An Effective Guide On Somatic Healing

According to reports published by the World Health Organization, somatic healing1 has shown exceptionally good results in treating post-traumatic symptoms.

We are sure that you have heard how symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder 2(PTSD) can last for months and even years after the events. The symptoms are said to trigger serious mental disorders in the patients. And this is where the benefit of somatic psychology comes in.

Wondering what all the hype about somatic healing is about? Please continue reading the article then as we share all the details of this crucial therapy treatment.3

A Detailed Guide On Somatic Therapy

somatic healing
Image from: freepik

A. What do we mean by somatic healing? 

Somatic treatment prioritizes the mind-body connection to address physical and psychological symptoms simultaneously.

Dr. Peter Levine developed the approach based on the idea that traumatic experiences lead to dysfunction of the nervous system4, which prevents the person from fully processing the experience.

Somatic therapy is especially used when our body experiences the freeze response while facing any traumatic encounter. Are you getting a little confused? Let us help you to get a better grasp on the subject.

When faced with danger, our body has two responses- the fight-or-flight response or the freeze response.

First, let us talk about the most common response- the fight-or-flight response. When we encounter a threat, we experience fear or anxiety. Our body prepares us for the situation by either fighting the danger or fleeing from the situation.

The responses experienced during that time are:

  • Rate of breathing increasing
  • Heart rate speeding up
  • Muscles tensing up
  • Glands supply the body with extra hormones

These changes equip us to confront or escape a particular situation. Now, coming to the other response known as the freeze response.

This response is not much talked about, but this is the response that leads to mental breakdowns. When they recognize that they do not have a good chance to confront or escape the situation, people, especially children, typically freeze in the situation.

The main problem in this type of response is that our body can stay frozen long time even after the threat disappears.

The energy built up during the situation could not be used as the person freezes, and therefore it lingers in the body. It prevents the person from completely recovering from the experience, and that leads to mental health issues.

somatic healing
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The goal of somatic healing is to notice the body sensations that stem from the responses and use the awareness to acknowledge and work through distressing and painful situations.

B. Why should you use somatic healing to treat traumatic experiences? 

Now that we know how our body responds to stressful situations, we can now focus on why we should use somatic healing.

As mentioned earlier, the somatic approach helps in addressing the trauma that lingers in the body and allows you to work through the symptoms that come with the experiences.

Somatic healing is especially beneficial for healing the physical symptoms related to the abuse, traumatic and other emotional distresses. It has been found that once the physical symptoms are healed, psychological symptoms can also be easily addressed.

C. How does somatic healing work? 

If you are wondering how somatic healing might bring back the traumatic experiences that you have faced all at once, then you must know how somatic therapy works in reality.

The stages used in somatic therapy are:

1. Recognizing the sensations

People who have PTSD suffer from guilt and shame for their incapability to perform effectively when faced with a dire situation.

One of the first stages of somatic therapy is to make sure the sufferer forgets the guilt and shame associated with the situation and recovers from the initial shocks that come with it.

As you enter the therapy session, you become more aware of your autonomic nervous system and how it plays a role during a traumatic response. This helps in increasing your knowledge and losing your initial guilt simultaneously. 

2. Resourcing

Next, the therapists will move to a process known as resourcing. In this process, therapists can help you understand your innate strength and resilience and find peace within yourself. It involves drawing strength from positive memories.

It helps you to stay calm as you encounter traumatic physical sensations during the present moments. 

3. Titration

Now coming to one of the difficult phases of the somatic healing process is the titration process.

Once your resourcing process is over, the therapist will slowly start revisiting the traumatic experience and the related sensations. It is quite a strenuous process and is done with lots of patience and expertise.

somatic healing
Image source: freepik

Titration is a gradual process and helps you to come to terms with each aspect of your traumatic experience. As you start revisiting the trauma, your therapist will start tracking the response and the physical sensations that your body produces. The responses generally include:

  • Restlessness
  • Hot or cold sensations
  • Numbness or dizziness

4. Pendulation

Continuing with the above point, these sensations, along with crying, shaking, or shivering, are considered to be discharges of the energy trapped in your body. Now your therapist will use specific relaxation, breathing techniques, or talk therapy that will help you to process and release the trauma further. 

Eventually, as the sessions progress, once you come to terms with your traumatic experience, it becomes easy to overcome it. However, it is essential to remember that the process is strenuous, and one should be extremely patient with oneself when dealing with such situations.

D. What are the limitations to somatic healing?

The benefits of using somatic therapy are profound, but there are certain limitations of somatic healing that one should be aware of before starting a session:

  1. There is extremely limited evidence on the benefits of somatic healing. Most of the benefits claimed are based upon anecdotal experiences, and more researches need to be done to solidify the claims completely. 
  2. Somatic therapy does not only use traditional talk therapy. It uses therapeutic touches throughout the session. Therefore, many patients may feel uncomfortable while visiting a somatic therapist. 
  3. Somatic healing is a growing branch of mental therapies, and therefore finding a suitable therapist may often become a difficult task. 

Now there you go, everything you need to know about somatic healing. We sincerely hope that this article had shed some light on somatic therapy, and it can come to help those in dire need.


Is yoga a somatic therapy?

  • Yoga is a somatic practice, but often it is offered and practiced in a way that doesn’t lead to embodiment. Rather than feeling and experiencing ourselves, someone is telling us how to move and then we “do” the movement without actually feeling it.

What are 3 examples of somatic?

  • Other examples of somatic nervous system functions include voluntary movements like walking, lifting weights, swallowing, blinking, etc., which are mediated through motor fibers. Feeling sensations like touch, vibration, muscle tension, etc., are examples of somatic sensory neuron function.

What are the 2 main parts of somatic?

  • The somatic nervous system consists of both afferent (sensory) and efferent (motor) nerves. It is also responsible for the reflex arc, which involves the use of interneurons to perform reflexive actions.

  1. Haines, Staci K. The politics of trauma: Somatics, healing, and social justice. North Atlantic Books, 2019. ↩︎
  2. McFarlane, Alexander C., et al. “Physical symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder.” Journal of psychosomatic research 38.7 (1994): 715-726. ↩︎
  3. McGinn, Lata K., and William C. Sanderson. “What allows cognitive behavioral therapy to be brief: Overview, efficacy, and crucial factors facilitating brief treatment.” Clinical psychology: science and practice 8.1 (2001): 23. ↩︎
  4. Baum, Petra, et al. “Dysfunction of autonomic nervous system in childhood obesity: a cross-sectional study.” PloS one 8.1 (2013): e54546. ↩︎

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