Somatic psychotherapy is the umbrella term for methods of therapy that are rooted in the body where trauma, stress, and memory are housed. Somatic psychotherapies are based on the theory that the body holds emotion and experience. When hard-to-handle feelings and traumas are not processed, they can manifest as anxiety, panic, depression, chronic pain or illness, relational issues, self-esteem problems, grief, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Somatic methods aid in draining the power of these feelings through attunement with the body – its positions, gestures, energies, and sensations.
Somatic Psychotherapy Modalities
There are many somatic psychotherapeutic modalities. You may have heard of some of them such as, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), Hakomi Method, Brainspotting, and plain old Mindfulness. Ultimately, the kind of somatic work that happens in the therapy room depends on the client and the therapist and can involve a wide variety of techniques, including breath work, visualizations, sensory awareness, posture tracking, guided imagery, gesture, and movement.
Somatic Psychotherapy Exercises
Sometimes, somatic exercises are very straight forward, such as simply sending compassionate breath toward a particular part of the body that is experiencing activation. Other times, exercises are created on the spot to aid a client’s specific needs in the moment. For example, a client who struggles with low self-esteem feels they are unable to accept compliments. They might say, “Positivity just flows right through me – in one ear and out the other.” In this case, we might mindfully “build” a space in the body to hold compliments, positive feedback, and love. Then, when they hear a compliment, they can visualize the affirmation dropping into and being held compassionately in the space they created for it in their body.
Somatic psychotherapy is a way to help people feel safe in their bodies while exploring thoughts, feelings, and memories. Painful experiences live in us on a cellular level, but we can heal by restoring the body to live with vitality, ease, and joy.
Questions about Somatic Psychotherapy
- One question I often get is, “Does somatic psychotherapy include talk therapy?” The answer is YES! Although somatic practices are body-based, talking through feelings and sensations is an essential component of the therapeutic work.
- Another question I get is, “Do I have to dance?” And the answer is NO, not unless you want to. Like most productive therapy, somatic work is client-centered and client-lead. Together with your therapist, you decide when and how to integrate the body into the healing process.
If you choose to work with me, you can expect:
- I will naturally return to the body in the here and now as a way to ground and understand authentic self.
- I utilize body scanning techniques to gain awareness of where pain or emotion is located in the body.
- I track and bring awareness to repetitive gestures or postures that align with certain memories or feelings to aid in self-knowledge.
- I share tools for calming, centering, and releasing emotions in productive ways.
- I gently guide clients through painful experiences while noting the accompanying physical sensations and addressing them in the moment.
- I emphasize the body as a base to locate natural resources, strengths, and self-empowerment.
If you have interest in somatic psychotherapy and healing your body, I would love to talk with you.
Further reading on somatic psychotherapy: