What Is Somatic Therapy and How Can It Help You?
Have you ever noticed how your body clenches when you feel anxious? Or, perhaps, you observe a sense of heaviness or physical fatigue when feeling depressed?
These connections aren’t random, and emerging research emphasizes the undeniable relationship between physical and mental health. By becoming more aware of these dynamics, you can live a more meaningful, happier life.
Somatic therapy refers to a holistic-based approach towards understanding the relationship between your mind and body. Somatic therapists embrace a framework that focuses on how feelings or memories affect physical sensations.
Somatic therapy can be especially effective in treating trauma or compounded stress. But is it right for you? Let’s get into what you need to know.
What Happens To Us After Experiencing a Trauma?
Trauma can undoubtedly impact every part of your life. Immediately after the trauma, you might feel anxious, angry, confused, or even numb. Sometimes, these symptoms fade away on their own. Other times, they may persist and even worsen.
When our body detects danger, it naturally adapts by shifting into a survival stance. This automatic process is known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. It’s automatic because we can’t control it- it happens so quickly that we may not realize what we’re doing until it’s over.
Many times, we freeze because we don’t have another option. Too much freezing can cause hyperarousal to remain ‘stuck’ within our bodies. Subsequently, the trauma remains stuck to us.
As a result, you may feel like you’re perpetually aroused. This arousal can manifest via panic attacks, racing thoughts, dissociation, or hypervigilance. Or, you might feel completely withdrawn and guarded, often leading to exacerbated loneliness and depression.
What Is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy includes therapeutic techniques that increase client awareness of the mind-body connection.
After experiencing a trauma, the body tends to hold onto stress. It can leave lingering imprints and fundamentally impact your brain chemistry. There is ample research demonstrating correlations between trauma and health conditions, including heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.
The overarching goal of somatic therapy is to identify and release physical tensions stored in the body. This release can help you harness a greater sense of happiness and freedom.
Somatic therapy may be used as a standalone treatment. However, many clinicians also integrate it with other therapeutic modalities. Somatic therapy can be beneficial for clients struggling with trauma, but it can also treat issues related to:
- Sleep problems.
- Chronic pain.
- Digestive issues.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Chronic stress.
If you’re not sure if somatic therapy is right for you, ask a potential provider. They can assess your needs and goals and provide you with the best recommendations.
How Somatic Experiencing Works
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is the most well-known somatic therapy- this approach focuses on assessing stuckness in the fight, flight, or freeze response. It also emphasizes releasing traumatic shock.
Resourcing helps you gain insight into your inner resilience and strengths. In this visualization exercise, your therapist will ask you to reflect on a positive image (this can be a person, place, or specific memory). You will refer to this positive image if you feel distressed or overwhelmed.
Like any grounding technique, resourcing can help you calm down and feel more empowered in your healing process.
During titration, your therapist will safely help you process the trauma and identify the associated body sensations. This process can be scary, but your therapist will move gradually and check in with you consistently.
Together, you will track particular bodily responses, such as tightness, numbness, soreness, or even breathing changes. Your therapist will observe these patterns while revisiting the traumatic material.
Pendulation happens as your therapist helps support you into returning to stable homeostasis.
During this transition, it’s normal to experience intense reactions. You may shake, cry, yell, shiver, or even collapse- SE therapists consider these responses as normal, healthy discharges of energy.
As this release happens, your therapist will continue supporting you into a calmer state. They may use various relaxation, visualization, or breathing techniques to aid in this process.
The mind-body connection is powerful, and understanding how your body reacts to stress can be an imperative component in your healing process.
If it feels like your trauma has a powerful hold over your life, it may be time to take action. Somatic therapy can help you feel more empowered and validated during this vulnerable time.
At Willow Counseling, we specialize in trauma recovery, and we are here to help you take this next step. Contact us today to get started.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.