You may have heard the terms somatic therapy or body-oriented therapy but you might not know exactly what that means. This blog is intended to help you understand what somatic therapy is and how it can benefit your mental and physical health and healing.
What is Somatic/Body-Oriented Therapy?
The word somatic comes from the Greek word “soma” and it means the living body. Somatic therapy studies the relationship between the mind and the body specifically in regards to past experiences. The theory behind this form of therapy is that past experiences can lead to instability of the autonomic nervous system. When this system is disrupted it can lead to emotional distress, physiological symptoms, and chronic pain.
Somatic research has shown how our bodies hold on to past experiences which leads to habitual patterns in our thinking, body language, posture, and expressions. Research has also shown a connection to past experiences and physical symptoms like chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, medical issues, depression, anxiety, and addiction, to name a few.
Research on somatic approaches have shown that through a bottom up (body) approach the autonomic nervous system can return to normal functioning leading to a decrease in the mental and physical symptoms resulting from past experiences.
How does Somatic or Body-Oriented Therapy work?
The main goal of Somatic therapy is the recognition and release of physical tension that may have remained in the body in the aftermath of difficult experiences or traumatic events. In sessions I assist clients in tracking their experience of sensations throughout the body. I assist them in finding the language of what they are experiencing and assist them in connecting it to their past through visualizations, awareness of body sensations, movement, breathing techniques, voice work, parts work, and EMDR.
By working in this manner I am able to titrate or pendulate them between two states. Meaning I move them between a resourced state or sense of safety and a distressed state. I guide them through difficult memories asking them to notice the subtle changes in their body sensations and mood. When I observe that they are moving out of their window of tolerance, I titrate them back into a resourced state. The titration allows us to move slowly and gently to release or discharge the stress that was stored in the body or nervous system. This leads to consolidation and integration of the difficult memory or experience in the brain and nervous system.
What are the benefits of Somatic or Body-Oriented Approaches?
Research has shown a variety of benefits to somatic approaches. To begin with the psycho-education on what is happening in your body normalizes your experience as a human defense mechanism. It is a non-pathologizing approach. This way of working also reframes and transforms your negative past experiences leading to a greater sense of wholeness, increased self-confidence, and increased resilience and hope. These approaches also often lead to a reduction in emotional and physical distress.
My experience with clients has shown that after sessions are completed they often report feelings of being free, less stressed, and more engaged in the present moments of their lives. They report that past memories are no longer distressing. They also report decreased mental and physical distress.
If this way of working seems interesting to you, please feel free to contact me for a free 20 minute consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-880-7190