What is Somatic Experiencing?
Somatic Experiencing or SE is a body based modality for healing trauma, chronic stress, and providing regulation to the autonomic nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system is the unconscious branch of our nervous system, and is linked to all of our major organs and bodily functions.
Developed by Dr Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger, SE works with the body’s physiology, nervous system, and lower brain structures to release past trauma that has been stored in the body. When you are under long term chronic stress or in a state of acute trauma, your body goes into a heightened state of awareness. This heightened state is called a threat response. While this threat response is a normal part of our biology, living in this state for long periods of time is detrimental to our mental and physical health.
Have you ever gone through an experience that seemed to happen so fast you couldn’t process it?
Perhaps a car accident or fall, some form of abuse, bullying, or an event that left you stunned? Your conscious brain tries to make sense of these events and help you to move forward. Your body and nervous system move at a slower pace with in taking information. While we may have “recovered” from the incident, traces of it remain in our body and nervous system because they were never fully processed through. This may show up for you in various ways – unresolved anger, fear, or difficulty moving forward in your life due to similar roadblocks showing up again and again.
Somatic Experiencing works with your system at a pace that is comfortable for YOU. It isn’t about reliving past traumatic moments. Sometimes we work through a particular event very slowly in order to allow the body a chance to process what happened then by being present with what is happening in the here and now. We work with what is happening now to allow your body and your system the chance to process and move through fear, anger, shut down, dissociation, shame, or whatever else shows up in the moment. Rather than focusing on emotions and the story behind them, SE works with the language of sensation.
How is SE different than other Somatic Modalities?
Somatic literally means “of the body” and can apply to any number of practices that work with movement or the body. This can include but is not limited to yoga, breath work, movement or dance therapy, and healing touch. Somatic Experiencing is a specific modality that requires three years of training to learn, practice, experience, and implement techniques prior to becoming a certified practitioner.
What is the training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner?
Training is done only through Somatic Experiencing International and is a three-year program. There are three modules each year for beginner and intermediate training, and two longer modules in the advanced year. Each training session includes real time practice in a supervised environment, experiencing the work to deeply understand the effects it has, and required consultations with faculty and established practitioners.
In addition to required trainings each year, SE students must obtain a specific number of personal sessions and case consultations from approved providers each year.
How do I know if SE is right for me?
After receiving SE sessions on a regular basis for the past 4.5 years, going through the three-year training, and working with my own clients for years, I’ll tell you who I think can benefit from SE.
Anyone with a body who wants to feel better in it!
That being said, here are some other indicators that SE would be a good fit for you at this time.
You have tried talk therapy and found it helpful, but feel there is something beneath the surface you want to continue to work on.
You want a gentle yet powerful approach to heal past wounding or trauma.
You long to trust yourself and feel good in your body and have access to a deep sense of internal calm. This describes what a well regulated nervous system feels like.
You are tired of living on “high alert” and want a solid path to changing this pattern and being less stressed and reactive in your life.