Mental health is a complex and multifaceted concept. It involves our thoughts, feelings, physical bodies, environment, and interactions with others. To fully process our trauma, we must address these aspects holistically.
Often used for PTSD and related disorders, Somatic Therapy is a type of psychotherapy focusing on the connection between mind and body. This research-backed therapeutic approach works by recognizing how physical sensations—such as tightness in the chest, rapid breathing, or stomachache—are linked to mental states.
In this post, we’ll deeply dive into what Somatic Therapy is, what this therapy is best used for, the different techniques available, and the importance of the mind-body connection.
What Is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic Therapy, also known as Somatic Experiencing (SE), is a body-centered therapy that focuses on how the body holds and expresses emotional pain. In this approach, physical sensations are seen as connected to mental states like anxiety or fear.
Somatic Therapy was first developed in the 1970s by the doctor and biologist Peter Levine. He noticed that trauma survivors often had physical symptoms that weren’t being addressed by traditional therapy. From his observation, he realized an important connection between mental and physical health could be explored through body-centered approaches.
Since then, Somatic Therapy has become popular as an effective way to treat trauma-related disorders. Both medical professionals and holistic practitioners have adopted it. It is now widely used to help people manage anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
What Are Somatic Sensations?
The following is a list of sensations you could be experiencing related to your mental health state.
Note: it is crucial to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pain or concerning symptoms to ensure a more serious condition is not causing them. Although your mental health condition could cause your symptoms, working together with your doctor to rule out physical ailments as a source of pain or discomfort is always recommended.
Possible sensations you could feel related to trauma or other mental health disorders:
- Muscle tension
- Unexplained aches, pains, or tightness in the body
- Headaches or migraines
- Hot flashes or feeling flushed
- Stomach upset and nausea
- Trouble sleeping, insomnia, or nightmares
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sweating or trembling
- Feeling overwhelmed, panicked or anxious
Somatic Therapy aims to help people process their traumatic experiences by changing how they feel about them. The therapist uses the body’s natural ability to process and move beyond trauma to create a sense of safety and stability.
Somatic Therapy uses various techniques to help people process their traumatic experiences. Each therapist will bring their unique style and approach to the table, but here are some standard methods used in Somatic Therapy:
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping: This technique helps release emotional and physical tension by focusing on specific body parts. EFT involves tapping on selected acupressure points while repeating a positive statement or affirmation.
- Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE): This technique uses simple yoga postures and breathing exercises to help the body release tension, promote relaxation and increase overall well-being
- Brainspotting: This technique helps people access and process difficult emotions and memories stored in the body. It involves focusing on a specific point in the field of vision while processing experiences.
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing): This technique helps people process difficult memories and experiences while ensuring a sense of safety. It involves focusing on different types of visual stimuli while talking through the experience.
- Guided Meditation: This technique uses guided imagery, meditation scripts, and breathing techniques to access the subconscious and promote relaxation.
These techniques aim to help people reconnect with their bodies in a mindful, gentle way. The use of one or more of these techniques can provide relief from the intense physical symptoms associated with trauma.
Benefits of Somatic Therapy
Somatic Therapy is a proven and effective treatment for various mental health conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders. The benefits of this therapy include:
- Improved body awareness
- Increased self-compassion and understanding of your emotions
- Reduced physical symptoms associated with trauma, such as headaches and nausea
- Increased relaxation and a sense of safety in your body
- Improved resilience to stress and reactivity
- A greater understanding of how trauma affects the body and mind, leading to improved self-regulation
By helping people reconnect with their bodies, Somatic Therapy can be an invaluable tool for those seeking relief from trauma or anxiety. Through this process, individuals can gain insight into their inner resources and become more resilient to stress.
What Disorders Respond to Somatic Therapy?
This type of therapy works best with people suffering from certain conditions. Let’s explore the uses of this therapy.
Range of Uses
Somatic Therapy can be an invaluable tool for individuals suffering from a range of mental health issues, including
When dealing with PTSD, this therapy is not a “one size fits all” approach. Each individual’s needs must be considered when deciding which techniques are most suitable.
In general, Somatic Therapy helps by providing tools to help process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled way. Through this process, individuals can learn to regulate their emotions and develop an inner sense of safety.
When dealing with Anxiety, this therapy helps people understand how their physical body contributes to their mental state and provides techniques that allow them to slow down and become mindful in the present moment.
This therapy can help reduce stress levels, increase relaxation, and improve an individual’s ability to cope with difficult situations. It also provides individuals with the skills to regulate their emotions and better manage anxiety in the long run.
When dealing with depression, this therapy helps provides an opportunity to reconnect with the body and learn how physical sensations can reflect our emotional state. It helps to provide insight into the root cause of depression, allowing individuals to understand why they may be feeling a certain way.
Through this process, individuals can begin to develop coping skills that allow them to manage difficult emotions in healthier ways.
When suffering from the effects of trauma-related disorders, this therapy provides techniques that allow people to safely process traumatic memories while also focusing on relaxation and self-care. This approach helps create a sense of safety and stability, which can be essential for those struggling with trauma.
By helping individuals reconnect with their bodies, Somatic Therapy can relieve intense physical symptoms associated with trauma and enable them to manage difficult emotions more effectively in the long run. It also helps those who have experienced abuse or neglect in the past.
How Effective is Somatic Therapy?
With so many therapies available today, it is essential to implement evidence-based treatments, so you know they are proven to work for many people. Let’s look into how effective this therapy is.
Research on Effectiveness
In one study, 67% of participants showed partial or total alleviation of symptoms directly after Somatic Therapy sessions. The study also showed that 90% of participants maintained their improvements at the 1-year mark after the study.
In addition, participants in these studies reported increased relaxation and a greater understanding of how trauma affects the body and mind, leading to improved self-regulation. Considering all this, it’s clear that Somatic Therapy can be an invaluable tool in helping individuals manage and overcome the effects of trauma, anxiety, and depression.
By focusing on relaxation, mindful awareness, and processing difficult emotions in a safe space, this therapy can relieve intense physical symptoms while helping those suffering from mental health issues develop healthier coping skills. Ultimately, its effectiveness shows through the positive changes reported by participants who have undergone this type of therapy.
The Importance of The Mind-Body Connection in Therapy
Somatic Therapy is based on the idea that our bodies and minds are interconnected. This mind-body connection means that emotional distress can manifest in physical symptoms. Through Somatic Therapy, individuals can learn to become aware of their body’s reaction to stress and begin to understand how it affects their mental health.
How the Mind-Body Connection Aids in Therapy
By addressing the connection between the body and mind, people can gain insight into their inner resources and become more resilient to stress.
This type of therapy helps individuals learn how to use these resources to better cope with difficult emotions. It also gives them a safe space to process traumatic memories without fear or judgment.
Somatic Therapy highlights the mind-body connection and helps people to understand how their physical sensations can provide insight into their emotional state. By understanding the root cause of the issues that cause you stress, Somatic Therapy can further address all your symptoms and lead you toward long-term relief.
Somatic Therapy can be a powerful technique that helps you to manage the stress and symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, or trauma-related disorders.
In understanding your unique symptoms, your counselor can help you build coping skills to reduce the stress load on your body. When you reduce the stress load, your body has the space to process more of the experiences that affect you and provide relief from symptoms that may affect your daily quality of life.
Stress and symptom relief begin with seeking professionals specifically trained to help you work through difficult emotions and experiences. If you want to learn more about how this therapy can help you on your path to wellness, take the first step and start here or call us to kickstart your relief.