What’s all the hype around Somatic Experiencing?
Everybody is getting into ‘somatics’ these days, but what the heck does that mean?
It can mean a lot of things! The root soma means ‘body,’ which is a handy place to start in our definition. But beyond that the field of somatics is highly divergent. From bodywork to meditation to movement practices to activism to some forms of psychotherapy- somatic means centering the experience of the body.
“Somatic ExperiencingTM,” however, is a specific form of nervous system work used to process traumatic experiences and build greater capacity and resiliency. I know, it’s a whole bunch of buzzwords all thrown together in one sentence, so let me get a bit more detailed.
Somatic Experiencing (SE), can look a bit like talk therapy, in that the practitioner and the client are in a room together and in verbal communication. However, rather than centering narrative and the verbal piece, SE works to invite the client into what their body (their soma) is experiencing in the here and now so that bottom up integration is possible.
We work with 5 channels of noticing: sensation, emotion, movement, thought, and imagery. By inviting curiosity and awareness in these five channels we can begin to weave together your body’s story of a given experience. An SE practitioner is trained to track your physiology and help you notice changes in any of these five channels throughout the session. So while you may be reporting verbally that you feel ‘fine,’ I will ask you to notice what ‘fine’ is actually like, or to perhaps ask you to notice the heat rising through your face.
Why is this important? If you have had a difficult experience that comes to you as recurrent flash backs, it can feel like it runs your life. Maybe you have to avoid a certain part of town, or you can’t think about your baby’s birth without bursting into tears. Whatever it is, it feels out of your control. Somatic Experiencing helps your body makes sense of your experiences and regain a feeling of choice and agency.
Beyond acute trauma, SE is also an incredible tool for ongoing nervous system regulation. As a parent, Somatic Experiencing is hands down the most important practice in my life. It has allowed me to be present with my children through their rage, grief, and other big emotions. It’s given me tools to find my center and to move through my own rage and grief. Somatic Experiencing is what has supported me in being the parent I want to be, and not the parent I was taught to be through my own upbringing.
Nervous System Health = Emotional Health = Mental Health
SE can help with acute or chronic pain, anxiety, depression, rage, hopelessness, dissociation, and so much more. These expressions are founded in the state of your nervous system. The more we can move your activation through and build capacity to settle, the more safe and joyful you be inside your body, rather than dissociating from it.
It’s a bit like this:
It’s important to find an SE provider who feels attuned to you. Trauma happens within relationship (or the lack there of), so healing also has to happen in relationship (and the presence there of). If the relationship doesn’t feel right, healing is going to be difficult.
I see clients both in person and virtually out of my office in downtown Missoula.
I work a lot with folks who have experienced difficult or overwhelming births, gynecological trauma, and sexual boundary ruptures. I work with men, women, and non binary individuals.
One of the beautiful things about this past year of quarantine is so many more practitioners are working online, and are now available to work with even from afar. If you’re interested in exploring SE, I want to encourage you to shop around and find a practitioner that feels like a good fit for you.
You can find me, Prairie Wolfe, online at www.somaticconnections.org or on Instagram @somaticconnections.