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What is Somatic Therapy

Crystal Fuller

The words somatic therapy sound intimidating. You might ask yourself “what is it or could it be useful in helping me overcome my trauma?” Somatic therapy was developed by psychologist Peter A. Levine. It includes combining your mind, body, spirit, and emotions in your healing journey.

Dr. Levine developed this idea after observing animals whose lives were often endangered. He noticed that when the animals were successful in escaping their predators, they were able to destress through physical release. According to Dr. Levine, humans tend to let their thoughts of shame and fear prevent them from regulating the nervous system. When this happens, it can lead to mood swings, sleep problems, or other health issues.

How Does it Work

In somatic therapy, a key factor is being aware of your body's physical reactions to a memory. For example, when a small detail of your past experience is introduced does your stomach hurt, do you breathe shallowly, do you feel dizzy or is there a tightening in your chest? As you discover these physical reactions with your therapist, they will help you to figure out how you would have liked to have responded but were not able to. Together you will develop strategies for self-regulation.

Centering is also a key part of somatic therapy. In this, breathing techniques allow you to be more observant of the inner actions of your body and what is going on around you while helping you to relax.

Bodywork is another part of somatic therapy. This involves meditation or physically working with body tissue or movements.

The Big Picture

Talking with a therapist can be a huge help when working through a traumatic experience. However, if you feel like you need something a little more, then somatic therapy can be an additional option to try. It is a way of releasing tensions that have affected your body on both emotional and physical levels.


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