Somatic therapy is a different way of looking at your mental health by working with the mind-body, rather than just focusing on the mind alone. You could call it a type of body psychotherapy in a way. Somatic therapy can help you with
- trauma symptoms
- physical pain or physical symptoms of mental health issues
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- chronic stress
- deeply rooted beliefs
- intense emotions
- pent up tension
- a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms
What Is a Somatic Approach?
A somatic therapy approach is to look at how the body processes and/or stores past trauma. You might have physical symptoms such as pain, physical sensations such as anxiety or depression, chronic pain that never seems to go away or gets worse in certain situations or other bodily sensations. You may be experiencing mental health issues that traditional talk therapy can’t seem to unlock or resolve which then leads to emotional health challenges.
By unlocking the trauma from the body, you are helping the mind to release past traumas much quicker and easier. This is the power of tapping into the mind-body connection for healing yourself.
Not all physical responses are really physical. In truth, pain exists inside the mind only as it is a response to stimuli from your nervous system. You may have pain in certain areas of your body but the real issue is a mind-body issue rather than just a physical issue. Having a high level of body awareness from practising somatic therapy techniques can help you to unlock the root cause of the issue.
Your physical body will hold on to unresolved traumas and emotions. To do this, your body needs to store them somewhere. It doesn’t do this to hinder you specifically, rather, it does this in order to try to keep you from getting into the same situation that you were in previously. Your subconscious mind doesn’t understand the difference between a past traumatic event that is unresolved and the present moment. It believes that everything is happening to you at this moment in time.
Your nervous system is responsible for sending signals between the body and the mind. You have external stimuli that are picked up and then if required, a stress response will be sent to the body and the mind. If your nervous system is getting overloaded with stress signals you will experience physical symptoms such as anxiety. If you experience a lot of the feelings of being stuck, unable to move or change anything or trapped in life, you will more than likely experience feelings of depression.
The Autonomic Nervous System acts unconsciously to alter the heart rate and blood flow depending on what the body needs to do. It comprises the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The Parasympathetic Nervous System is involved in relaxation and digestion and calms the body down. The Sympathetic Nervous System is your fight and flight part which will increase your heart rate and blood pressure so enable you to move quicker and be stronger. The Enteric Nervous System is often called the second brain that lies in the gut. It can act separately from the Central Nervous System (CNS). For every 1 signal that goes from the brain to the body, 9 signals go from the body to the brain via the ENS.
Understanding the Freeze Response
Sometimes we can become overloaded by a situation we find ourselves in so the body will initiate the freeze response. This is the same response that some prey animals will experience in the presence of a predator. They know that they can’t escape or fight back so they exhibit a freezing behaviour instead.
This can also happen when a past traumatic event is triggered inside of us. The bodily sensations are felt at such a high level that we go into a freeze response.
The Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection is a very important part of somatic therapies. A somatic therapist will help you to work through your mental and emotional health concerns by going through the body first. The mind is generally very quick to make changes while the body is generally much slower to take on a mindset shift. This is one of the reasons why people come away from mindset events feeling great and then slip back into old habits. If the body is holding onto past events, it will be more reluctant to change.
By addressing your mental health concerns from the perspective of the body, you are speeding up and strengthening the ability for healing to occur.
Somatic Experience (SE)
Somatic Experiencing aims to assist people with coping skills who are stuck in the process or are feeling stuck from a traumatic event. Peter A. Levine, PhD developed this approach after studying that prey animals whose lives are routinely threatened in the wild are able to recover rapidly using physical energy released during stressful events. Sometimes human beings interfere with these natural systems of nerve reorganisation with emotional shame and pervasive ideas judgments and fears. When faced with adversity the ANS becomes engaged and regulates the fight, flight and freeze instincts. The ANS can become dysregulated especially when full expression of one’s reaction to trauma is repressed.
Can Somatic Therapy Help With a Traumatic Event?
In SE, traumatic events are defined as an event that causes a long term dysregulation in the autonomic and core – extrapyramidal system. The view implies a continuum of stress conditions: chronic but moderate elevation of the sympathetic response at one end and chronic extreme activation of both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems on the other end. With the continued challenge, there was the unexpected intensity of joint involvement of parasympathetic (dorsal vagal) system together with sympathetic which resulted in freezing, collapse or dissociation. This is not the result of wear and tear but rather a special dysfunctional state of operation of the complex dynamical system that through appropriate intervention could then be returned to normal resilient functioning.
Some somaticians might require you to discuss your trauma. Others may only ask a personal description of a physical sensation of the trauma. You may be compelled to move your body so as to affect negative emotions. The therapist will teach you how to free yourself from excess energy. Somatic therapy is a wonderful type of trauma treatment that is centred around you.
Releasing the trapped emotions and sensations in your body that is connected to the trauma helps your body and your mind to release them. Whereas the mind is quick to release emotional pain through talk therapy, for instance, the body can be a slower machine if it isn’t worked on as well. By working directly with the body your mind will have its own healing process from trauma and other mental health issues.
What Happens In a Somatic Therapy Session?
During a somatic therapy session, I will be helping you to get in touch with how your own body feels in a calm, relaxed and safe state. I will then introduce the issue that you wish to work on so that you can recognise the difference in a safe and secure environment.
From there we will go through a variety of deep energetic releasing techniques so that you are able to quickly and easily move on. The techniques used will vary from person to person and session to session. You will always receive what is right for you at that moment in time. This person-centred approach to somatic therapy ensures a high success rate.
How Do You Practice Somatic Therapy?
The particular somatic experiencing therapy I use brings together hypnosis, 5th-dimensional healing and other energy therapy techniques. The basis is looking at body psychotherapy and possibly some mind-body exercises combined with holistic healing.
Does Somatic Experiencing Work?
The somatic treatment theory holds that the mind, body spirit, thoughts and feelings are all in connection and connected to each other. Consequently, past emotional and traumatic situations affect the central nervous system. The aim is to free yourself of any fear that has impeded your ability to fully understand life. Develop awareness for the mind-body connectedness and use. The particular intervention, or somatisation therapy, works to release tension in the body caused by past negative events. The therapy is intended to help you free yourself of tension and anger from your former negative emotions and experiences.
Some somaticians might require you to discuss your trauma. Others may only ask a personal description of a physical sensation of the trauma. You may be compelled to move your body so as to affect negative emotions. The therapist will teach you how to free yourself from excess feelings.
What does somatic therapy focus on?
Somatic therapy focuses on the stored energies within your body. Somatic psychology is an understanding of how the body stores these energies, how these energies affect your mental health and wellbeing and then how to release them. Somatic experiencing therapy is a safe way of revisiting past traumas. By using emotional regulation and other forms of therapy such as body psychotherapy, somatic therapists are able to assist you in recalling an emotional experience of a traumatic memory without the emotions taking over your mind and body.
Somatic therapy is a body orientated approach to helping your mind and body to feel and be healthier. This is why some will call it body orientated psychotherapy.
Does somatic therapy involve touch?
Yes, somatic therapy can sometimes include touch as well as including physical movement to release PTSD symptoms for instance. You may find that you will be using breathing exercises when going through exposure therapy to balance any stress hormones from building up. You will find that you are able to respond effectively compared to previously as you are free from the pent up trauma you used to have.
If you are looking for somatic therapy for treating PTSD, traumatic memories, sleep problems or physical and mental after-effects of abuse, you can speak to Paul Ramsden about this. Having seen many clients over the years for treatment, you can take great confidence in his skills and holistic approach to somatic therapy.
His body orientated approach to therapy really helps a person’s mind to think more clearly without traumatic experiences taking away all of their life force. You can simply tap here to contact Paul.