How to Decide if Somatic Experiencing Therapy is Right for You?

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on April 25, 2023
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Mental health affects every aspect of our lives, from jobs to relationships.

Going from mental suffering to mental health is a journey that’s tough, and can be very confusing at times, which is why seeking proper therapy from a trusted therapist can be life-changing.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to determine whether you should try working with a somatic experiencing therapist.

What Problems Does Somatic Experiencing Help?

Somatic Experiencing therapy can help with a variety of mental health issues such as trauma, anxiety, grief, substance abuse, anger, depression, trust issues, intimacy issues, and even PTSD.

What is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?

What is Somatic Experiencing? | Austin, TX

Somatic experiencing therapy (SET) is a specialized approach that uses physical sensations to heal lingering trauma symptoms with a somatic experiencing practitioner. Clients suffering from physical symptoms caused by emotional trauma are ideal candidates for somatic experiencing therapy.

If you are unsure whether you have become a victim of trauma, understanding its symptoms is vital. Sleep disturbances, terrors, anxiety, increased agitation, and mood swings are some indicators of long-term trauma. If one or more of these symptoms are present, this therapy can be a viable option.

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Who Should Try Somatic Experiencing?

  1. Somatic experiencing therapy is a holistic approach therapy that helps people recover from trauma and emotional disturbances by focusing on their physical sensations.
  2. Somatic experiencing therapy is suitable for individuals who want to recover from traumatic events or emotional disturbances through physical sensations.
  3. Some outcomes of somatic experiencing therapy include relief from stress and anxiety, negative feelings, and relationship issues along with a better understanding of oneself.
  4. Somatic experiencing has been proven to be an effective therapy for people who are open to exploring sensations and experiences.
  5. Clients can expect to be supported and gain the required trust and confidence to explore traumatic experiences in a safe environment with their therapist.

However, this therapy is not for everyone.

Who Is Not Ideal for SET

In some situations, somatic experiencing therapy may not be the right option for you.

  • Individuals currently taking medication for mental health issues should follow a doctor’s orders before trying this therapy.
  • It is also not advisable for people dealing with chronic unprocessed mental illnesses such as psychosis or borderline personality disorders.
  • Finally, If you are too fragile and presently unable to regulate your nervous system, somatic experiencing therapy may not prove highly beneficial.

Therapy Approaches Similar to Somatic Experiencing

Other therapies similar or classified as alternative therapies to somatic experiencing are Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR, and Brainspotting.

These approaches have some contrasting features but share the same principles such as focusing on sensations to achieve physical balance to recover from emotional disturbances and chronic pain.

What Does A Somatic Therapist Do?

What does a typical Somatic Experiencing session look like?

A somatic therapist is a type of therapist that focuses on body psychotherapy and the connection between the body and mind. They use various techniques and interventions to help individuals release pent-up trauma and regulate their nervous systems.

Somatic therapy aims to treat mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional and mental health problems. Sessions may involve both psychotherapy and physical activities to address emotional energy and bodily pain.

Overall, a somatic therapist helps individuals achieve better emotional awareness, understanding and mastery of emotions, and improvements in mental health symptoms.

What Happens In Somatic Experiencing Therapy?

Somatic experiencing therapy is a body-based form of psychotherapy that treats trauma and other chronic stress-related symptoms.

During a session, the therapist guides the client to notice bodily sensations and increase tolerance of emotions related to their traumatic experiences. The aim is to release traumatic activation that is trapped in the body and turn off the threat alarm that causes severe dysregulation and dissociation.

The therapist works gently with the client to help them achieve a different experience than that of their trauma. Somatic experiencing is a leading-edge therapy that can help you process and heal from past trauma.

5 Tips For Somatic Therapy Techniques

  1. Practice Somatic Experiencing Techniques: Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET) focuses on nervous system regulation to find calmness and relaxation.
  2. Use soothing breath: Deep and slow breathing can help soothe both the body and the mind.
  3. Try healing hands: Place your hand on the area that has experienced a shift or change, and breathe deeply.
  4. Practice sensory orientation: This is a meditation practice that involves mindfully noticing each of your five senses.
  5. Try Child’s Pose: To release tension in the lower back, hips, and thighs, try practicing Child’s Pose on your hands and knees, then lower your hips.

You can also learn meditation with a Headspace free trial. While meditation isn’t a technique specific to SE, it can help you prepare and ultimately succeed with somatic therapies and techniques.

What Is The Difference Between EMDR And Somatic Experiencing?

EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are both effective therapies for treating trauma, but the main difference is their approach to treatment.

EMDR Therapy focuses on a structured protocol that addresses the emotional, cognitive, and physiological aspects of trauma. Somatic Experiencing, on the other hand, emphasizes the physical sensations and experiences associated with trauma.

While EMDR uses eye movements and other types of stimulation to facilitate the processing of traumatic events and memories, Somatic Experiencing focuses on helping clients regulate their nervous system to reduce physical symptoms of trauma.

Ultimately, the choice between these therapies depends on individual preferences and circumstances.

What Is The Difference Between Somatic Experiencing And Physical Therapy?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Physical Therapy are two approaches to healing that share many of the same fundamental principles. Both practices strive to restore physical and emotional balance to an individual, but each employs different techniques and philosophies.

  • Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented approach to resolving trauma and psychological distress by gently guiding awareness back into parts of the body so that a person can begin to process stored traumatic memories.
  • This technique differs from Physical Therapy in that it does not rely on strengthening or stretching muscles or joints, rather it focuses on using subtle movements, breath work, and guided discourse to access and resolve deep-seated emotions.
  • SE involves helping individuals access difficult emotions through body-based awareness, whereas PT uses exercises and manual therapies to restore physical functioning as quickly as possible without necessarily addressing what prompted the condition in the first place.
  • Depending on the nature of an individual’s problem or injury, either method could be more appropriate than the other – if the pain has been caused by trauma then confronting those feelings with SE may be preferable; if joint pain has been caused by muscle weakness then PT may provide more effective relief.

Ultimately, it’s up to a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine which treatment would be most beneficial for any given patient.

Is Somatic Trauma Therapy Legitimate?

Yes, somatic trauma therapy is a legitimate treatment for trauma and stress-related disorders like PTSD.

In summary, somatic therapy has been closely evaluated and tested for efficacy, and initial studies have found it to be an effective treatment for PTSD1,2.

You may also read more Online Mental Health Review articles about the pros and cons of somatic therapy, how somatic experiencing works, how to find a qualified SE clinician, and the scientific evidence supporting SE.

Somatic Experiencing Therapists Conclusion:

Somatic experiencing therapy is a modern method of therapy. It is essential to know the pros and cons, how it works, and who benefits more from it. Somatic experiencing therapy is an approach that aims to heal people from trauma through physical sensations.

Suppose you suffer from trauma and/or a range of mental and emotional disturbances and you feel that you are up for therapy that focuses on the physical body sensations. In that case, this might be an excellent option for you.

With the right support and guidance, people with trauma and emotional disturbances can find empowerment in their experience through somatic experiencing therapy.

If you’re curious about somatic therapy or would like to hear from people who have experienced it, we want to hear from you!

Please share your experiences and opinions by leaving a comment on our blog. Your feedback and suggestions will help us better understand the effectiveness of somatic therapists and determine which mental health services, apps, or courses we should delve into next. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Sources

  1. Brom, D., Stokar, Y., Lawi, C., Nuriel-Porat, V., Ziv, Y., Lerner, K., & Ross, G. (2017, June). Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(3), 304–312. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22189
  2. Kuhfuß, M., Maldei, T., Hetmanek, A., & Baumann, N. (2021, January 1). Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of body-oriented trauma therapy: a scoping literature review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2021.1929023

If You Are In Crisis

If you are in crisis or considering self-harm, it is important to get help right away. You can dial 911 in an emergency, or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on 988 for confidential support around the clock. Additionally, the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can be contacted at 800-662-HELP (4357) for free and confidential treatment referrals and information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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