Almost everyone has or will experience a traumatic event at least once in their lifetime. For some, the effects of trauma, or even stress, can cause adverse physical symptoms that get in the way of daily life. Learn more about somatic therapy and how this therapeutic intervention can help clients rejuvenate the mind-body-spirit connection and heal from the past.
Table of Contents
- What is Somatic Therapy?
- Different types of somatic therapy
- What mental health issues do somatic therapy help?
- Using Somatic Therapy for Trauma Recovery
- How long does somatic therapy take to work?
- Yes, somatic therapies are evidence-based
What is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on the mind-body-spirit connection. It uses a combination of psychotherapy techniques and physical modalities (massage, physical therapy, dance, yoga, breathwork) to center the body.
Different types of somatic therapy
Somatic experiencing is a form of somatic therapy primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It focuses on using neurobiological techniques and body-centering to work through stress disorders by assessing your central nervous system responses (flight-flight-freeze) to find the root of trauma triggers and symptoms.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR)
EDMR therapy provides an adaptive solution to coping with traumatic and stressful life events using psychotherapy techniques. The linear process involves history-taking, preparation, memories, processing, and evaluation. A therapist or professional can use eye movements to help a patient retarget specific responses to memories to provide relief.
EDMR does not utilize standard talk-therapy techniques, such as clinical interpretation. Instead, the process is patient-centered and aims to use the client’s own intellectual and emotional processes to accelerate healing.
This eight-phase treatment focuses on the past, present, and future to help clients understand their thoughts, feelings, coping mechanisms, and responses to reestablish a healthier response to experienced trauma.
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy, or Hakomi, is a form of somatic therapy that utilizes principles of nonviolence and mindfulness to promote growth and change. A therapist will work with clients to release difficult unconscious thoughts in a safe space.
In Hakomi, a practitioner uses the body as a map to the psyche to find key indicators of stress. Body posture, gestures, and patterns are important aspects of uncovering the unconscious.
Sessions for Hakomi follow a sequence of contact, accessing, processing and integration. Practitioners first create a relaxing, trusting environment with the client that allows them to embody a sense of mindfulness and listen to their unconscious.
During the access phase, clients deep-dive into their unconscious and assimilate any material into their self-concept. By understanding limitations, clients can understand the need for change and work towards this. A client would then process this information by being mindful of how these thoughts interact with their body. Thoughts, sensations, feelings, and memories will arrive into conscious awareness.
Other types of somatic therapy
It focuses on the mind-body connection and the energy that flows through them.
Manages the body’s emotional, mental, and physical states to alleviate physical symptoms of trauma gently.
Treatment focuses on the emotional state of the client. The therapist and client work together to diagnose the conscious mind and work through trauma. Massage, breathing, and posture exercises are physical interventions that help connect the mind and body.
Uses neurophysiological practices such as biolateral sound to target areas of the brain by targeting, processing, and releasing core sources of trauma in the body.
Initially used in healthcare to help identify the sources of somatic illness or illness that could not be found in the body. Interventions focus on relieving physical pain and ailments.
What mental health issues do somatic therapy help?
Somatic therapies can help various mental illnesses or mental health issues. Somatic therapy is best known for treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but that is not all.
- Chronic pain
- Digestive disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
Using somatic therapy for trauma recovery
Traumatic events can trigger unfavored physical reactions. In cases where someone has PTSD, these symptoms can last for extended periods if the root of the trauma is not dealt with. In addition to emotional responses to trauma, people may feel the following body reactions:
- Muscle tension
- Weakened immune system
- Sleep disturbances
- Racing heartbeat
- Lack of concentration
- Being startled easily
Somatic therapeutic approaches help the client learn how their central nervous system plays a role in their trauma response. The therapist or practitioner will then slowly increase awareness of body sensations and physical reactions to memories.
Clients will learn what is generally referred to as “resourcing” to help understand their available resources. By discovering strengths in relationships, the self, community, and safe spaces, clients can draw on these positive thoughts, moments, and memories when they feel triggered.
Grounding helps by focusing on the present moment, especially in moments of dissociation and anxiety. It is used to help regulate the central nervous system during stress responses and is at the core of somatic therapy.
Movement such as yoga, exercise, dance, and stretching is often utilized in somatic therapy to help physically move through difficult emotions, trauma, experiences, and insecurities.
The process of experiencing small amounts of discomfort at a time so clients can learn to work through releasing the stress and tension. This slows down the process of re-experiencing the trauma and allows one to deal with it in manageable ways. During this process, the practitioner will make notes of any physical reactions, such as increased heart rate.
Pendulation is the process in which the therapist or practitioner will work with the client to calm them down through uncovering trauma. When a client begins to get overwhelmed, the professional will work with them to switch thoughts or actions to something soothing, such as breathing techniques.
How long does somatic therapy take to work?
The effects of any type of therapy are different from person to person. Similarly, different types of somatic therapy can take different periods since some are recommended for shorter-term and others long-term. Some clients may report feeling better within a few sessions, although substantial and long-lasting change can take years.
Yes, somatic therapies are evidence-based
To answer the question, “Is somatic therapy evidence-based?” the answer is yes. Many of the different types of somatic therapy are evidence-based, meaning they have proof to back up that the treatment is effective for specific populations. It’s important to note that research on somatic therapy is considered newer when compared to other interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
If you think somatic therapy is right for you, finding a mental health professional near you who is certified and trained in somatic interventions may be beneficial. Somatic therapy can be an excellent option for healing trauma, PTSD, stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’re looking for somatic therapy in Bloomsburg, PA, Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates can help. Schedule an appointment today; we are here to help.
Dr. John G Kuna and Associates also offers therapy and counseling at our 15 convenient locations across Eastern Pennsylvania, spanning Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming, Montour, Columbia, Pike, and Northampton counties.