What is Somatic Experiencing® (SE)?
SE is a body-oriented therapeutic model for healing trauma and stress disorders. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. It offers a framework to assess where a person is ‘stuck’ in the fight, flight, or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states.
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To quote Dr. Peter Levine, developer of Somatic Experiencing®:
Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the event itself. They arise when residual energy from the experience is not discharged from the body. This energy remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds.
Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.
What Does an SE Session Look Like?
The SE approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
SE sessions look a little different from traditional counselling in that we focus less on the story or meaning of a significant event, and more on the felt sense or body memory. The reason being is that trauma is bound in our nervous system or physiology, so we need a ‘body-first’ approach to healing. This explains why sometimes we just can’t think our way out of a dilemma. SE does not require the constant re-telling of traumatic events or searching of traumatic memories, which can further traumatize or exacerbate the system.
During an SE session, we track the shifting states of your nervous system — orienting, fight, flight, and freeze — by noticing what you are feeling on the body level (ie. tingling, jumpy, spacey, shaky, relaxed). As your SE practitioner, I am the guardian of your nervous system, ensuring that the process is safe, gentle, and never too overwhelming. When we honour the capacity and pace of your body, we make the most sustainable strides towards healing.
Interested in Somatic Experiencing®?
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Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash