What Is Somatic Healing or Somatic Experiential Therapy
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What Is Somatic Healing or Somatic Experiential Therapy



Although the concepts that guide it have existed for more than a century (according to this study from the book EMDR as an integrative psychotherapy approach), somatic therapy or somatic healing is still a relatively new approach that professionals are using to address mental health challenges.


For those who are skeptical about its effectiveness or how it works, answered below are some of the most frequently asked questions about somatic psychotherapy, as well as the benefits it provides to those dealing with chronic pain, health issues, and those who have experienced trauma.




Table of Contents

(click on a question to be directed quickly)

What is Somatic Psychology?
What are the applications and benefits of Somatic psychology?
What is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
Does Somatic Therapy really work?
Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy pseudoscience?
How do you find a Somatic Experiencing Therapist?







What Is Somatic Psychology?


Somatic psychology is also known as somatic healing, somatic therapy, somatic experiencing, or sensorimotor psychotherapy. Regardless of what it’s called, it is a holistic and body-oriented form of therapy.


Somatic psychology incorporates all aspects of a person, including the mind, body, emotions, and spirit, into the process of healing trauma and addressing mental health conditions.


Those who practice somatic psychology believe that a wide range of factors can contribute to a person’s physical functioning and emotional state.


For example, they believe that thoughts, beliefs, and feelings can all impact physical health and physical pain. They also believe that physical factors like diet and exercise can contribute to a person’s mental and emotional health. Further, you can access and treat the physical manifestations of psychological pain.


In short, in the world of somatic healing, everything is connected, and there is not a clear division between the mind and the body. Treating someone means treating all of them.



What Are the Applications and Benefits of Somatic Psychology?


Therapists who practice a somatic approach utilize many of the same approaches used in traditional talk therapy. However, because they believe in the connection between the mind and body, they also incorporate additional techniques. This includes encouraging clients to pay more attention to what’s going on within their bodies and the unique tensions the body holds.


Issues like trauma, stress, and other psychological concerns can all influence the nervous system. This, in turn, can contribute to physical issues, including digestive discomfort, hormonal imbalances, and physical tension.


The following are some applications that are utilized in somatic psychology:


  • Breathing exercises
  • Sensation awareness
  • Physical exercise
  • Voice work
  • Grounding exercises
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture


Along with these activities, somatic therapists will also encourage clients to reflect on behavior patterns, identify the effects of these patterns, and address other concerns and emotions that come up during therapy sessions.


Some of the benefits that result from somatic experiencing therapy include:


  • Rewire neural pathways in the brain to produce greater emotional balance and eliminate negative thought patterns and beliefs
  • Increased self-awareness and increased insight into how one’s thought patterns and beliefs influence their sense of physical well-being
  • Greater fulfillment that results from overcoming negative beliefs and unprocessed emotions
  • Reduced self-judgment and self-criticism, especially around physical sensations and issues like chronic pain



Pathological Demand Avoidance



What Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?


This is a specific form of somatic healing developed by Peter Levine, Ph.D. This is an alternative therapy that focuses on helping people heal from trauma.


In an interview with Psychotherapy.net, Levine explained that somatic experiencing therapy works according to the idea that trauma is stored in the body. This, in turn, results in many of the symptoms that people suffering from PTSD (or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) experience, including intrusive thoughts, avoidant behavior, altered mood and cognition, and hyperarousal and reactivity.


Somatic Experiencing practitioners work by helping patients to release stress from the body. The act of releasing stress helps them to overcome their trauma and continue progressing and healing.


When seeking a somatic therapist, it is important to find one with specific training. If a therapist has the credentials SEP after their name, that means they are a Somatic Experiencing Professional. One therapist at ALL IN, Jenna, is certified in Somatic therapy.



Does Somatic Therapy Really Work?


Research shows that somatic therapy can indeed work for those who are struggling with a variety of conditions, including mental health conditions like PTSD and physical health conditions like chronic pain.


This study published by the Journal of Traumatic Stress revealed that, over a 15-week period, somatic therapy produced “significant intervention effects” for reducing the severity of post-traumatic symptoms severity and depression symptoms.


Another study evaluated victims of a tsunami and found that 90 percent of the participants showed significant improvement or were completely free of PTSD symptoms after receiving somatic therapy treatment.


As for chronic pain relief somatic therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for those struggling with cervical myofascial pain.




Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy Pseudoscience?


At the present moment, some professionals are resistant to the idea of somatic experiencing therapy. They may even go so far as to say that it is pseudoscience.


In reality, though, the research shows that it can be highly effective. Furthermore, the connection between the mind and body cannot be denied.


Somatic therapists receive just as much (if not more) professional training compared to other mental health professionals. They use this training when treating their patients and clients. Somatic Experiencing therapy may be relatively new compared to some other treatment options. As such, the scientific grounding behind this approach is still developing. At this time, it appears that it may be an effective approach, but more research is needed.




How Do You Find a Somatic Experiencing Therapist?


These days, it’s easier than it once was to find a somatic experiencing therapist with the help of databases like those available through Psychology Today.


Depending on a person’s location, though, it may be difficult to find an in-person somatic therapist. This can be frustrating for those who are looking for the touch-oriented elements of somatic therapy (such as massage or acupuncture).


However, there are also lots of somatic practitioners who offer telehealth services. These professionals are better than nothing, and they may even be more comfortable for those who are nervous about working with a professional in person.


Those who want to find a somatic therapist should keep in mind that many of them do not work with insurance companies. So, finding one that is an in-network provider may be difficult. Those practitioners that are not can provide superbills that patients can submit to their insurance companies for reimbursement.




Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.