A Complete Handbook To Somatic Therapy: 7 Interesting Types

Letting go of memories or experiences or any kind of trauma 1is very difficult. We, humans, have a tendency to hold onto things. We hold onto emotions, people, memories, failures, tension and a lot more things.

Some people prefer to die with these memories than just letting them go.

But is it correct? Why hold onto something tragic?

Well, sometimes the reason is obvious, they’re just afraid to tell anyone. In cases of rape or sexual assault, being afraid is very common. Victims tend to think that it’s their mistake and that maybe somehow they could have stopped it, but that’s totally false.

In the end, society sets its foot in the matter and proves irrationally that it is the victim’s fault. For them, it’s just day-to-day chit-chat, but for the victim, it’s his/her whole life.

The victim has PTSD2, super crazy nightmares, and a dull life. The victim just cannot let go. Similarly, in case of any trauma, maybe a car crash, a suicide, or a death, we think somehow it’s our fault, somehow we could have done something to change things. This feeling just attaches itself to us like a parasite and we just let this parasite suck all the happiness from our life.

If you suffer from PTSD or any other mental or emotional health issue then you should definitely keep reading.

1. What Is Somatic Therapy?

Introduction to the Somatic Therapy Full Practice

There are many ways to get over these lingering emotions, and the most talked about and effective way is somatic therapy.

Somatic means relating to the body. Somatic therapy 3mainly deals with helping people get over the ill effects of PTSD, physical pain or other mental and emotional health issues. Most therapies focus on our mind and emotions but this therapy not only works with the mind about also with the body.

It aims to help a person release all the stress, tension and trauma held by the physical body. Just talking verbally and giving solutions is mostly not the objective of this treatment. This therapy is clearly more than normal talk therapy.

Somatic therapy has a more mind-body optimal balance or sometimes times only a physically orientated approach. It includes dancing, breathing, meditation, massages, singing, etc. Any patient who cannot let go of their trauma is their guest. Their approach is mostly different with different patients but the results are surely flawless.

2. Types of Somatic Therapies

There are a few basic types of somatic therapies. All of them are equally effective but have varied innovative approaches.

The therapies and techniques are:

2.1. Somatic Experiencing Therapy

The most basic and most common type of somatic therapy is somatic experiencing therapy. Patients talk about the problems that are affecting them and all the mental issues they have been facing. After listening to the problems the somatic experiencing therapists mostly make them recover from the trauma by involving their full mind and body in the process.

This therapy has a more body-oriented approach. The therapist tries to read the signs and physical sensations, after which he makes the patient perform various breathing and meditating exercises, etc.

Somatic experiencing has proven to be a great weapon to fight PTSD, tension, chronic pain and physical pain effectively. Somatic psychology also comes under this therapy.

2.2. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – Working With the Nervous System

Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a detailed and long-form therapy that focuses on the body and easing physical pain and tension. In this therapy, the body is both a source of vital signs and information as well as an intervention target.

2.3. The Hakomi Method – Improving Mental Health

Hakomi Method is a very popular physiotherapy that works together with the mind, spiritual forces, and science. It focuses on 4 main important concepts, which are mindfulness, gentleness, compassion, and nonviolence.

2.4. Bioenergetic Analysis

This is basically body physiotherapy which works on bodily, analytic, and relational aspects. The key element here is the focus on energy and the channelling of energy.

2.5. Biodynamic Psychotherapy

It is a mix of medical and holistic therapy. It also involves timely massages from the practitioner.

2.6. Brainspotting

This therapy not only works with the body and mind but also focuses on eye work. This therapy works on eye positioning to retrain emotional reactions.

2.7. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing

In this therapy, the client is told to recall the traumatic experiences in small doses. The main focus here is on the external stimulus which may include eye movements, hand tapping, etc.

3. Some Basic Concepts in Somatic Therapy

There are a few key terms involved in somatic psychotherapy from where somatic therapy has originated, that are very important for you to know.

These terms and techniques are:

3.1. Grounding

This is a body-based technique. The person is made to sense his physical being and engage his senses. He/she is told to imagine their feet on the ground, and their hands in the air, which ultimately leads to the calming down of their nervous system.

3.2. Boundary Development

This technique makes a person focus on the current moment. It helps them to be mindful and be in the present moment. This technique also empowers them, helps them set their boundaries, and fastens the healing process. This way the person starts to feel stronger, safe, and protected.

3.3. Self-regulation

The main motive here is to increase awareness of physical sensations and to work on emotional intensity. It makes the person stay connected to his/her body while handling big and massive emotions or trauma.

3.4. Movement and Process

The aim here is to work on motions and movement. In this therapy, healing is done by simply listening and responding to the body.

3.5. Sequencing

When trauma and stress are released from our body, they can follow a proper sequence to leave our system. It can first build up in the belly then move to the chest then slowly to the throat and finally find its way out through the eyes in the form of tears.

3.6. Titration

It is the process of experiencing small amounts of distress. The ultimate goal here is to help release a large amount of physical pain in short doses.

4. What Can Somatic Therapy Help With?

Some basic mental issues that can be cured by somatic therapy are :

  • PTSD ( Post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Nightmares
  • Anger
  •  Chronic headaches
  •  Insomnia
  •  Tension
  • Other mental health-related issues

Some physical issues that somatic therapy deals with

5. Are There Any Limitations of Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy is a great treatment. People all around the world are loving the results of this therapy. There are many successful and happy stories. But these stories cannot hide all the bad experiences some people have had.

A somatic therapist first focuses on making the clients comfortable. For this, they perform a few exercises or sometimes even normal physical treatment like touching and massages help. Then the somatic therapist starts the talking part.

The therapist focuses on improving the mind-body coordination of the clients. The patient explains his problems and pains and then the therapist helps the patient slowly recover through normal breathing practices, meditation, mind-body engaging exercises, talking, massages etc.

The therapist also gives the patient some fruitful medical advice to speed up their recovery process. The therapist tries to empathize with the patient.

Somatic therapy involves physical treatment. Though these physical massages have proved to be very helpful in healing problems for many, some have reported cases of sexual abuse4. The world can sometimes be a terrible place to live in. Many people have reported heinous stories and incidents during the sessions.

6. Bottom Line

Getting to know your body better is a very crucial thing for humans. Through somatic therapy, a person is able to visit and know varied and different spaces of his/her mind and body. The therapists will help release some deep pains from your body.

We get to explore our minds and body. We get to understand things that suit our bodies and things that don’t. Our awareness increases.

We become aware of our bodies and senses. We feel strong and in charge of our emotions. All the post-traumatic stress, fear, physical pain, and emotional pain just ease and slowly go away. Our spiritual side also strengthens. Every fight and every failure becomes more conquerable. We find our hidden potential and self-confidence.

In some cases, the way people see the world gets completely changed. The person gets in full control of his/ her mind and body. They become these new human beings, just by facing their deepest sorrows and fears.

If you struggle with PTSD or issues related to mental health and if that trauma is making your life miserable, then only somatic therapy can help you. Find a therapist and start your therapy today.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Happens in a Somatic Therapy Session?

Somatic therapists direct patients to focus on their core physical sensations instead of just talking about them. From there, mind-body exercises can include breath work, meditation, visualization, massage, earth, dance, and/or sensory work.

Q2. What Are the Risks of Somatic Therapy?

Risks of somatic therapy include misinterpretation of touch, retraumatization, disruption of defences, rough touch, and inappropriate regression.

Q3. Does Somatic Therapy Really Work?

Recent research has shown that somatic therapy is effective when used as a treatment for trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  1. Coimbra, Raul, et al. “European Society of Trauma and Emergency Surgery (ESTES) recommendations for trauma and emergency surgery preparation during times of COVID-19 infection.” European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery 46 (2020): 505-510. ↩︎
  2. Dutheil, Frédéric, Laurie Mondillon, and Valentin Navel. “PTSD as the second tsunami of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic.” Psychological medicine 51.10 (2021): 1773-1774. ↩︎
  3. Kuhfuß, Marie, et al. “Somatic experiencing–effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: a scoping literature review.” European journal of psychotraumatology 12.1 (2021): 1929023. ↩︎
  4. Alaggia, Ramona, and Susan Wang. ““I never told anyone until the# metoo movement”: What can we learn from sexual abuse and sexual assault disclosures made through social media?.” Child abuse & neglect 103 (2020): 104312. ↩︎

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Author

Amiradha Satsangi

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