Somatic Experiencing

Trauma is not a psychological, but primarily a biological phenomenon. By learning to speak our body’s language, we can help it heal itself.

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What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented, psychosomatic method for healing trauma. In SE, trauma refers to any event or series of events that was too unexpected, too fast or too big at the time to be adequately responded to at the time. The nervous system becomes overwhelmed. This method focuses primarily on the effects of trauma in our body (soma). Sensations are the language of our body; therefore, experiencing sensations is the entrance to processing trauma. Characteristics of Somatic Experiencing are:

  • It focuses specifically on trauma.
  • It is based on scientific research in neurobiology.
  • It works where trauma is in the nervous system.
  • The trauma does not have to be told and relived over and over again.

How does Somatic Experiencing work?

SE works with the so-called “felt sense,” the awareness of bodily sensations, to help the body discharge tension. Examples of these physical sensations are: warmth, tingling, goose bumps, faster or slower heart rate or breathing. With proper guidance to embodied feeling, the body can restore self-healing ability.

Why Somatic Experiencing?

Dr. Peter A. Levine, the founder of SE, based his theory on his observations of animals in the wild. Animals are regularly threatened with death. Yet they rarely become traumatized. They instinctively know how to regulate and discharge the intense energy released by survival behaviors. We humans are equipped with much the same regulatory mechanisms as animals. However, these are limited or blocked by the rational part of our brain. For example, we may “hold ourselves tall” or “push through” and thus get in the way of a full discharge. This can result in post-traumatic stress symptoms. Examples include:

  • Anxiety, panic, palpitations, shallow breathing, excessive alertness or irritability, restlessness and insomnia.
  • Depression, exhaustion, feelings of helplessness or helplessness and loss of strength in the muscles.
  • Dissociation, feeling that (part of) your body is not yours, limited spectrum of feelings.
  • Denial: the trauma did not happen or it is not important.

The nervous system controls our thinking, our behavior, our feelings, the sensations in our body and responds to our sensory perceptions.

What happens in treatment?

An SE session lasts about 1 hour and begins with an introductory conversation that leads to agreement on what will be explored in the session. Because it works directly with the physical sensations, it is not necessary to know what the traumatic event was. If one recognizes oneself in one or more of the listed symptoms, SE can work very well. By taking very small steps, in and out of tension, the client always feels that he or she is “in control. The blocked survival energy is thus discharged in a safe and gradual way. After this discharge, people often experience a sharp decrease in their stress symptoms.

Cost and reimbursement

SE can be used within a form of therapy that is fully or partially reimbursed by most health insurance companies from the supplementary package. A referral from a (primary) physician is not necessary. For a comprehensive list of health insurance companies and their reimbursements click here.

Somatic Experience bij IMC Gimborn in Zevenaar.

Frequently Asked Questions Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a form of body-oriented therapy developed by Peter A. Levine. It focuses on resolving trauma and reducing the effects of trauma on the body and mind.

During a treatment Somatic Experiencing works with the body and its physical sensations. Through focused attention and the generation of physical sensations, such as tension or vibration, we work to release blocked energy that has arisen as a result of trauma. This can lead to a deeper experience and processing of the traumatic event.

Somatic Experiencing does not have to be painful, but it can involve some physical and emotional discomfort, as working on trauma can sometimes be intense and emotional.

Somatic Experiencing can be effective in reducing stress because it focuses on restoring the body’s natural recovery process and reducing the impact of trauma on the body and mind.

It is possible to process trauma with Somatic Experiencing because the method focuses on resolving the impact of trauma on the body and mind. However, it is important to realize that each person is unique and that processing trauma is an individual process that requires time, commitment and guidance.

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