Ever Heard of Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
When Jolene witnessed the death of her six-year-old son Joel who was knocked down by a speeding driver just beyond their driveway, the devastation left her in a wheelchair. She remembered freezing and being unable to run and save her child. Later, she complained of pain and numbness in her legs and excruciating pain in her chest akin to heart disease.
In due course, she enrolled for somatic experiencing therapy to recover from the trauma. The freezing she underwent during her son’s accident was a survival response while the pain was a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During the sessions, she recovered by learning how to release the unresolved physical tension that was the cause of her immobility and body pains.
One manifestation of PTSD is acute physical tension. The tension is an aftermath of the trauma caused by survival responses such as fight or flight that remains incompletely discharged long after the traumatic situation has passed. Somatic experiencing is the therapy offered to create awareness of this physical tension and its consequent release.
Understanding Somatic Experiencing Therapy
If you are set to receive somatic experiencing therapy, you will find that the sessions rarely involve discussing traumatic experiences. Instead, the therapist will sensitize you on how your body processes stress and how to track physical sensations, thoughts, images, and feelings born out of physical dysregulation.
Somatic experiencing exercises aid in the complete recovery from physical effects of PTSD. About six sessions are enough to treat shock trauma that arises from a single incident such as a natural disaster, a physical attack, or a motor vehicle accident. Developmental trauma, on the other hand, requires longer treatment that may take several years. Developmental trauma or complex trauma sets in due to psychological damage during childhood years such as emotional neglect or abuse by parents.
The psychotherapy involves two processes: pendulation and titration. In pendulation, the therapist takes you through dysregulation and regulation to enable you to resolve physical and mental problems caused by the trauma. Titration exposes you to small amounts of the distress so that over time you release the stored energy and restore the balance of your nervous system.
During the treatment sessions, the therapist uses resources such as memories of a close person or an object that has provided solace and comfort in distressing situations to help you achieve balance and release the tension. Somatic experiencing research shows that the process restores your ability to self-regulate and overcome the distress.
Which Symptoms Will a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner Eliminate?
In order to refresh your body’s containment ability, the therapist begins by performing some tests to ascertain the nature of your trauma symptoms. The practitioner uses his skills in somatic experiencing to eliminate symptoms of stress like:
- Digestive problems
- Physical pain and illness
- Isolating behaviors such as guilt, shyness and shame
- Startle response or anxiety and phobia
- Addictive behavior
- Attraction to dangerous situations and extreme sports
- Depression, lethargy, mood swings, fatigue and feeling stuck
What Does Somatic Experiencing Training Entail?
Since the creation of this therapy by Dr. Peter Levine, the curriculum for training has grown over the years to become a fully certified course. It takes three years, which translates to about 216 hours of instruction, twelve hours involving personal sessions, and eighteen hours of case consultations. You have to go to a somatic experiencing trauma institute to get trained.
The training is not only offered to doctors and physiotherapists, it also attracts social workers, the clergy, body workers, and psychologists. It does not require previous training in medicine so it is open to people from diverse professional backgrounds.
While somatic experiencing is a distinct therapy on its own, you will often find it integrated with other therapies as a supplemental procedure. Regardless of the therapy you receive for emotional distress, the body ultimately releases trauma from experiences, which somatic experiencing helps in resolving.
The training best suits people who practice massage, social sciences, traditional psychotherapy, acupuncture, and western medicine – those who get many chances to practice their skills. These are the first professionals that you would turn to for help.
Choosing a Somatic Experiencing Therapist
Rarely will people walk around freely discussing their trauma and the treatment they received. However, if you try hard to conceal distress symptoms, it will do you no good.
Suppression of what you are feeling and thinking, consciously or subconsciously causes tension and restriction in our physical bodies. This shuts down the blood flow to the brain which when flowing openly, helps keep us alert and feeling safe. All of these things work together and all affect every part of our bodies, thoughts and Life.
Become educated! Reach out to your loved ones. They can help you research a psychotherapist so you can make that first appointment.
Another way to get help is by asking your doctor for references. He can help you to identify a certified and professional therapist. You need to be adept at recognizing your state of distress and visit a psychotherapist for review of your condition.
When you meet a therapist for the first time, you can interview him or her to find out how skilled they are to offer the service. You can also seek proof of certification. However, if you find it hard to take on an investigative role, you have another option.
Many states require individuals who offer professional services to register themselves with a regulatory body. Such organizations ensure their members undergo the necessary training and continue to pursue refresher courses. Some regulate somatic experiencing research and implementation of findings. The organizations ensure members adhere to best practices and eliminate unethical professionals. If you consult such an organization, you can easily identify the certified therapists in your region.
As with any procedure perceived to be of a medical nature, it is important to know beforehand what to expect. This way, you can ensure you receive the right service that will alleviate your condition.
Get Your Life Back On Track
As you go through somatic experiencing therapy, you will know it is working if you feel more relaxed, less irritable and anxious, and experience a warm feeling of calmness. Identify a therapist you can trust, one who can make a diagnosis of your situation. Don’t be afraid to check around until you find the person you trust, feel safe with, and is helping you move through your situation.
Somatic experiencing is a holistic recovery process that can help you to avoid debilitating distress and enjoy life to the fullest.
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Author: Esateys Stuchiner
Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.
Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.
Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.
For more information, go to esateys.com.