Somatic Experiencing ®, or SE, is a body¬oriented therapy designed to help people overcome the effects of trauma. These effects may include anxiety, depression, motivation problems, and relationship problems, among other symptoms. Somatic = body. Experience = what is going on for you in this moment? SE includes all the components of traditional talk therapy. But it adds an extra dimension: Awareness of what the client’s body is doing. The body/nervous system is where the trauma lives; and the cortex, or “smart brain”, frequently shuts down during traumatic states. Somatic Experiencing is done both through talk (as in psychotherapy) and through touch, sometimes and with permission. The client’s attention is brought to exploring their present moment with a relaxed curiosity. Taking in the environment around them, and noticing how their body responds, this leads to invitations into tracking and noticing sensations within their body.
This process of unfolding awareness and sensing within and without, can lead to a renegotiation of accumulated stress and traumatic experiences from the past that have been in a sense “stored in the body”. This has a profound effect on one’s ability to heal. Therefore, accessing the power of the body, its implicit memory, is often the key to helping the person get “unstuck” and begin healing from previous life circumstances. In psychotherapy, SE helps the client become aware of thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, movement impulses, and other somatic cues to what is going on. Together, the practitioner and client learn to detect and actively work with the autonomic nervous system arousal, or the extra energy that is trapped in the body, causing symptoms. The treatment goal is to regulate the nervous system: the person is able to be relaxed, be in in a state of ease, and feeling alive, no longer responding in the current moment to emergencies from years or decades ago.