Integrating a broad scientific understanding of how human beings respond to overwhelming circumstances, Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is an innovative and highly effective approach to preventing and healing the consequences of emotional and physical trauma. The result of over forty years of observation, research, and hands-on development by Dr. Peter Levine, SE recognizes that we as human beings have an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma, stress, and whatever is experienced as “too much!” Understanding our natural response to threatening or overwhelming situations, the principles and techniques of Somatic Experiencing® create the therapeutic conditions necessary for us to discharge traumatic energy “stuck” in the nervous system from past previously-uncompleted survival reactions to real or perceived threat. In completing the discharge of this old physiological arousal, and integrating the awareness of new reactions available to us in the present, we regain–and often increase–our natural capacity for emotional and physiological self-regulation.
Dr. Levine developed SE inspired by the
observation that wild prey animals, though
threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized.
Animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms
to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive
survival behaviors. These mechanisms provide animals with a built-in “immunity” to trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly-charged life-threatening experiences.
— SE employs awareness of body sensation to help people "renegotiate" and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.
— SE's guidance of the bodily "felt sense" allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.
— SE may employ touch in support of the renegotiation process.
— SE “titrates” experience (breaks down into small, incremental steps), rather than evoking catharsis, which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the organism.
Somatic Experiencing® Practitioners have used SE effectively with combat veterans, rape survivors, Holocaust survivors, auto accidents and post surgical trauma, chronic pain sufferers, and even with infants after suffering traumatic births. Beyond such instances of overt trauma, the lessons of SE greatly facilitate the process of psychotherapy with individuals who have had hurtful experiences in childhood, those who have difficulties in family, social, work, and romantic relationships, and those who suffer from anxiety or depression. Bringing the resources of SE to our work together in psychotherapy–whether we are employing formal SE techniques to work with particular experiences of trauma or not–will help you to regain a sense of aliveness, relaxation, and wholeness.
Somatic Experiencing® Practitioners are credentialed by the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute after completing a comprehensive three-year training program, presenting their clinical work utilizing SE to senior consultants, and undertaking their own personal SE therapy sessions with senior practitioners. I completed the training in 2007 and since then have been authorized by the Institute to offer Introductions to SE to fellow professionals, as well as to provide personal sessions to SE students at the Beginning and Intermediate levels of training. I serve as Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute and assist in the teaching of SE to mental health and bodywork professionals across the US and Canada.
For more information about SE, you might want to read:
Levine, P. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Levine, P. and Frederick, A. (1997). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma : The innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Kline, M. and Levine, P. (2007). Trauma through a child’s eyes: Awakening the ordinary miracle of healing. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
For further references, articles, information, and an informative ongoing blog, go to www.traumahealing.com.