• Do you experience high levels of anxiety, sometimes out of proportion to what is happening to you in the here and now?
• Do you have difficulty sleeping, getting to sleep or staying asleep?
• Do you struggle with feeling socially awkward, or feel extremely anxious in social situations?
• Do you suffer from excessive guilt?
• Do you feel like you keep doing the same thing over and over in relationships and getting into situations with people that don’t treat you well?
• Do you suffer from compulsive behaviors?
• Do you wish you could be calmer, more in control of your emotions and better able to manage your relationships?
If you answered Yes to any of the above questions, there is hope! Somatic psychotherapy is a scientifically-based type of treatment that can help you. Read on to learn more about Somatic psychotherapy and see if it's right for you.
Somatic psychotherapy is therapy that focuses on the connection between sensations people feel in their body, or nervous system, and how that impacts their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Although Somatic therapy uses some elements of talk therapy, somatic therapy is primarily a nervous system therapy, versus a primarily cognitive or talk therapy. Somatic therapy uses a combination of body awareness and self-soothing behaviors as well as trauma processing techniques to help you reduce nervous system trigger reactions, reduce fear, anxiety and anger or irritability caused by traumatic events, and improve your beliefs about yourself and the world. Somatic psychotherapy supports recovery from complex and developmental trauma, as well as shock trauma, by improving your resilience and self regulation of your nervous system.
When we perceive a threat, whether it is a bear or an angry boss or parent, our bodies respond automatically, with fight or flight, also known as sympathetic nervous system response. When we cannot fight or flee, our nervous systems may shut down in freeze mode. Or we may automatically try to appease the other, being accommodating, or letting others hurt us, to avoid further harm or death. Appease is the “please don’t eat me, bear” form of nervous system activation. People that identify as codependent often say that they automatically people please without even wanting to respond that way. This automatic appease response can be learned in childhood as a survival strategy, but then becomes automatic response in adulthood, even when it may be harmful in an adult relationship. Somatic therapy aims to change a persons response so that they no longer hold on to past hurts and can respond more adaptively to current perceived threats without freezing or appeasing.
When we use somatic therapy techniques, your therapist may encourage you to notice body sensations (tightness in muscles, tension or discomfort in stomach, or comfort or a sense of relaxation) in different areas of your body to help you more effectively process past traumatic memories.
In somatic therapy, we help you move out of their stuck nervous system patterns of responding to threats by slowing down awareness and memory of an event or situation and allowing the body to move in a way you were not able to move to fully process the fight or flight response that was not available when the trauma occurred.
In somatic therapy, we teach you to be more mindful of their body responses and how body sensations impact behavior, self-esteem and moods. We educate you on how to orient, ground, and move your bodies to calm your nervous systems down when uncomfortably activated. We use the principles of doing just a little bit at a time to avoid overwhelm and moving between thoughts and feelings that are disturbing to those that are more comfortable or pleasant to encourage processing. This helps clients better cope with trauma processing without dissociating or becoming too overwhelmed.
Somatic Psychotherapy has shown to be effective in treating:
Yes, according to the Journal of Traumatic Studies, somatic psychotherapy has shown to be effective in treating PTSD. (J Trauma Stress. 2017 Jun; 30(3): 304–312.)
Contact us at RTPC and we will give you a free 20-minute phone consult to determine if trying somatic therapy may be useful to you. If not, we can discuss ways of helping you with our other interventions.
All of our sessions, individual, family and group therapy, are delivered via telehealth.
At RTPC, our work is informed by Brene Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher; Bessel van der Kolk, leading expert in the field of trauma recovery; Peter Levine, master somatic therapist; and Marsha Linnehan, creator of dialectical behavior therapy, a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioral science with Buddhist concepts of acceptance and mindfulness.