Somatic Experiencing (SE), developed by Dr. Peter Levine, is a neuroscientifically-based approach for the treatment of trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and related concerns. Somatic Experiencing is a therapeutic modality that utilizes “bottom up processing” rather than cognitive processing that is often found in most forms of talk therapy. SE is based on the theory that when the body undergoes a highly stressful situation that prevents the natural fight-flight system from mobilizing, the nervous system can go into a “freeze” state from the dysregulation. The internal stress and emotion that comes from the event itself becomes locked within the body, unable to be released, leading to a multitude of trauma symptoms.
Trauma symptoms can occur when a “perceived life threat is experienced as overwhelming AND one’s natural defensive responses (fight/flight) are not available or accessible in the moment to regulate the nervous system. Two people may experience the same event but one may develop traumatic symptoms, including full-blown Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, while the other may be unaffected.
SE operates under the assumption that there are two basic types of trauma: shock trauma and developmental trauma.
- Shock traumas are overwhelming and potentially life-threatening events we typically associate with the word trauma such as war, natural disasters, rape, car accidents or hostage situations. However, shock trauma can also include incidents of discovery and/or betrayal experienced in intimate partner relationships such as the revelation of sexual acting out or other significant secrets, sudden termination of a long-term relationship, or domestic violence.
- Developmental trauma is trauma that occurs in childhood. Developmental trauma can range from serious physical and/or sexual abuse to neglect. Children are significantly more vulnerable to developing traumatic symptoms because of their limited ability to process distressing events and their dependence on caregivers.
Somatic Experiencing practitioners work to facilitate an increased awareness of instinctual human sensations to guide the body in healing trauma. The focus of SE treatment is on tracking internal changes to restore self-regulation, re-negotiate trauma within the nervous system, and deactivate the arousal that is contributing to the multitude of symptoms such as PTSD, eating disorders, insomnia, anxiety, IBS, or depression. Somatic Experiencing is a cutting-edge approach that focuses on the body’s innate capacity to rebound towards healing after overwhelming experiences. Because SE does not require an individual to re-tell or re-live their event, this gentle and effective approach is suited for adults, teens, and children.
For more information on Somatic Experiencing or Somatic Experiencing research go to: http://traumahealing.org