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Therapy of the Week: Somatic Therapy

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There’s more of a connection between the body and the mind than many might initially believe. Somatic therapy is one way those with trauma can harness the link between the body and mind to overcome traumatic feelings. Originating from the Greek word “soma” (meaning “living body”), somatic therapy is where talk therapy and alternative therapy types such as mind-body exercises are used to help clients release tension impeding their emotional and physical wellbeing (“Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada”).

Whether the issue is a form of psychological trauma or abuse, or mental health problem such as depression and anxiety, somatic therapy may provide some benefit (“Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada”). Even relationship problems can be addressed with the help of somatic therapy (“Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada”). In fact, there are many ways in which somatic therapy can help clients not only reduce any mental or physical anguish they may be feeling, but also regain control of their health and life. Here is a closer examination of somatic therapy.

Somatic Therapy Can Help the Autonomic Nervous System After Trauma

In its essence, somatic therapy is a type of holistic therapy focused on how the body and mind are related to each other. More specifically, the belief is that symptoms of psychological traumas are a byproduct of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) being dysfunctional and unstable, and that past traumas have a disruptive effect on it (Khan, 2018). This results in the central nervous system being affected to such an extent that changes in posture and even facial expressions can show themselves (“Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada”).

Since one’s past traumas can manifest themselves physically through symptoms such as hormone imbalances, immune system problems, depression, and addiction, somatic therapy can be used as a means through which the client can get relief from their traumatic symptoms, and also through which the ANS can return to more stable, balanced levels (Khan, 2018). The motivation here is not only to reduce any symptoms the client may be feeling, but also to make them more resilient in the process (Winblad, Changaris, & Stein, 2018).

Somatic Therapy Can Come in a Number of Different Forms

Clients can undergo this type of therapy in numerous different ways. These include postural integration, kinetic awareness, polarity therapy, acupressure, reiki, massage, and even yoga and dance (Thomas, 2018). Somatic therapy also includes pendulation and titration; the former process being where the client is guided to feelings of discomfort and anxiety not unlike what they felt during traumatic experiences before being brought back to feelings of homeostasis, while the latter is where clients are brought through memories of the traumatic event and recognize any changes that might occur in their body. (Thomas, 2018).

Whichever form the therapy comes through, the primary objective is to release any tension present in the body resulting from trauma (Khan, 2018), and affect emotional changes within it as well (Thomas, 2018). In this way, graduates of counselling therapist courses can help their clients recover from past trauma.

Those in Counselling Therapist Courses Should Learn its Processes and the Benefits

One of the key processes of somatic therapy is for the client to be aware of sensations or responses happening in their body (referred to as “somatic experiencing”), often after the counselling therapist helps the client recover memories of traumatic life events. Techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises are used thereafter (“Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada”). This is to help the client improve their tolerance of these emotions and sensations, and help release traumatic activation (Brom, et al., 2017).

In any case, students in counselling therapist college should know that it can have a number of benefits for the client, including cultivating a stronger sense of self, instilling feelings of hope and newfound confidence, reducing stress and improving concentration, and reframing past experiences to overcome their effects (Khan, 2018).

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Works Cited

Andersen, T. E., Ellegaard, H., Schiøttz-Christensen, B., & Manniche, C. (2018). Somatic experiencing® for patients with low back pain and comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder – protocol of a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 18(1). doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2370-y

Brom, D., Stokar, Y., Lawi, C., Nuriel-Porat, V., Ziv, Y., Lerner, K., & Ross, G. (2017). Somatic Experiencing for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Outcome Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(3), 304–312. doi: 10.1002/jts.22189

Khan, K. (2018, July 8). How Somatic Therapy Can Help Patients Suffering from Psychological Trauma. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-somatic-therapy-can-help-patients-suffering-from-psychological-trauma/

Somatic Therapy | Psychology Today Canada. (0AD). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/therapy-types/somatic-therapy Thomas, J. (2018, February 18). What Is Somatic Therapy And How Does It Work? Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/what-is-somatic-therapy-and-how-does-it-work/

Winblad, N. E., Changaris, M., & Stein, P. K. (2018). Effect of Somatic Experiencing Resiliency-Based Trauma Treatment Training on Quality of Life and Psychological Health as Potential Markers of Resilience in Treating Professionals. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00070

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