Sometimes distressing events—such as abuse, loss of loved ones or near death experiences—happen in life that can cause lasting psychological effects. Although there are many forms of therapy available, somatic therapy helps people suffering from psychological trauma live a normal life by focusing on the physical body’s connection to the trauma.
What is Somatic Therapy?
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The word “somatic” is derived from the Greek word “soma,” which means “living body.” A holistic form of therapy, somatic therapy is based on the belief that thought, emotion and body experiences are linked together and that change can be brought about in one area (such as the mind) by accessing another (such as the body).
Somatic therapists believe that our bodies hold on to past traumas that are reflected in our body language or through physical symptoms such as pain, eating disorders or depression. Thus, somatic therapy aims to return the body to a state of equilibrium known as homeostasis by treating the physical and mental symptoms that occurred due to past trauma.
How Somatic Therapy Can Help
The main objective of somatic therapy is to reconnect the mind and body by recognizing and releasing the physical tension that remains in the body after a traumatic event. A somatic therapy session typically involves the patient tracking his or her experience of bodily sensations through various methods including breathing methods, exercise and dance. These techniques aim to help patients understand past traumatic experiences, develop confidence and self esteem, discover the causes of physical tension as well as create meaningful narratives around the body’s posture.
The Different Methods of Somatic Therapy
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There are two main methods of somatic therapy that a therapist may use: the titration method and the pendulated method. Generally, a therapist will specialize in one of the two forms.
The titration method involves the therapist guiding the patient through traumatic memories while the patient is in a place of safety, also known as a resource state. While guiding the patient through memories, the therapist will give a small amount of gentle stimulus while asking the patient if they notice any difference in the way they feel while reliving the memory. Any physical symptoms that occur are then addressed and discussed.
The pendulated method focuses on the balance between homeostasis and instability. It involves the therapist moving the patient from a state of homeostasis to a state where physical symptoms become present. The therapist then brings the patient back to homeostasis while the latter experiences stress that is kept in the nervous system, such as nausea.
Many people find somatic therapy helpful during their recovery from trauma. Patients often report feeling free and more engaged with life after completing their somatic therapy sessions, and some report feeling a decrease in their levels of physical and emotional pain as well.
Feature Image: Kantemir Kertiev