What is this ‘Somatic Experiencing’ stuff?
For many years, I was a “garden variety” therapist. I practiced individual therapy with a focus on talking, understanding, and thinking about new possibilities with my clients. As time went on, I– like most of my profession–did more training and added mindfulness and relaxation techniques to the talk (along with other things I won’t go into here!).
And yet, I still had this lurking feeling that something was missing from the tools I had to offer. A colleague talked me into attending an orientation for Somatic Experiencing. I remember sitting in my seat, listening to her describe SE, and really experiencing a light bulb moment. Therapy is not just from the neck up! I decided to do the three years of intensive training to see what it was all about.
These days, I keep hearing people use the phrase “fight or flight.” It seems more and more of us are curious about the built-in ways we respond to stress, due to evolution. We’re starting to understand that we still react as though life or death situations are just around the corner even though they no longer are.
SE is focused on how the body and mind respond to trauma—the situations when, either as children or adults, we were unable to stop the awful thing from happening. But somatic techniques can apply to “garden variety” stress as well.
Learning to recognize when we are on alert for danger, tracking our “threat responses,” and then also allowing our bodies to shift out of the threat response and back to rest and safety is critical these days.
One of the best things about this approach is watching my clients realize their bodies already know what to do (with just a little guidance). Adding somatic techniques to talk therapy can bring relief that once seemed out of reach.