How you feel emotionally informs the state of your body. Somatic therapy uses this principle to address treatment. It’s also known as somatic experience therapy or body psychotherapy and believes that the body stores suppressed emotion. Somatic therapy aims to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions where mental health directly affects physical health.
According to Harvard Health Research shows that trauma can be stored by the body’s cells. The book The Body Keeps the Score shows how unprocessed trauma affects people in the body. Somatic therapy aims to address that. It hasn’t been studied or practised as extensively as cognitive behavioural therapy or talk therapy.
Types of somatic therapy
Somatic experience therapy enables patients to talk about their feelings and their experiences. For instance, the therapist guides you to focus on breath work, meditation, visualisation, dance, or massage.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy: It uses the body as a source of information and intervention targets.
Hakomi method: Integrates scientific methods and spirituality. It uses the concepts of gentleness, nonviolence, compassion, and mindfulness.
Bioenergetic analysis: It combines bodily, analytic, and relational work to understand the body’s energy.
Biodynamic psychotherapy: Combines medical and holistic therapy.
Brainspotting: It uses eye positioning to retrain emotional reactions.
Who can benefit from somatic therapy?
Trauma can make physical sensations appear in the body in uncomfortable and unexpected ways. Somatic therapy intends to drain the power of these emotions to cause pain or distress to the body. Patients with the following conditions can benefit from this type of therapy:
- Trust or intimacy issues
- Self-esteem problems
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues
- Sexual dysfunction
People with anxiety disorders can develop muscle tension, in the neck, shoulders, and jaw. Stiffness can make it difficult to perform your daily routine. In addition, depression can lead to tension, chronic fatigue, and body pain. Chronic anxiety can make it feel like your body is in freefall. Somatic therapy can help with that.
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How it works
By focusing on talking about your problems and how your body feels, somatic therapy can help you gain awareness of your body and how it responds to various stimuli. It also helps you with grounding. Detailed descriptions of your stresses also help you unravel what is stressing you. The therapy also makes you act out your physical feelings. Somatic therapy encourages movement to help you take stock of your body. You also learn to replay your trauma with new physical tools. The therapy also strengthens boundaries and facilitates emotional release.
Some of the methods used include:
Body awareness: Recognise tension spots in your body and create calming thoughts.
Pendulation: Going from a relaxed state to emotions similar to the stressed state then back to a relaxed state.
Titration: Guiding people through a traumatic memory then noting physical sensations accompanying it and addressing them in real time.
Resourcing: Helping people recall resources in their lives that promote safety and peace.
Is it better than talk therapy?
Talk therapy only deals with the mind. It makes you aware of your behaviours, thought processes, and patterns and helps you respond to them and eventually heal. This works for most people in need of therapy. However, somatic therapy includes how the body feels. It enables you to feel safe within your body while you deal with your memories.
Talk therapy helps you desensitize anxieties or tension while somatic therapy relieves them. Meditation works similarly. It helps relieve the body of any lingering tension. It’s not necessarily better than talk therapy but it can help with great stresses. Mental Health: What To Do When Therapy Isn’t Working For You
Should you consider somatic therapy?
Due to the limited scientific evidence regarding its efficacy, many psychiatric practitioners will recommend cognitive behavioural therapy over somatic therapy. It also has fewer experts in the field so it can be easy to get treated by a charlatan who wastes your time, and money and inhibits your progress. Many health insurance companies may also not cover it.
Somatic therapy also contains a lot of touching. If you aren’t comfortable with another person touching you, in-person somatic therapy may not be your best option. You may also need to do extra research to find a specialist in somatic therapy since it’s considered by some to be “alternative” healing. It’s also a difficult healing procedure since it requires a lot of physical and mental labour. If you find it difficult to express your trauma, you will need to notify your therapist. This therapy can be an intense but helpful way to manage triggers.
Find out more about therapy below:
8 Benefits Of Touch Therapy
Mental Health: Pros And Cons Of Talk Therapy
6 Things They Don’t Tell You About Therapy
Maximizing Your Time: The Benefits Of Online Therapy For Busy Individuals
Does Using Therapy Speak In Casual Conversation Devalue It Or Help Normalize Mental Health?
Ultrasound Therapy: Types, Benefits And What It Treats