Somatic Psychotherapy

“Long-lasting responses to trauma result not simply from the experience of fear and helplessness but from how our bodies interpret those experiences.”

~Rachel Yehuda

Talking about trauma doesn’t make it go away.

If you have been told that, you were sold a bill of goods.

Bodily maps of emotions by L. Nummenmaa, E. Glerean, R. Hari, J. Hietanen, published in PNAS

Focusing solely on the story of how the trauma happened can actually be dangerous. You can re-trigger the trauma, flooding yourself with intense, overwhelming emotions. Even your biology can change – if you keep re-living the story, you will strengthen the neural circuits for the trauma, cementing the trauma experience in yourself. That is the opposite of what you want.

Research shows that strong emotions, old patterns and trauma are held in the body. That means that to heal these old wounds you need to access body memories. Somatic therapy (soma means “of the body”) uses talk therapy, body awareness and mindfulness to access deep emotional pain to provide lasting relief from the pain.

Somatic psychotherapy is grounded in neuroscience, how the body stores memories, and how to release the pain of those memories.

Experiencing emotions in the body is a universal experience. A study done in 2013 shows that no matter where you come from geographically, the felt sense of emotions is the same. “More than 700 participants in Finland, Sweden and Taiwan participated in experiments aimed at mapping their bodily sensations in connection with specific emotions.”

Emotions can trigger body sensations, and body sensations can also trigger emotions, creating a feedback loop. With somatic psychotherapy, we can access painful emotions through body sensation and interrupt that feedback loop, creating lasting change.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sensorimotor psychotherapy has been developed and refined over the last 40 years by Pat Ogden, founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and co-founder of the Hakomi Institute. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy blends traditional talk therapy with a mind-body approach to effectively treat childhood trauma, neglect and abandonment that often lead to PTSD and complex PTSD.

“Sensorimotor Psychotherapy blends theory and technique from cognitive and dynamic therapy with straightforward somatic awareness and movement interventions…
that promote empowerment and competency.”

~Dr. Dan Siegel, award-winning educator, researcher and author

Great Books on Mind-Body Approaches:

Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body, Reginald Ray

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, Peter Levine

The Body Remembers, Babette Rothschild

Articles on Somatic Psychotherapy in Trauma Treatment

  • “Putting the Pieces Together: 25 Years of Learning Trauma Treatment” | Download PDF
    Published in Psychotherapy Networker, May/June 2014.
  • “The Treatment of Structural Dissociation in Chronically Traumatized Patients” | Download PDF
    Published in In Anstorp & Benum (2014). Trauma treatment in practice: complex trauma and dissociation. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
  • “Clinical EFT as an Evidence-Based Practice for the Treatment of Psychological and physiological Conditions” | Download PDF
  • “Sensorimotor Approaches to Trauma Treatment” | Download PDF Published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, July 2011.
  • “Attachment as a Sensorimotor Experience” | Download PDF Published in Attachement: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, July, 2011.
  • “Retraining the Brain: Harnessing Our Neuralplasticity” | Download PDF Published in the Psychotherapy Networker, March, 2011.
  • “Brain to Brain: The Therapist as Neurobiological Regulator” | Download PDF Published in the Psychotherapy Networker, January, 2010.
  • “Working with the Neurobiological Legacy of Trauma” | Download PDF
  • “Addictions and Trauma Recovery” | Download PDF
  • “Stabilization in the Treatment of Trauma” | Download PDF
  • “Self-harm and Suicidality” | Download PDF
  • “Dissociative Phenomena in the Everyday Lives of Trauma Survivors” | Download PDF

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