What Is Somatic Psychotherapy?
Read on to learn about somatic psychotherapy, along with how it works and how it can help you or a loved one.
Somatic psychotherapy, in simple terms, is a type of therapy that connects the body and the mind. Somatic therapy, also known as bodily experience and somatic experiencing therapy, involves the mind, body, and spirit in therapeutic recovery.1
Read on to learn about the benefits of somatic therapy and how it could aid you or a loved one.
The Connection Between the Mind and the Body
Somatic therapy takes a body-centric approach to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as other mental and emotional health disorders by connecting the mind and body.
Although addressing the mind-body link is a relatively recent notion in Western health, as the mind and body are frequently treated separately in the West, Eastern medicine and philosophies have long acknowledged this concept.2
How Does Somatic Psychotherapy Work?
Somatic therapists believe that the body and mind are inextricably intertwined. They also suggest that trauma and long-term negative emotions might become stuck inside our bodies, worsening our mental health.
Somatic psychotherapy is based on the premise that what happens in an individual’s life is stored in both the mind and body. It is a holistic approach to treatment since it focuses on both physical feelings in the body and the understanding of individuals’ concerns.
How Effective Is Somatic Psychotherapy?
According to research on somatic psychotherapy, it has been identified as a possible therapeutic option for PTSD. PTSD is often caused by the stress system’s chronic reactivity to the overwhelming nature of the traumatic experience. For those experiencing PTSD, the body cannot finish the initial psychological and physiological protective reaction (e.g., extended pause instead of fight or flight), causing PTSD symptoms.
This causes a chronic physical and emotional imbalance of the nervous system, leading to the persistently elevated stress response in PTSD patients. So far, encouraging results suggest that somatic psychotherapy may help lower psychological trauma and symptoms, along with somatic symptoms, and increase overall quality of life as well.3
Different Types of Somatic Psychotherapy
Here are the different types of somatic psychotherapy:
Sensorimotor psychotherapy integrates approaches from the Hakomi method (discussed further below) with ideas from psychoanalysis, somatic psychotherapy, relationship theory, and neuroscience.
This treatment allows the client to re-experience a traumatic incident properly and complete any unfinished acts from the original event, such as being unable to fend off an assailant). This is done to provide the impression of completeness and finality.
The Hakomi Method
The Hakomi method is a sort of somatic treatment that focuses on mindfulness, or the ability to observe the current moment without making judgments.
The practitioner creates a compassionate accepting environment before assisting the client in identifying physical indications of hidden beliefs. The client swiftly accesses unconscious information and collaborates with the therapist to release it safely.
Bioenergetic analysis is a type of therapy focusing on the mind, body, and energy that flows between them. It is founded on the idea that the mind and body are one.
Although some people regard it as a humanistic approach, it is based on psychoanalysis and employs relationship therapy, physical bodywork, and body expression analysis. Individuals seeking treatment for mental and physical health may find bioenergetic analysis a useful tool.4
Biodynamic psychotherapy is an important mind-body treatment that emphasizes the difference between what the patient portrays and hidden content. During this diagnostic, the patient’s behavioral symptoms, memories, feelings, and imagination are examined.5
The goal of biodynamic psychotherapy is to help a client frame their motives, anxieties, and fears. They’ll talk about their physiological reactions to the stress they’re dealing with right now. The therapist seeks to have the patient concentrate on the body parts that are harboring the stress and tension.
Brainspotting therapy is an alternative treatment in which a person’s visual field is used to assist them process trauma. It allows trauma stored in the subcortical brain – which is responsible for motion, awareness, emotions, and learning – to be accessed.
Brainspotting is especially useful in trauma-related circumstances, as it aids in the identification and healing of underlying trauma that relates to anxiety, depression, and other behavioral issues.6
Somatic Psychotherapy Techniques
There are also many different types of somatic psychotherapy techniques that can help during the healing process.
The client learns to detect and identify regions of strain in the body and thoughts and also acknowledge sensations that are relaxing.
This is the action of creating a profound connection with the body and the earth. Helping the patient go through sensing the body, feeling the feet on the ground, and relaxing the nerves are all part of grounding.
With this approach, a therapist moves the patient from a calm state to one comparable to the traumatic event. This can be repeated multiple times to help the patient release pent-up energy.
The therapist uses this method to take the patient through a painful memory. As the patient recounts the recollection, they will be asked to notice any changes in their body. If there is any bodily sensation, the therapist will assist the patient in dealing with them.
The therapist instructs the patient to pay careful attention to how tension feelings depart their body during this procedure.
This entails recalling life resources that make the patient feel comfortable, such as connections, personality traits, or even a beloved vacation destination.
What Somatic Psychotherapy Can Help With
Somatic psychotherapy can help with several disorders. It’s used to treat several mental and physical ailments, including:7
- Problems with relationships
- Chronic pain
- Digestive disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
Things to Consider When Deciding on Somatic Psychotherapy
When considering starting a somatic psychotherapy session, there are many different factors to think about before starting.
What Are the Limitations?
Despite its numerous advantages, there are some reservations about using somatic approaches for therapy. Physical touch is a prominent part of treatment and is considered a large ethical question for many psychotherapists.
Touch during treatment may be reassuring to some individuals, as it can help relieve pain while also assisting in the release of stress. Patients who have been sexually or physically abused, on the other hand, may find physical contact distressing.8
What to Look For in a Somatic Psychotherapist?
If you are doing an in-person session, make sure you look for a trusted and certified psychotherapist who understands their profession well. Also, since physical touch is sometimes used, make sure you are fully comfortable with your psychotherapist.
What to Expect In Your First Appointment
During your first therapy session, your therapist will ask questions about your background and therapeutic objectives. You and your therapist will collaborate to plan the therapy and how you will proceed.
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