How often in therapy do you notice your clients shuffling their feet, squeezing their hands together, or tightening their jaw when they start to talk about a traumatic experience?
Peter Levine, trauma expert and author of the bestseller Waking the Tiger," has spent decades investigating the connection between trauma and how it manifests in the body, and says just noticing these reactions is an invaluable part of the therapeutic process. As a result, Levine developed Somatic Experiencing, a simple yet profoundly effective mind-body healing technique that incorporates brain research, animal ethology, indigenous healing rituals, and body-oriented psychotherapy.
But what does this body-centric therapy look like exactly? And when clients naturally try to avoid their symptoms, is it really possible to help them make friends with them? In the following clip from an actual session, Levine shows us how Somatic Experiencing works.
Peter Levine, PhD, is the developer of Somatic Experiencing. He’s written a variety of books, including Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice. He’s the recipient of the USABP lifetime achievement award for his contribution to trauma.
As Levine goes on to note, helping clients make the connection between their bodily sensations and a traumatic experience often helps them view these triggered responses in a new light, and eventually discover new ways of healing.
"When people experience their fight or flight response," Levine notes, "they often become frightened by their bodily sensations and try to quell them, but this leaves them trapped." Through somatic interventions, he continues, clients learn that they can tolerate them. "In that process of befriending the symptoms," Levine says, "they change to feelings of empowerment and goodness, and contradict the traumatic sensations of overwhelm and helplessness. They discover these feelings won’t destroy them—that they can regard them as allies, as friends."
Stay tuned for more of Levine's clinical wisdom in our upcoming video blogs!
Did you enjoy this video? Check out our articles on Trauma, or read more about how trauma treatment has evolved over the past 25 years in Janina Fisher's "Putting the Pieces Together." You might also enjoy Mary Sykes Wylie's, "The Long Shadow of Trauma," in which we confront why childhood abuse may be our number one public health issue.
Tags: body | body and mind | body psychotherapy | post traumatic stress | somatic counseling | somatic experience | somatic experiencing | somatic experiencing therapy | somatic therapies | Somatic Therapy | therapy for trauma | Trauma | trauma and recovery | trauma recovery | trauma treatment | Traumatic memory | traumatized clients | treating trauma | unreleased trauma