What is Somatic Experiencing®?
Somatic Experiencing® is a bodymind approach to the resolution of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr Peter Levine and is borne out of his study of stress physiology, psychology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics with over almost fifty years of clinical application.
Somatic Experiencing® is underpinned by the Polyvagal Theory of Dr Stephen Porges which is based on the observation that animals in the wild, though often threatened, are rarely traumatised. They are found instead to discharge their survival energy following dangerous situations and return to homeostasis or a state of balance. Humans and domesticated animals on the other hand tend to suppress this process for various known reasons.
Somatic Experiencing® addresses trauma at its root by supporting the spontaneous discharge of survival energy from the nervous system through the completion of self-protective impulses. This is done by initially guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions. During this process their body may organically unravel from old grooves of reacting and shift the excess charge in their nervous system. This then allows the nervous system to “re-set” so that it can respond to situations in novel and effective ways.
In his seminal book Waking The Tiger, Dr Perter Levine describes how he came to the realization that the discharge of traumatic stress needs to occur on a physical level as he worked with his patient, Nancy. An image of a crouching tiger came to him out of the blue in the session, and he suggested that Nancy ran! As she took up his suggestion with movements of her legs, a cascade of physiological shifts followed, including a deep settling of her nervous system with lessening of her trauma symptoms from that point in time.
Somatic Experiencing® employs awareness of body sensations to help people “re-negotiate” their trauma symptoms rather than re-live or re-enact the original experience. Somatic Experiencing® is one of only a few trauma therapies which takes into account the client’s threshold and working in small steps so as to overwhelm or re-traumatize. Catharsis and big emotional expression is not specifically encouraged as it often takes people into regressed states of re-living past experiences where they may once again feel out of control.
Somatic Experiencing® is a highly nuanced approach which recognizes that there are ways of dealing differently with specific kinds of trauma for best effect. These may include motor vehicle & other accidents, falls, birthing, pre- and peri-natal trauma, developmental trauma, sexual boundary violations, serious illness, drowning, near-death experiences, medical, surgical, anaesthesia-related traumas, dental, violent attacks, natural disasters, inter-generational, and more.
Some Somatic Experiencing® Practitioners work generally with a range of issues while others develop expertise in a few areas.
For more information about Somatic Experiencing® visit this link.
What do sessions involve?
An initial session is usually two hours long, and subsequent sessions typically 1.5 hours. Sessions are usually conducted in a seated or lying position, fully clothed. Building your sense of trust and safety with me as your therapist are the first steps in the process.. We then work towards establishing a level of stability in your nervous system and build on all the resources you already have working for you. This provides the solid ground from which to explore the impact of trauma on your nervous system and life in small and deliberate steps. This gradual building of nervous system capacity is key in effecting lasting changes. It is understood in somatic circles that “slower is faster” and “less is more.”
Guided tracking of sensations and feelings in the body are part of the SE process. Touch or self-touch can be added through clothing to support stabilization of the nervous system and more directly access parts of the body affected by trauma.
The process will naturally increase a person’s coping bandwidth over time and allow them to “repair” past events . Any unexpressed energy can be “discharged” as a felt sense of completing what didn’t originally get to happen. Personal boundaries can be powerfully restored in guided steps, along with the healthy expression of any repressed anger. Shame, guilt and attachment issues are often addressed as part of the process.
Sessions are effective in person as well as online via Skype, Zoom or other platforms where the person can utilize guided self-touch.
How many sessions will I need?
There is no simple formula to predict how many sessions you might need. However, single-incident or “shock trauma” can be worked with more quickly than developmental or other complex traumas.
The process of re-negotiating trauma and undoing entrenched patterns is subtle and cumulative. Several sessions are necessary to reverse the symptoms of trauma so that you sustain a new way of being. Clients who experience acute symptoms find that weekly sessions are initially useful. They may later move to fortnightly or less frequent sessions.
I have known Nisha for several years and am amazed at the serenity I
experience in sessions. Nisha has wonderful gifts from the healing arts. She is exceptionally intuitive in her counselling and has helped me to trust in myself. Through Somatic Experiencing and bodywork we have begun to unravel trauma that I have been carrying heavily for many decades. Nisha is truly gifted in holding space for lasting shifts.
The experience was unlike any other bodywork I’ve tried before. It touched and uplifted me on emotional, physical and energetic levels. The impact remained for some days after.
Nisha has an unquestionable gift as a bodyworker and counsellor. Her knowledge, commitment to her clients and passion for her work is evident in her presence.