Taking care of our mental health is just as important as physical health. Many people look for therapies that will help them deal with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues.
One such therapy is Somatic Experiencing (SE). If you’re considering somatic experiencing, it is essential to know about its benefits and limitations.
In this blog, you will learn about the pros and cons of Somatic Experiencing, who it’s best suited for, and why certain people should avoid it.
What Is Somatic Experiencing?
How Does Somatic Therapy Work?
Somatic Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the connection between the body and the mind.
- It works by allowing the release of stress, tension, and past trauma from the body to help with psychological healing.
- Unlike traditional talk therapy, somatic therapy combines physical techniques with psychotherapy.
- Somatic therapy addresses the feedback loop that runs between the mind and the body, helping to reduce stress and anxiety physiologically.
- This therapy is often used to help clients who have been through trauma or psychological distress.
Pros of Somatic Experiencing
- Non-Invasive: Somatic experiencing is a therapeutic technique that relies on bodily sensations to heal from distress and process trauma. Unlike some other therapies, it doesn’t involve medication, surgery, or other invasive procedures. This makes it a safe and natural option for people looking for alternative treatment for their mental health and trauma-related fight-flight or freeze issues.
- Individualized Treatment: Every person is unique, and therefore, their mental health concerns are unique as well. Somatic experiencing is a type of therapy that is tailored to meet the individual needs of each patient. It is a body-oriented therapy with a somatic therapist that focuses on the physical sensations in the body that arise when processing emotions, and this is different for everyone in their autonomic nervous system.
- Lasting Effects: Somatic experiencing is a therapy that has lasting effects on your physical response and your mental health. It helps you develop tools and techniques to cope with distressing situations, rather than relying on external factors. With SE treatment, patients learn how to reconnect with their body and their natural physical responses to stress and trauma.
Cons of Somatic Experiencing
- Length of Treatment: Somatic experiencing is a long-term therapy. It requires regular sessions that could take anywhere from a few months to years to see significant improvement due to its individualized approach to exposure therapy.
- Cost: Somatic experience is not covered by most insurances, nor is it as popular as CBT, so it can be expensive. It could cost $100 or more for a single session in some areas, which may not be feasible for everyone.
- Not for Everyone: Somatic experiencing may not be suitable for those who have difficulty connecting with their bodies, or painful feelings, such as people with dissociative disorders or severe depression. It could create more distress for these individuals and can do more harm than good.
Somatic Experiencing Therapy Alternatives
Here is a comprehensive list of alternative therapy treatments that can be used in place of somatic experiencing:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication: CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people spot unhelpful patterns in their thinking and behavior and learn better ways to deal with difficult situations. Medication is often given along with therapy to help people deal with their problems better. Therapy and medicine together have been shown to be successful at reducing the symptoms of many mental health problems.
- Herbal medicine: For hundreds of years, herbs have been used to treat a wide range of physical and mental illnesses. Medicinal herbs are easy to find and can be used for a wide range of things, like helping with digestion, lowering inflammation, boosting the immune system, and balancing hormones.
- Aromatherapy: Using essential oils from plants to affect our sense of smell can help lift our feelings and calm us down. Essential oils can also be put on the skin to help relax or heal muscles that are tense.
- Reiki: A spiritual way to heal that involves gently touching parts of the body and sending calming energy through the hands of the healer. It helps to restore unity in the body’s life-force energy system, which helps to balance the body, mind, and emotions.
- Craniosacral Therapy (CST): In this gentle form of bodywork, structured touch is used to move the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This allows pressure to be released from places where it may have built up over time due to illness or injury. This helps the body’s energy flow get back to where it should be, relieves pain, and helps people relax on a physical and mental level.
- Hypnosis and Guided Imagery: During hypnosis, if you focus on a picture or a sentence, you can reach deeper levels of awareness and deal with problems more effectively than you would be able to without being led. Both hypnosis and guided imagery can help people change their behavior or habits and learn things about themselves that they didn’t know before. This means that people can make changes based on what they learn about themselves that they couldn’t make with standard medicine alone.
- Ayurveda: A type of holistic medicine that started in India thousands of years ago. Its treatments include massage, yoga poses, meditation, dietary advice, herbal remedies, cleansing routines, and advice on how to live your life. Its major goal is to find a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Instead of just trying to relieve symptoms, it tries to find a balance between them.
Who Is Somatic Experiencing Best Suited for?
Somatic experiencing is an excellent therapy for those who have experienced a traumatic event or stressful events that have resulted in emotional or physical symptoms. It could be helpful for those who have experienced trauma and are looking for an alternative to medication.
Why Certain People Should Avoid Somatic Experiencing?
While somatic experiencing is an effective therapy, it’s not for everyone. People who are experiencing extreme dissociation, intense flashbacks, or are in acute psychiatric crises should avoid somatic experiencing.
It is always essential to speak with your healthcare provider before starting somatic psychology or somatic therapists or any therapy, especially if you have a severe mental health issue.
There are many options for online therapy, so be sure you find one that feels right to you!
Understanding Stress, trauma, And PTSD in Somatic Experiencing
Somatic Experiencing can help process traumatic experiences and physical and psychological symptoms of mental health challenges.
Somatic Experiencing is a body-centered therapy that focuses on releasing traumatic memories and shock from the body to transform PTSD and emotional wounds.
Research from 2017 has shown that SE may be an effective therapy method for PTSD1.
Understanding The Theoretical Underpinnings Of Somatic Experiencing
Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented therapeutic approach to treat trauma and chronic stress. It aims to change the interoceptive response of the body to post-traumatic symptoms.
With a “body first” approach, SE helps individuals develop conscious internal awareness or interoception, which works on the principle that trauma gets trapped in the body.
The theoretical underpinnings of Somatic Experiencing are based on its body awareness orientation for the treatment of psychological symptoms of stress and trauma.
If you want to know more about Somatic Experiencing, there are various resources available online (see books below!).
15 Benefits of Somatic Experiencing
- Reduces tension stored due to trauma through mindful somatic exercises.
- Treats post-traumatic symptoms and changes interoceptive awareness. [source]
- Helps individuals with mental illness develop healthier relationships with their bodies.
- Processes trauma and helps with depression, addiction, and sexual issues.
- Resets the nervous system and prevents the triggering of memories of trauma.
- Relieves physical and emotional symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
- Helps heal on a cellular level and experience relief from trauma.
- Releases pent-up energy and suppressed emotions.
- Helps with chronic pain and tension caused by trauma.
- Improves the connection between the body and the mind.
- Helps with anxiety and panic attacks.
- Boosts the immune system and promotes physical healing.
- Increases emotional resilience and self-awareness.
- Improves relationships with self and others.
- Increases a sense of well-being and inner peace.
Is Somatic Experiencing Evidence-Based?
Yes, some somatic therapies, including Somatic Experiencing, have been evaluated and tested for efficacy in clinical psychology, making them evidence-based. A scoping review of research literature2 suggests that Somatic Experiencing is an effective treatment for PTSD and its related symptoms.
It is important to keep in mind that even if somatic therapy is evidence-based, it may not be right for everyone. There are many pros and cons to online therapy, and before making a decision, it’s why to pause and think things through.
That’s why we’re here at Online Mental Health Reviews!
What Somatic Trauma Therapy Can Help With
Somatic trauma therapy is a type of intervention that helps individuals who are struggling with mental health issues related to trauma response to traumatic experiences or chronic stress.
SE can provide relief from symptoms of the posttraumatic stress disorder and, shock, and trauma that have accumulated in the body.
Somatic therapy focuses on the mind-body connection, using body-centered techniques to help you heal on a cellular level.
Some specific areas that Somatic Trauma Therapy can help with include treatment for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
With its body-focused approach, Somatic Trauma Therapy can assist individuals in processing their emotions and moving toward healing.
Types Of Somatic Trauma Therapy
Somatic therapy, also known as sensorimotor therapy, somatic sexology, or somatic experiencing therapy, focuses on healing the impacts of trauma through physical techniques such as massage, breathing exercises, and physical exercise.
There are various types of somatic therapy such as somatic experiencing, sensorimotor psychotherapy, and the Hakomi method. Even AEDP strategies similar in may respects to SE for trauma.
Methodological Limitations to Somatic Experiencing
Methodological Limitations refer to the challenges faced by researchers while conducting studies.
Since the amount of published research on SE is limited to small sample sizes, specific groups, and diversity in the population, it’s challenging to establish the effectiveness of Somatic Experiencing in treating stress response to trauma.
However, Somatic Experiencing has shown promising results in treating traumatic stress, and mental health practitioners continue to use this therapy method.
One of the members of our team, Jared Levenson, has extensive experience utilizing SE and other similar approaches like IFS.
You can read more Online Mental Health Review articles regarding how SE functions, how to locate a competent SE clinician, and the scientific research backing somatic therapy, and how to decide if somatic experiencing is right for you.
Top 5 Somatic Therapy Techniques
- Somatic Experiencing: A technique that uses your “felt sense” to access physical sensations, behaviors, and emotions. It is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related issues.
- Grounding: Involves physical exercises like running water over your hands or moving your body in ways that feel most comfortable to you. It aims to keep you present at the moment and connected to your body.
- Breathwork: A somatic therapy technique that involves controlling your breathing to help relieve stress and anxiety. It can involve deep, slow breathing or other breathing techniques.
- Body Scan: A technique that helps you find present awareness within the body by attending to physical sensations and needs. It involves lying down or sitting and scanning your body from head to toe.
- Dance and Movement: This can include techniques like yoga, tai chi, and dance therapy. It aims to connect the mind and body through physical movement and expression.
Are There Limitations To Somatic Therapy?
The main limitation to Somatic Therapy is the body-first focus. There are other approaches that are more cognitive.
Additionally, Somatic Therapy is not good for couples, as it’s focus is not on communication or relational patterns in couples therapy.
SE Book #1 Freedom From Pain: Discover Your Body’s Power to
If you’re struggling with physical pain linked to emotional trauma, the book “Freedom From Pain: Discover Your Body’s Power to Overcome Physical Pain” might be of interest to you. Written by Peter A. Levine and Maggie Phillips, this book offers a practical approach to alleviating physical stress and building inner resilience.
It presents different processes to explore and alleviate physical pain, as well as ways to release fear, frustration, and depression intensified by previous traumas. Addressing the missing factor of emotional healing, this book might be helpful in your journey to better mental health.
Waking The Tiger – Peter A. Levine With Ann Frederick
“Waking the Tiger” – Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick is a book that focuses on healing trauma. It can help individuals who have experienced trauma, even if it seems like an ordinary traumatic experience sometimes, to understand their symptoms and seek the necessary steps to heal.
The book views humans as animals and offers a hopeful vision of healing trauma. It was authored by Peter A. Levine with contributions by Ann Frederick.
Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program For Restoring The Wisdom Of Your Body – Peter A. Levine
If you’re struggling with mental health, “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body” by Peter A. Levine may offer some insights. Levine has spent 45 years studying and treating stress and trauma, and his Somatic Experiencing® method has helped millions in both the bodywork and psychotherapeutic fields effectively heal trauma symptoms*.
The book delves into his research, theories, and clinical work that can assist in PTSD symptom recovery. It’s written in a way that’s easy to understand, so you don’t need a medical or psychology background to benefit from this pioneering program.
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, And Body In The Healing Of Trauma – Bessel van der KolkG
If you’re looking for a book that explores the physical and psychological effects of trauma on the brain, mind, and body, then “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der KolkG is a great resource for you.
This book is written by a survivor himself and provides hope and understanding for those struggling with trauma. Dr. van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors, and he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities in a randomized controlled outcome study.
The book unites the evolving neuroscience of trauma research with a wave of body-oriented therapies and traditional mind/body practices. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s research and that of other leading specialists, the book exposes the tremendous power of relationships in healing trauma.
What Is A Somatic Experiencing Conclusion:
Somatic experiencing is a body-oriented therapy that can support the more natural response and healing process of the body. If you’re considering this therapy, it’s important to know the pros and cons.
While it’s an excellent option for many people, it’s not for everyone. If you aren’t sure about therapy, you may want to try to learn meditation with a free trial of Headspace because meditation you can do by yourself more easily than somatic experiencing, which is best with another person.
Somatic experiencing is best suited for those who have experienced trauma or stressful events and are open to exploring alternative therapies. It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting this therapy and discuss if it’s right for you.
Remember, there are many therapeutic options available to support your mental health, so don’t hesitate to explore and find what works best for you.
We would love to hear from our readers! If you have a question about somatic experiencing or have a suggestion for a mental health service, app, or course that we should review and try, please leave us a comment. We look forward to hearing from you.
- 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
- 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’re in crisis and need help right away, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Additionally, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free, confidential support 24/7. Please don’t hesitate to seek immediate help if you are thinking about harming yourself or others.