Somatic Experiencing (SE) Therapy

Somatic Experiencing (SE) Therapy in San Diego

Somatic experiencing (SE) is a form of therapy aimed at relieving the symptoms of mental and physical trauma. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine in the 1970’s, it’s based on the observation that wild animals rarely suffer from trauma despite regular threats to their lives. Levine began to explore how animals naturally regulate and discharge the energy associated with survival-related stress and how this process could be applied to humans.

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Understanding Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy is a pioneering approach that marks a significant shift in the treatment of trauma and stress disorders. This approach moves beyond traditional therapies that predominantly focus on cognitive and emotional aspects, offering a more holistic treatment that encompasses both the psychological and physiological dimensions of trauma.

At the heart of SE is the focus on the mind-body connection. The method was innovative in identifying the ‘freeze’ response induced by trauma in the body. These physical manifestations, ranging from tension and chronic pain to disrupted breathing patterns and heightened alertness, are key indicators of trauma stored in the body. SE is designed to facilitate the release of these physical expressions, aiding the healing process.

Distinct from conventional therapies that primarily concentrate on psychological aspects, SE acknowledges the critical role of physical responses in experiencing and recovering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By addressing these physical elements, SE provides a path to a more integrated recovery, uniting the mind and body. This forward-thinking approach has established SE as an influential and effective method in trauma therapy.

How is Somatic Experiencing Therapy Different from Other Forms of Trauma Therapy?

SE differs from other trauma therapies, such as exposure therapy, primarily in its approach to processing trauma. SE focuses on the body’s sensations and responses, helping individuals release trauma stored physically without necessarily requiring them to relive or extensively talk about the traumatic event. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, exposure therapy involves directly confronting and re-experiencing the traumatic memories, often through detailed discussion, with the goal of reducing fear and avoidance behaviors. SE’s gentle, body-focused approach offers an alternative for those who might find the confrontation of traumatic memories too distressing.

Principles of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

The principles of SE therapy offer a comprehensive framework for addressing the complexities of trauma with this therapeutic approach. The key principles of SE include:

  • The Mind-Body Connection: This principle is central to SE, emphasizing that trauma affects not just the mind (thoughts and emotions) but also the body. It recognizes that psychological stress and trauma often manifest physically, impacting the body’s physiology and contributing to various health issues.
  • Tracking Bodily Sensations: SE focuses on helping individuals become aware of their bodily sensations and responses. This involves guiding clients to observe and describe their physical feelings, which can be indicators of unresolved trauma. The practice helps in identifying how trauma is held in the body.
  • Regulating the Nervous System: SE operates on the understanding that trauma can dysregulate the nervous system, leading to a heightened state of arousal or a numbed, disconnected state. The therapy aims to help clients develop the capacity to self-regulate, bringing their nervous system back to a balanced state.
  • Releasing Trauma through the Body: SE facilitates the release of physical and emotional tension that is trapped in the body due to trauma. This is achieved through natural processes like shaking, crying, or deep breathing, which are seen as the body’s way of discharging excess stress and restoring equilibrium.
  • Creating Safety: Safety is paramount in SE therapy. The approach involves creating a supportive and non-judgmental space where clients can explore their trauma at a pace that feels safe for them without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Titration and Pendulation: These are techniques used in SE to gradually expose clients to traumatic memories (titration) and then help them oscillate between the traumatic memory and a sense of safety or neutrality (pendulation). This method avoids re-traumatization and aids in integrating traumatic experiences in a manageable way.
  • Resource Development: SE emphasizes the importance of developing internal and external resources to help individuals cope with and recover from trauma. Resources can include personal strengths, supportive relationships, positive memories, and grounding exercises.
  • Holistic Integration: SE aims for holistic healing, addressing the cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of a person’s being. It seeks to integrate these facets to support comprehensive recovery and well-being.
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The Process of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Somatic therapy begins with a crucial initial assessment, laying the foundation for the therapeutic journey. In this phase, the therapist assesses the client’s physical and emotional state to understand the impact of trauma on their life. This involves delving into the client’s history, pinpointing specific concerns, and setting therapy goals, all while building a trusting rapport.

Key Stages of Somatic Therapy

SE therapy progresses through key stages:

  • Establishing Safety: The therapy starts by creating a safe space, essential for clients to feel secure as they embark on their healing journey.
  • Revisiting Trauma: Guided by the therapist, clients gently revisit traumatic memories, a process done cautiously to avoid re-traumatization.
  • Integrating Experiences: The final stage involves integrating these processed experiences, allowing clients to find closure and move forward with a renewed sense of self.

Each stage of somatic experiencing therapy is carefully navigated to ensure a holistic and effective healing experience.

Benefits of Somatic Therapy for Trauma

Somatic experiencing therapy offers a transformative journey toward healing, with benefits that extend well beyond traditional therapy outcomes. This unique approach to trauma recovery and stress management has been shown to enhance the quality of life for its practitioners significantly. Some studies suggest somatic therapy may even reduce symptoms of PTSD. Here, we explore the multifaceted benefits of SE that contribute to a holistic sense of well-being.

Emotional Release and Healing

SE facilitates a safe release of emotional burdens from trauma, significantly easing symptoms like anxiety and depression. This leads to a profound sense of emotional freedom and well-being.

Increased Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Through SE, individuals gain heightened self-awareness, particularly in recognizing bodily sensations. This fosters mindfulness and a more present, engaged life experience.

Improved Relationships and Social Interaction

As emotional regulation and self-awareness improve, so do personal relationships. SE aids in developing better communication and empathy, enriching social connections.

Physical Health Improvement

SE acknowledges the body’s role in trauma, offering relief from trauma-linked physical issues such as tension headaches and digestive problems. It promotes a healthier connection with the body, enhancing physical well-being.

Resilience Against Future Stress

SE builds resilience by teaching effective coping mechanisms for trauma and stress. This empowers individuals to handle future challenges with greater ease.

Empowerment and Confidence

SE empowers individuals in their healing journey, leading to greater control over their lives and decisions boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Ready to begin your journey?

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress due to traumatic memories, contact Monima Wellness today to take the next step toward healing. 

Our Approach to SE Therapy at Monima Wellness

Monima Wellness Center provides a safe and nurturing environment where our clients can explore their healing journey. Our SE therapy sessions are tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs, respecting their unique pace and experience. We focus on:

  • Mind-Body Integration: Understanding the deep connection between emotional and physical states and using this knowledge to foster recovery.
  • Bodily Sensation Tracking: Guiding clients to become aware of their bodily sensations is crucial in identifying and releasing trauma.
  • Nervous System Regulation: Helping clients develop the ability to self-regulate, reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related conditions.
  • Safe and Controlled Trauma Release: Employing gentle techniques to release pent-up trauma, aiding in the recovery of a balanced and healthy life.
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Trauma Treatment Modalities at Monima

Why Choose Monima Wellness for Somatic Therapy?

  • Women & LGBTQ-Affirming Care: Our facility is exclusively designed for women, and we have tailored our programs with sensitivity to struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community, ensuring a comfortable, understanding, and empathetic environment.
  • Integrated Recovery Programs: We combine SE with other therapeutic modalities to address both mental health and substance abuse, offering a holistic path to recovery and wellness.
  • Expert Team of Therapists: Our therapists are SE certified and possess a range of specializations, including women’s mental health and trauma recovery. Learn more about our team of Doctoral and Masters level clinicians.
  • Supportive Community: We foster a strong sense of community, providing ongoing support, transitional living through Ohana Recovery Residences, and other resources for a sustainable journey to trauma recovery.

Take the First Step Toward Healing from Trauma

If you or a loved one are seeking a compassionate, effective approach to overcoming trauma and substance abuse, Monima Wellness Center is here to help. Our somatic experiencing therapy offers a unique and powerful path to recovery, tailored specifically for women.


Connect with us today to learn more about our program and how we can support you on your journey to health and wholeness.

FAQs

A somatic therapist helps clients explore and release physical tension and trauma stored in the body, using mindful awareness of bodily sensations and movements.

SE focuses on the body’s physical response to trauma, offering a unique approach to healing that complements traditional psychotherapy.

Somatic therapy can be highly effective, particularly for individuals dealing with trauma, as it addresses both psychological and physical aspects of healing.

Absolutely. SE is beneficial for a range of emotional and psychological issues, including anxiety and depression.

EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is not strictly a somatic therapy, but it incorporates some somatic elements, focusing on the connection between psychological distress and physical sensations.

No, SE can be helpful for anyone dealing with stress or wanting to improve their overall emotional and physical well-being.