Imagine you’re in a state of distress. You can feel it in your body. Your muscles tighten. Your posture changes. Your facial expression changes. This mind-body connection is the basis for understanding somatic therapy.
Somatic therapy uses the mind, body, emotion, spirit connection to treat the whole person. It has a long history of success in treating people with various distressing symptoms and disorders.
The key to understanding somatic therapy is first to understand what causes the need for it.
Trauma and the Fight-or-Flight Response
Our ancestors consistently fought for their lives. They had to respond to threats in a split second to survive. These threats helped you evolve your fight-or-flight response. When your mind perceives a threat, your brain makes a split-second calculation to fight or freeze. You respond accordingly.
Today, you’re unlikely to have to fight wild beasts or run from a stampede, but your fight-or-flight response remains intact. When you encounter something traumatic or stressful, your fight-or-flight response decides how you respond.
You can stay trapped in the lingering symptoms of your freeze response, unable to free yourself.
When you survive a traumatic experience, that trauma and your response to it can stay in your body. This stored trauma can lead to muscle aches, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, and other aftereffects.
What is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy can provide relief for mental health concerns that manifest in the body. Focused on the mind-body connection, certified somatic practitioners guide you through the healing process.
Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to healing that incorporates your body, mind, spirit, and emotions. By understanding how your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs impact your physical body, you can heal.
When Do Experts Use Somatic Therapy?
Experts use somatic therapy to treat various mental health disorders. Grounding can allow you to access deep emotional issues that are otherwise not revealed through talk therapy.
Examples of disorders treated with somatic therapy include:
- Trauma. The body stores trauma. By allowing you to access your body, people can express and explore feelings of anger, guilt, or shame.
- Addiction. People feel the symptoms of addiction all over the body. By releasing the tension created by the impulses to seek substances or certain behaviors, people can learn to overcome cravings.
- Anxiety. People with anxiety can feel it everywhere. Their shoulders tense, their heart rate rises and they may hyperventilate. Somatic therapy helps them access where those responses originate and learn how to calm them.
- Grief. Think of a person at a funeral. Their body language is different. They hunch over, head bent, processing and expressing emotion. People can recover from grief by understanding where they keep those feelings in their bodies and releasing them through somatic therapy.
Somatic Therapy Techniques
Somatic therapy works by helping you move out of your head. It helps you learn where you store trauma in your body. As a result, you move into a space for deep healing, which you may not be able to access through other types of therapy.
Somatic therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, there are various methods that therapists apply to help people heal from their trauma.
Somatic therapists encourage you to find and access your innate resilience.
By drawing on positive memories and experiences, you can control your emotional response to stimuli. It allows you to call forth those positive feelings and help you remain calm during triggering experiences.
A body-based technique that encourages you to stay embodied in a moment. You learn how to calm your physical body to reduce your reaction to a situation or trigger. By engaging all your senses, you can calm your nervous system.
The goal of titration is to relieve pain. It uses the process of experiencing small amounts of distress. You’ll revisit past trauma in bite-sized pieces. Your somatic therapist will track your body’s responses, so you learn how those responses relate to what you’re feeling.
Movement and Process
When you experience things, your body responds automatically. By using various postures and gestures, you gain insight into your previous experience. You’ll mindfully engage with cravings and impulses so that you can experience thoughtful resolve.
Experiential Therapy at ILC
At Integrative Life Center, we incorporate the foundational concepts of somatic therapy into our work. Some of our most successful therapeutic techniques rely on movement. The experiences help take you out of your mind and into the moment. These techniques also allow counselors to understand how you respond to stressful situations and help you learn how to overcome your responses.
Types of experiential therapy at ILC include:
Somatic therapy may be the missing link in your recovery. If you’re ready to learn more about experiential therapy, contact us.