniques, we can root ourselves in the present moment to help us realise we’re safe. An example of a grounding technique is to feel your feet on the ground, wiggling your toes to activate your sense of touch. Focusing on the feeling of our feet on the ground helps us come back to our bodies, calming down the nervous system

Titration

Rather than diving head-first into traumatic memories, somatic therapy believes in pacing this work. When we turn our attention to traumatic events our body-centred awareness helps us become conscious of our physical tension patterns. Titration refers to a process of experiencing small amounts of distress slowly and carefully at a time with a goal to discharge the tension.

Used in both Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine) and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Pat Ogden), titration is achieved by “pendulating” or oscillating attention between feeling the distress and feeling safe and calm. Pendulation is used to support this process, guiding you gently between stressful content and calming content. This helps you work in a balanced way that your mind and body can handle.

Self-Regulation

Modern somatic therapies integrate research from neuroscience about how we respond to stress and trauma. Such research emphasises the importance of mindfully staying connected to the body in the midst of big emotions or sensations. When you develop awareness of body sensations you are better able to regulate (respond effectively) to emotional intensity. Ultimately this helps you stay connected and supported amidst the intensity of healing trauma.

Acts of triumph

These can be especially helpful when distress from a past experience has become trapped in your body in some way. The idea here is to gently drop into the physical sensations you felt at the time and then act out what your body really wanted to do at the time. For example, this may mean using your legs to move away from a situation. The hope is that this can help your body find a sense of resolution and process what happened.

Boundary Development

Focusing on the present moment empowers you to stay responsive to changing needs and helps you develop clear boundaries. A boundary allows you to recognise and speak your “yes” and your “no” in a way that helps you feel protected and strong. . This is about recognising your needs and putting boundaries in place that will protect you in accessing these needs. Increasing your self-awareness here is key so you can recognise in your body how it feels when boundaries are crossed and how you can respond.

Movement and Process

Helping you to listen more closely to the story as told by your body, a somatic therapist will likely use movement in their work with you. Our postures, gestures, and use of space provide insight into our experience, as somatic therapist we track your physical impulses. For example, a client who has an impulse to crouch, cower, or hide is invited to mindfully engage in these defensive movements. After doing so, she may notice a new impulse to push her arms and kick her legs. As she intuitively re-engages these protective movements resolution may arise with a new found sense of calm in her body.

Resourcing

When we help clients develop resources we focus on increasing a sense of choice and safety. Resources can be internal such as using our breath and movement ,as well as external such as our support network and places that our good for our wellbeing.

Sequencing

Used in sensorimotor psychotherapy, when tension starts to be released from the body, it can move throughout the body in a sequence. A somatic therapist can help you identify and recognise these sequences as they happen, allowing you to move through each movement mindfully and ensure the sequence is able to complete.

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