What is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy is a mind-body approach to therapy. It focuses on the body and how it responds to emotions, memories, and trauma triggers. Somatic therapy works with the physiological responses that arise during a therapy session and utilizes interventions such as body awareness, pendulation, titration, resourcing, and movement to release distressing sensations, allowing the body to return to a calm and supported state.

Emotions and Our Bodies

Multiple studies have confirmed that emotions show up in our body. Emotions trigger common somatic responses and impact our breathing and heart rates. For example, some emotions and their somatic responses include:

  • Anger: activation in the head, chest, and upper limbs
  • Happiness: full body activation
  • Sadness: activation in the chest and face, underactivation in the upper and lower limbs
  • Anxiety: activation in the head, chest, and stomach
  • Love: activation in the head, chest, stomach, upper limbs, and hips
  • Depression: underactivation in the head and upper and lower limbs
  • Disgust: activation in the digestive system and throat

Somatic therapy first works to build awareness of these emotions and their body sensations. Then it uses these somatic responses to help you identify resources to support the mind and body in future trauma work.

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Somatic Therapy for Trauma

Going through a traumatic event and its resulting triggers overwhelms the prefrontal cortex, damaging our ability to think clearly or problem-solve. It continually triggers our fight, flight, and freeze defenses even once the trauma has passed, and it puts the brain and body in a state of constant and automatic activation.

Somatic therapy interrupts this cycle by working with the fight, flight, and freeze physiological responses and by helping the part of our brain that continues to feel trauma’s lingering effects find integration and safety.


Trauma & Our Bodies

Trauma affects our bodies as well as our minds and emotions. Physical symptoms of traumatic stress can include:

  • Physical: increased heart rate, rapid or shallow breathing, cold sweats, tingling, muscle tension, exaggerated startle response, inability to sleep or relax
  • Mental/emotional: tendency toward anxiety or panic attacks, rage outbursts, hyper-vigilance, racing thoughts
  • Physical: low energy, exhaustion, numbness, low muscle tone, poor digestion
  • Mental/Emotional: depression, dissociation, apathy, disconnection in relationship, under-responsiveness
Both Hyper- and Hypo-Arousal
  • Physical: muscle rigidity in one area of the body with low muscle tone elsewhere, diarrhea alternating with constipation
  • Mental/Emotional: anxiety with underlying depression

Somatic Therapy Can Help

Somatic therapy can easily be integrated with other trauma therapies such as EMDR, parts work and EFIT. It can also be used as a standalone therapy. These sessions will often move more slowly than standard talk therapy as one session can be spent working through the body sensations that arise just from one recent experience or one aspect of a traumatic event. However, repeated somatic sessions can help the body relax and experience safety in a more lasting way than standard talk sessions can provide. Somatic therapy may be a good fit for individuals whose trauma or emotions show up strongly in their bodies, those who are hitting blocks in trauma therapy or for those who have gotten stuck in talk therapy.

“The body remembers what the mind forgets.”

Peter Levine

Begin Somatic Therapy in the Nashville area

If you live in the Nashville area and are ready to explore therapy options for healing trauma, we are here to help. To begin individual counseling, follow these three steps:

1. Contact our counseling office or call 615-235-3508 to schedule a free 30 minute consultation

2. Begin therapy and move forward with your life!

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Schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see if therapy with Willow Counseling is right for you.

Willow Leaf. Anxiety treatment with a therapist in Nashville can help you grow. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Begin individual therapy at Willow Counseling. Schedule an appointment to meet with one of our compassionate counselors.

Another photo of a willow leaf. Our Nashville therapists offer anxiety treatment for symptoms of anxiety. Willow Counseling also offers trauma therapy, treatment for depression, and help for compassion fatigue in Nashville.

Ready to stop walking this road alone? Explore our Group Therapy options to connect with others in your healing journey.

Other therapeutic services offered at Willow Counseling

Willow Counseling offers a variety of therapeutic services to help you on your road to healing & better mental health. Some of our other counseling services include counseling for trauma and EMDR therapy, therapy for compassion fatigue, and group counseling services for anxiety and compassion fatigue.  If you are ready to find healing and live in the Nashville area, our therapists are here to help!