Somatic Therapy for Anxiety: Understanding the Basics

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on May 23, 2023
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Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues that people face today.

If you are someone who has been dealing with anxiety for a while now, you might be looking for effective ways to manage it. While talk therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are effective, the practitioners of somatic therapy for anxiety can offer unique benefits to help manage symptoms.

Somatic therapy is a holistic approach that aims to explore the connection between your body and mind.

The Online Mental Health Reviews team is highly qualified to write about somatic therapy for anxiety due to their extensive knowledge and experience in the mental health field. Lead reviewer Jared Levenson has successfully used somatic therapies, in conjunction with IFS, to treat eating disorders.

In this blog post, we will explain how somatic therapy works and how it differs from CPT in managing anxiety.

1. What is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy is an approach to therapy that focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It helps to explore how our emotional experiences affect the physical sensations in our bodies.

This is because suppressed emotions can manifest themselves physically, resulting in symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue.

The goal of somatic therapy is to help people become aware of their body sensations, emotions, thoughts, memories, and beliefs to gain insight into how these factors are connected. Through this process, people can learn how to better manage their emotions and behaviors to improve their overall well-being.

If you are struggling with mental health issues such as PTSD or depression and want to explore somatic therapy as an option for treatment, it’s important to speak with a qualified therapist who specializes in this type of treatment. They will work with you to develop a personalized plan that meets your specific needs.

When Is Somatic Therapy Used?

Somatic therapy is used to treat a variety of mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, and more.

2. How Does Somatic Therapy Help Manage Anxiety?

How To Relieve Stress And Anxiety Fast (Somatic Practice)

Somatic therapy helps to deal with anxiety by focusing on physical sensations associated with your anxiety, such as muscle tension and shallow breathing. By paying attention to these sensations, you can learn to manage them better to cope with anxiety.

Somatic therapists use various techniques such as mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, yoga poses, massage therapy body psychotherapy, guided imagery, movement therapies like dance or martial arts, biofeedback training, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and other forms of psychotherapy.

These techniques can help people become more aware of their bodies so they can better understand how their thoughts and feelings affect them physically.

3. Somatic Therapy vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a talk therapy that helps people to change negative thoughts and behaviors. Somatic therapy focuses on the physical sensations associated with anxiety and how they manifest themselves.

While both therapies are effective in treating anxiety, somatic therapy offers a more body-centered approach and is more geared toward trauma. Rather than focusing solely on thoughts and behaviors, somatic therapy considers the whole person, including their bodily sensations.

4. The Benefits of Somatic Therapy

VeryWellMind.com reports that somatic therapy offers several benefits for those suffering from anxiety. Unlike traditional talk therapy, it focuses on the connection between the mind and body.

This holistic approach targets physical sensation and can help individuals manage day-to-day anxiety symptoms such as restlessness, muscle tension, and shallow breathing.

Ultimately, somatic therapy contributes to stress release, improves physical and mental health conditions together, and can promote emotional healing and growth.

Somatic Therapy for Anxiety – Evidence

According to a scoping literature review1, in which 83 science studies were analyzed, authors concluded “positive effects of Somatic Experiencing (SE) on PTSD-related symptoms”.

While authors noted there was a risk of bias, they were positive in their recommendation for SE as evidence-based for trauma-related symptoms such as anxiety.

5. How to Get Started with Somatic Therapy

If you want to try somatic therapy, it is essential to find a certified somatic therapist who will guide you through the process. With the help of a somatic therapist, you will embark on a journey of self-discovery and learn to cultivate a greater mind-body connection.

Talkspace for Somatic Therapy for Anxiety

Talkspace is a well-known online therapy site that helps people with a range of mental health issues, such as anxiety. The app puts people in touch with licensed therapists who have experience helping people with anxiety and other mental health problems.

Most importantly, Talkspace gives you a lot of choices when it comes to picking a therapist, so you can choose one who specializes in physical therapy.

Talkspace (save $50) wants to make mental health care easier to get and less expensive for the more than 40 million Americans who have health insurance. The app offers personalized treatment plans, which may include medication, as well as easy-to-use ways to talk, like texting, phone, and video sessions.

In our online review of Talkspace, we talk about how we bought it and share recordings of our therapy and medication meetings with a Talkspace therapist and doctor. When we talked to the doctor, we were moved to tears.

But it’s important to remember that Talkspace might not be the best choice for everyone. For people whose main worry is anxiety or depression and want traditional CBT, other tools or treatment methods, like Brightside Health, may be better.

What If You’re Not Ready for Therapy?

The “Intensive Trauma Treatment Certification Workshop: EMDR, CBT and Somatic-Based Interventions to Move Clients from Surviving to Thriving” is a great online course for people who want to teach themselves somatic therapy methods.

We bought this course ourselves, studied the materials, and approve of the course content! We believe this comprehensive workshop is a one-of-a-kind chance to become a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and earn 13.5 continuing education points.

The program focuses on strategies and interventions that have been proven to work, such as EMDR, somatic approaches, and CBT therapy. This gives participants the tools they need to create personalized, neuroscience-based trauma treatments that fit the needs of their clients.

Megan Boardman, LCSW, ACADC, CCTP-II, EMDR-C, an internationally known expert, leads participants through the neuroscience behind each tool and technique in this course.

How is Somatic Therapy Different Than CBT When Dealing with Anxiety?

When it comes to dealing with anxiety, somatic therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are two different approaches.

  • CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It helps people learn how to manage their emotions and reactions to situations.
  • On the other hand, somatic therapy focuses on the body’s role in processing emotions and experiences. It uses physical techniques such as yoga, massage, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation to help people become more aware of their bodies and how they react to stressors.

Somatic therapy also emphasizes the importance of connecting with one’s body to better understand one’s emotions. It can be used to help people process traumatic memories that may have been stored in the body. Unlike CBT which primarily addresses cognitive and emotional aspects, somatic therapy recognizes that trauma can manifest itself physically as well as emotionally.

Both CBT and somatic therapies can be effective when it comes to treating anxiety.

Depending on your individual needs, you may find that one approach works better for you than the other. If you’re not sure which approach is best for you, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional who can provide guidance on which type of treatment might be most beneficial for your particular situation.

Does somatic therapy help with anxiety?

Yes, somatic therapy can help with anxiety.

Somatic therapy can help people become more aware of their emotions and how they affect their bodies. This awareness can help people manage their anxiety healthily.

By focusing on the body’s sensations, it helps people become more mindful of their thoughts and feelings. This mindfulness can lead to greater self-awareness which can help people better understand why they feel anxious and how to manage it.

While feeling emotions such as anxiety can be unpleasant, Somatic therapy teaches you how to not get overwhelmed.

Somatic therapy can also be used to reduce stress levels and increase relaxation.

If you are struggling with anxiety, somatic therapy may be an effective treatment option for you. Talk to your doctor or licensed mental health professional first about whether this type of therapy is right for you.

How do you release anxiety somatically?

If you are looking for ways to release anxiety somatically, there are a few things you can do.

  1. First, it is important to pay attention to how your body feels and stop if your anxiety increases or you become uncomfortable.
  2. Grounding yourself is also key in helping to reduce anxiety.
  3. This can be done by stretching, doing yoga, or getting a massage.
  4. Massage has been proven to relax muscles and relieve tension, while exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mood.
  5. Additionally, antidepressant medication can help reduce symptoms associated with depression and pain that often occur with somatic symptom disorder.
  6. Finally, somatic techniques such as healing hands can help raise awareness of what’s happening in your body by responding to bodily emotions through movement.

What are some somatic therapy techniques for anxiety?

Somatic therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It is used to help people manage stress, anxiety, and trauma.

  • Resourcing is a technique that helps you access feelings of safety and security.
  • Grounding in the here and now helps you stay focused on the present moment instead of worrying about past or future events. Grounding exercises such as dancing or walking barefoot on grass can help bring you back into the present moment if you find yourself getting lost in anxious thoughts or worries about the future.
  • Using descriptive language can help you identify and express your emotions more clearly.
  • Movement can help reduce anxiety by releasing tension from your body.
  • Titration and pendulation are two techniques used to regulate your nervous system when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
  • Breathwork helps to calm down an overactive nervous system while relaxation exercises can help reduce muscle tension caused by stress or anxiety.
  • Meditation and visualization can be used to focus on calming thoughts or images to relax your body and mind.
  • Massage can also help reduce muscle tension as well as provide comfort and relaxation.
  • Finally, sensation awareness involves focusing on physical sensations such as temperature changes or pressure points to become more aware of how your body is responding to different situations or emotions.

These somatic therapy techniques can be used at home to help reduce symptoms of anxiety such as racing thoughts or physical tension in the body.

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety differently so it’s best to experiment with different somatic experiencing therapy techniques until you find what works best for you!

List of Somatic Therapy Exercises for Anxiety

  • Healing Hands: Place your hand on the area that has experienced a shift or change, and breathe deeply.
  • Slow Deep Breathing: Activate the parasympathetic nervous system to bring a feeling of relaxation and calmness.
  • Grounding and Centering: Tune into the sensation to help find calm during a charged moment or time of stress.
  • Give Yourself a Tight Hug: Cross both your arms and hold your shoulder, bend your head towards the heart to help heal from trauma.

How to Integrate Somatic Practices Into Talk Therapy

Integrating somatic practices into talk therapy can be a great way to help manage mental health issues.

Somatic practices involve using physical sensations, behaviors, and emotions to help with healing from trauma. This type of therapy focuses on the body’s response to stress and trauma, rather than just talking about it.

Some examples of somatic interventions include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and guided imagery. These techniques can help to reduce stress levels and increase feelings of safety and calmness.

PsychCentral has listed additional examples of somatic therapy exercises for healing from trauma (https://psychcentral.com/lib/somatic-therapy-exercises-for-trauma).

By incorporating these practices into talk therapy sessions, clients can learn how to better regulate their emotions and become more aware of their bodies’ responses to stressful situations.

In other pieces on Online Mental Health Review, you can learn more about the pros and cons of somatic therapy, the benefits of SE therapy, where to find a certified Somatic therapist, the newish science behind body-centered therapies, and how to evaluate whether somatic experiencing therapy is right for you.

When should someone not try Somatic Therapy and go with a different therapy approach?

When considering whether or not to try somatic therapy, it is important to understand that this type of therapy is not suitable for everyone.

  • If you are dealing with a more severe mental health issue, such as psychosis or bipolar disorder, then somatic therapy may not be the best approach for you. In these cases, it is better to consult with a professional mental health provider about other forms of treatment that may be more appropriate.
  • It is also important to note that while many somatic therapists are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or “talk therapy”, some practitioners of somatic psychology prefer to use only body-based techniques. If you feel uncomfortable discussing your issues verbally or do not think talk therapy would be beneficial for you, then it might be best to look into finding a somatic therapist who specializes solely in body-based techniques.

Overall, somatic therapy can be an effective way of treating physical and mental health issues such as anxiety and trauma. However, it is important to consider your preferences before deciding which type of somatic psychotherapy or of regular therapy would be most beneficial for you.

What is Neurosomatic therapy?

Neurosomatic Therapy (NST) is an integrative form of manual therapy that focuses on bringing balance back to the body and the nervous system.

  • It combines massage therapy, post-urology, and corrective exercise to study the relationship between the body’s soft tissues, the skeletal system, and the nervous system.
  • NST is an effective solution to many chronic pain and dysfunction issues including headaches, back pain, neck pain, and even learning disabilities.
  • Each session begins with a thorough assessment of posture, range of motion, muscle strength testing, and palpation of soft tissue.
  • This allows for a personalized treatment plan that addresses any underlying causes of pain or dysfunction.

If you are looking at physical therapies for relief from chronic pain or emotional distress, Neurosomatic Therapy may be a great option for you. Be sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment plan.

About The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a part of the peripheral nervous system that helps to regulate involuntary body functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and urination.

According to Brittanica2, the definition of ANS is that it is made up of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

  1. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response when we are in danger or under stress.
  2. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for calming us down and helping us relax.

The ANS works automatically without us having to think about it, but it can be affected by our emotions and thoughts. For example, if we are feeling stressed or anxious, our sympathetic nervous system will kick in and increase our heart rate and respiration rate.

On the other hand, if we are feeling relaxed or happy, our parasympathetic nervous system will take over and help us slow down our breathing and heart rate.

It is important to understand how your autonomic nervous system works so that you can better manage your mental health. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, try taking some deep breaths to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help you relax.

While this may be difficult, learning about these two aspects of your nervous system can help you make sense of what you’re feeling and succeed in reducing anxiety.

Somatic Therapy For Anxiety Conclusion:

Anxiety can affect all aspects of your life; however, there are different approaches to managing it. Somatic therapy is an effective method that focuses on the body-mind connection to mitigate symptoms. Unlike CBT, which solely targets negative thoughts, somatic therapy offers a holistic approach that considers the whole person.

With its focus on the connection between the mind and body, it can provide emotional healing, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and facilitate stress release.

If you’re looking for a way to manage your anxiety, somatic therapy might be the path you need to take. Contact a certified somatic therapist today and take the first step towards a healthy mind-body connection.

If you’ve tried somatic therapy for anxiety or are considering it, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment with any questions you may have about the therapy or share any mental health service, app, or course that you’d like us at Online Mental Health Reviews team to purchase and review next.

Sources

  1. Kuhfuß, M., Maldei, T., Hetmanek, A., & Baumann, N. (2021, January 1). Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: a scoping literature review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2021.1929023
  2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “autonomic nervous system”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Feb. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/science/autonomic-nervous-system. Accessed 23 May 2023.

If You Are In Crisis

If you find yourself in a crisis, waiting for an online therapy session might not be the best option. In urgent situations, such as plans to harm yourself or others, call 911 immediately. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which offers support 24/7.

Another resource available to you is the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). By calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357), you can access free and confidential assistance for mental health or substance abuse issues. This helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year, providing information on treatment options and resources.

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