What is Somatic Psychotherapy?
For somatic psychotherapists, viewing the mind and body as inseparable is essential to the therapeutic process. The mind/body will move toward healing and growth of its own accord given the right environment, opportunity and interpersonal interactions.
Recent research and advances in neuroscience, neurobiology, developmental psychology as well as in other fields strongly suggest that bodily-based behaviors, affects, and cognitions are essential factors in therapeutic work.
For instance, chronic or acute stress can have a dramatic effect on the autonomic nervous system. These effects can alter brain chemistry and can lead to a disruption of an individual’s emotional or physical well-being. According to somatic therapy theory, sensations or memories associated with past trauma or other stressful events may become trapped within the body.
Talk therapy can help process some of these challenges; however, many challenges lie just outside of the conscious mind and are still felt within the body. Somatic Psychotherapy seeks to use conventional approaches, such as talking therapy, along with approaches that are geared towards the body in order to achieve therapeutic results. Internal blocks and barriers can be discovered and worked with experientially, in turn, yielding new experiences that will be integrated physically, emotionally and verbally.
Using Somatic Psychotherapy, we will explore and help you express previously unexpressed physical and emotional pain that has been preventing you from fully engaging in your life. The exploration process provides an opportunity to restructure old events as well as provide solutions to unmet needs or unresolved experiences.
In addition to the emotional or psychological effects of mental health issues, people may also experience physical effects, such as sexual dysfunction, hormonal issues, digestive issues, or physical pain in specific parts of the body, such as the head, neck, shoulders, or stomach. People may experience psychological and physical pain simultaneously—or one but not the other.
Changes in the nervous system and brain chemistry can also alter one’s body language, facial expressions, posture, as well as movement patterns. These physical markers can be intimately linked to the source of one’s struggles and can inform us of what is needed to resolve those struggles.
How Can Somatic Psychotherapy Help Me?
Somatic Psychotherapy can help clients address a range of issues. Some individuals may seek somatic therapy as part of a larger approach to treatment for improving emotional regulation, addressing relationship concerns, managing anxiety or depression, resolving trauma and increasing self-esteem. Furthermore, many have pursued Somatic Psychotherapy as a way to explore personal growth and self-actualization.
Many people seek Somatic Psychotherapy after other forms of therapy haven’t yielded optimal results. Those for whom traditional remedies have not been helpful in treating chronic physical pain, digestive disorders and other medical issues may seek Somatic Psychotherapy in addition to or after other medical interventions have not been successful.
This type of therapeutic work is not just purely about the mind, our thoughts, feelings or behaviors nor is it or about labels, diagnoses or pathologies; it is about something that is deeply rooted and felt within us, in our bodies, in our feelings and, also (sometimes), in our spirits. Unlike traditional talk therapy or cognitive therapy or other labeled psychotherapies, Somatic Psychology (or Body Psychotherapy) tends to be much more experiential and existential. It attempts to engage the client on a much more authentic or felt level, working with the person and their felt sense of self.
While traditional talk therapies can effectively address many mental and emotional health challenges, somatic therapy can help resolve deep emotional issues that may not have been revealed or resolved through talk therapy. Somatic Psychotherapy can help individuals become both more aware of their personal struggles and how those struggles manifest in the mind and the body.
Using therapeutic techniques to work with, release and resolve personal issues, we will seek to create new experiences. These new experiences will cultivate a greater range of mental, physical, and emotional flexibility and expression. As a result of increased flexibility, the effects of emotional and physical pain can be transformed and potentially relieved completely.
The work we do in sessions will give you a greater ability to process difficult and stressful life experiences outside of sessions. Somatic therapy offers a variety of benefits. It reframes and transforms current or past negative experiences, instills a greater sense of oneself, confidence, resilience and hope. It reduces discomfort, strain and stress while heightening your ability to concentrate.
What Can I Expect From a Somatic Psychotherapy Session?
Somatic psychotherapy is a way of thinking that holds your bodily experience in mind. First and foremost, we seek to establish a relationship and environment where it is safe for you to develop a greater awareness of your physical and emotional presence. We will use Somatic Psychotherapy methods to evoke experiences that lead to the discovery of factors that have restricted your ability to live your life to the fullest degree.
Sessions typically involve you tracking your experiences, including sensations, thoughts or images that occur in the mind or are felt throughout the body. We will use talking, awareness of bodily sensations and, when appropriate, physical movement, breathing techniques, voice work, art, music or touch to expand your capacity to feel and express emotions, as well as discover blocks and barriers that may exist outside of your conscious awareness.
Our ultimate goal is to help the client integrate these new beliefs, modes and choices into everyday life. Over time you can learn to integrate the new possibilities and discoveries made in sessions into the on-going actualities of daily living. It is in this space of transformation that real change happens.