NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Friday, November 25, 2022

Trauma Therapy: The Therapeutic Benefits of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

As a trauma therapist, I have been using Somatic Experiencing (SE) to help clients overcome traumatic experiences for the last 12 years in my private practice in New York City (see my articles: Somatic Experiencing: A Mind-Body Oriented Therapy and Overcoming Emotional Trauma With Somatic Experiencing Therapy).

The Therapeutic Benefits of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

The Somatic Experiencing Framework: SIBAM
Whereas most types of talk therapy use a top down approach, which focuses only on developing insight, SE and other types of Experiential Therapy, use a bottom up approach that incorporates the mind-body connection to work through trauma (see my article: What is the Difference Between Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Trauma Therapy?).

The basic SE framework consists of the following:
  • Sensation: This includes learning to experience sensations in your body in an emotionally safe way. In other words, if you're not accustomed to feeling bodily sensations as a result of your traumatic experiences, an SE therapist will help you to feel these sensations in a way that feels manageable to you. You will learn how to track internal sensations in your body as you work on issues in SE, including:
    • Kinesthetic: Muscle tension patterns
    • Proprioceptive: Awareness of your position in space
    • Vestibular: Movement, gravity and sense of balance
    • Visceral: Sensations from the gut, lungs, heart
  • Imagery: The use of imagery is an important part of SE healing. This includes using your five senses:
    • Sight
    • Sound
    • Taste
    • Smell
    • Hearing
  • Behavior: The behavioral aspects of SE include:
    • Voluntary gestures
    • Facial expressions
    • Posture
    • Autonomic signals, including
      • heart rate
      • breathing
  • Affect: Affect is how you show categorical emotions, including anger, sadness, happiness, fear and disgust. It also includes sensation-based feelings of attraction and avoidance, which is referred to as the felt sense (see my article: What is the Felt Sense in Experiential Therapy?).
  • Meaning: Meaning refers to the words you use to describe your experiences in therapy related to all of the above (sensation, imagery, behavior and affect).  It includes whatever trauma-based negative beliefs about yourself and the world around you that you might have formed as a result of traumatic experiences. It also includes how open you are to positive emotions.

What Are the Benefits of Somatic Experiencing?
Unresolved traumatic experiences, which are held in the body, often cause problems with managing emotions.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Traumatic responses include fight, flightfreeze and fawn (fawn refers to people pleasing).  

Somatic Experiencing can help you:

Develop Bodily Awareness: Unlike regular talk therapy, which focuses on developing intellectual insight, Somatic Experiencing and other Experiential Therapy, helps you to develop a mind-body awareness including an awareness of the unconscious mind (see my article: Experiential Therapy and the Mind-Body Connection: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind and Why Intellectual Insight Isn't Enough to Overcome Trauma).

The benefits of bodily awareness include:
  • Learning to Do a Body Scan: You learn how to sense into your body and assess where you're holding onto tension or pain and what you're feeling emotionally in your body (see my article: Doing the Body Scan Meditation).
Transform Emotional Dysregulation into Emotional Regulation
When you become aware of your emotions and how they are stored in your body, including emotional triggers related to trauma, you can learn how to use your bodily awareness, including grounding and containment techniques, internal resources, visualization and body scans, to bring your mind and body into a calm state.

Use SE Techniques on Your Own: The resources you learn in SE can be used at home, including the grounding and containment exercises, internal resources, visualization and the body scan, so that you can calm yourself between sessions and learn to deal with emotional triggers before trauma is processed to completion.

Release Trauma: Over time, as you become aware of the physical and emotional sensations in your body, you can learn to release trauma and reset your nervous system with the help of your SE therapist so you no longer feel affected by trauma from the past.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a mind-body oriented Experiential Trauma Therapy.  

SE is a gentle form of trauma therapy because SE therapists work in a titrated way to help clients to process trauma in a manageable way (see my article: Trauma Therapy: Why Establishing Safety For the Client is Important Before Processing Trauma).

SE also uses a technique called Pendulation which helps clients to manage and cope with distressing emotions. Pendulation is another resource you can use on your own (see my article: Coping With Emotional Distress by Using the SE Techniques of Pendulation).

Many people experience posttraumatic growth after they work through psychological trauma (see my article: Posttraumatic Growth: A Greater Sense of Hope and Meaning After Working Through Trauma).

When to Get Help in Trauma Therapy
If you have been unable to overcome psychological trauma on your own or in other types of therapy, you could benefit from working with a Somatic Experiencing therapist.

Working through psychological trauma allows you to live free of your traumatic history so you can live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome psychological trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist).

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.