Somatic Experiencing (SE)
As you will see from reading the What is Trauma page, we can experience many different physiological and psychological issues if we've either had a highly stressful or life-threatening event, or have been in a prolonged traumatic situation, particularly as infants. An example of this might be abuse or neglect. We literally carry the residue of this in our bodies and minds, and can do so for decades.
Time and patience are the key, and a willingness to use and develop the resources available during the session and in your daily life. Once there is more resilience we can approach the more difficult material with confidence and transform the energy that has been bound up – often for decades. Ultimately, we can restore a sense of well-being and ease of being in the body and in the world, enabling you to move on and live a fuller life.
What does an SE session involve?
Sessions usually involve sitting together and some talking, with the focus on your experience in the here and now. This can be your felt-sense - tracking bodily sensations, emotions that arise, and shifts in the subtle-energy. Usually sessions don’t involve touch but it can sometimes be a really useful support in the healing process. It is best to commit to a few sessions, but amazing shifts can also happen fairly quickly, depending on the readiness of the person and type of condition.
What is SE good for?
Whether or not a person has been diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD, this treatment can help lessen just about any condition, as we focus our attention on what is happening in the body and any blocks there may be. It's most effective with acute trauma, where there has been a single event that you feel stuck in, but it can also work very well with more longstanding issues, like syndromes and personality disorders. It really depends on whether I'm the right person for you and whether you are able and willing to go into your experience and take things one moment at a time.
I would recommend this to anyone suffering from anxiety, stress, sleep problems, psycho-somatic problems, addictions, phobias, overwhelm, relationship issues (especially where there is a theme of feeling invaded or overhwelmed by others), empowerment and confidence issues, dissociation or the experience of not being fully present in the body.
Over many years, Dr Peter Levine (right) developed the SE approach, which is similar to other talking therapies but with more focus on the body. It's a bit like mindfulness mixed with counselling. It works very gently and slowly with the aim of building a sense of safety – both with the practitioner and with the high-activation states that can arise when contacting the traumatic memories in the body. We don’t approach anything that we feel the nervous system is not ready to tolerate, as this can adversely affect the person and even re-traumatise.
When working with me using this approach, it's important that you understand that the real healing and transformation is in your hands and it's your adventure. I can only support you along the way and will also give you tools to better manage and transform stress and stressful situations in your life.
For further reading, below are a couple of Dr Levine's books that are widely available. I thoroughly recommend taking a look at one or both of them as they eleborate on trauma and SE in a very eloquent and coherent way.
Waking the Tiger offers a new and hopeful vision of trauma. It views the human animal as a unique being, endowed with an instinctual capacity. It asks and answers an intriguing question: why are animals in the wild, though threatened routinely, rarely traumatized? By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually immune to traumatic symptoms, the mystery of human trauma is revealed. Waking the Tiger normalizes the symptoms of trauma and the steps needed to heal them. People are often traumatized by seemingly ordinary experiences. The reader is taken on a guided tour of the subtle, yet powerful impulses that govern our responses to overwhelming life events. To do this, it employs a series of exercises that help us focus on bodily sensations. Through heightened awareness of these sensations trauma can be healed.
In an Unspoken Voice is the culmination of Dr Peter A. Levine's life’s work. Levine draws on his broad experience as a clinician, a student of comparative brain research, a stress scientist and a keen observer of the naturalistic animal world to explain the nature and transformation of trauma in the body, brain and psyche. In an Unspoken Voice is based on the idea that trauma is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather an injury caused by fright, helplessness and loss that can be healed by engaging our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotions. Enriched with a coherent theoretical framework and compelling case examples, the book elegantly blends the latest findings in biology, neuroscience and body-oriented psychotherapy to show that when we bring together animal instinct and reason, we can become more whole human beings.