How to Use Somatic Experiencing Therapy for Trauma Resolution
Have you ever experienced a traumatic moment? It might have even been a life or death situation. Maybe you were in a serious car accident? Perhaps you are a veteran? Whatever the case may be, you suffer some form of trauma from this incident.
In many cases, the initial event is not the problem. It is our reaction to that event over time that forms the basis of what we call a somatic experience. This is when the entire body is overwhelmed by a specific trigger.
However, in these cases we can learn a great deal from the animal kingdom. Dr. Peter Levineâ€™s ground breaking work demonstrates that animals who are preyed upon are able to cope with this event in many cases better than humans can in similar circumstances.
It has been well documented that humans sometimes get stuck in the fight or flight mode when they deal with trauma. This comes from the process of evolution, when humans were the prey themselves in many cases tens of thousands of years ago.
This thinking did well when we were in caves, but hinders many of the modern traumas human experience. However, the somatic experience of animals helps us to cope with our trauma more effectively.
Using Somatic Experience for Trauma Patients
Somatic Experience takes time to heal patients, and generally goes through the following steps to help them recover.
Orientation- The first step on the road to recovery is orientation.
Orientation is where you accustom a patient to their surroundings. When they are grounded in their situation, they can begin to relax.
You do this by asking patients to pay attention to their feelings and thoughts in their environment. Especially in a hyper connected world, it is very important for trauma victims to take a moment out of a busy day to understand who they are.
Observation The next step on the process relies upon you to pay attention to your surroundings. When you observe the traumatic event as an outside observer, then you can experience the traumatic event in your life in a safe, rational way.
In this step, patients also stir up the feelings they had when the event occurred. For example, a rape victim might stir up feelings of hatred and fear.
By using titration, which we discuss in the next step, to funnel out the complete emotion of the event, a person can remember their traumatic experience without being overloaded like they do when they observe the events when they are alone.
Titration- Discharging is the final part of this process. Observing an event like this is not enough. Therefore, people need to remove the negative feelings from the event.
When Dr. Levine came up with this therapy he observed how animals who were being hunted would shake out the nervousness of the situation after it ended.
Humans do not have a natural outlet for that, so they build up the frustration and anger within them. This is what causes violent outbursts.
Therefore, simple activities like pretending to be angry in your psychotherapistsâ€™ office by clenching your fist and then releasing it will release the tension you feel.
By doing this you are creating an island of safety to help you loosen the tension in your body that prevents you from recuperating mentally from the event.
Somatic Experience Final Thoughts
Somatic experience therapy is not something to take lightly. The first time you attempt this, you probably want to be in the company of a trained professional. They can guide you through the process, so you can safely experience the traumatic event without incident.
If you need someone to walk you through your somatic experience, then please feel free to call my office at: 847-824-8366.