Somatic Experiencing.

What is it?

It is a body-centered psychobiological method for resolving trauma symptoms and other symptoms of chronic stress.

Why would someone see an SE?

The SE method releases traumatic shock from the body, which is at the root of PTSD and other emotional wounds including those stemming from early developmental attachment trauma.
Individuals who find themselves struggling to deal with the daily stressors of life may benefit from this approach whether they’ve been though a car accident, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, grief/loss, birth trauma, or the debilitating effects of living in constant conflict or fear.

What symptoms would be addressed by a SE?

  • Symptoms of PTSD,
  • Stress,
  • Anxiety,
  • Depression,
  • Mood swings,
  • Immune system problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Anger or aggression
  • Shame
  • Negative self image
  • Sexual intimacy difficulty

Megan Land McCarthy (B.Sc. OT) is our Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner and is an integral member of our circle of care team, here at Safe Harbour Therapy.

Megan Land McCarthy

Occupational Therapist (OT), Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner

What would an appointment look like?

A SE session would initially start with the client sharing information with the therapist about the areas in which they are struggling to cope in their life. The SE practitioner provides a supportive, impartial, compassionate environment to establish a comfortable rapport and help the client identify goals for therapy.

When ready, the client is then encouraged to lie down on a massage table, fully clothed, in a comfortable position on their back. The SE practitioner will help the client find places of safety, either a place in their body (not activated by trauma), or a physical place to envision in the client’s mind.

The SE sessions involve the introduction of gentle touch at various points of the body (either directly on the body or above – depending on the client’s comfort level). The SE practitioner then observes the client’s physical response (shift in breathing or posture) to the touch that may have introduced small amounts of traumatic material to the client’s awareness. The therapist will frequently check in with the client to asses for the and record sensations like heaviness, tightness, dizziness, or lack of sensation. Practitioners use caution to move at the pace the client is able to handle so the client can develop and employ self-regulation strategies while their body moves through and releases the stored trauma energy.

Being able to experience the sensations related to a traumatic event in a safe, supported, empowered way, enables a client to fully process the trauma. Once the trauma response is complete, the body’s limbic system resets, the body learns resilience, and a client may notice their capacity to engage in and cope with life’s stressors increases.

How does SE work?

When our body goes through a traumatic situation, whether “big” or “small, perceived or real, acute or chronic, our nervous system becomes heightened in order to have the energy to protect ourselves. Sometime though our body can become stuck in the “flight, fight, freeze” trauma response. This may result in our inability to deal with the daily stressors of life in a resilient, calming manner because we are still operating from a heightened traumatic state.

A SE practitioner attends to a client’s nervous system to assess where the physiological states are stuck so that the excess energy can be released. Once located, the SE approach guides clients to develop their capacity to tolerate difficult sensations and suppressed emotions in their body. The SE method then facilitates the completion of the trauma response by releasing the stuck survival energy from within the body, thus resolving the root cause of the trauma symptoms. Once the body’s alarm system is turned off then a client may notice their symptoms of dis-regulation or dislocation alleviate.

Who developed this method?

Dr. Peter A. Levine developed this method after 45 years of clinical application and studying of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics.

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