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  • Writer's pictureSalvo La Rosa

Using Somatic Experiencing to tune the nervous system

I am very excited to have now completed the training as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and to be able to now offer Somatic Experiencing (or SE) to clients in the context of integrative psychotherapy and in conjunction with other tools like EMDR.

Somatic Experiencing is an approach to trauma healing and wellbeing developed by Dr Peter Levine. The basic concept is that we human beings share with other animals some of the same survival responses and impulses that are hard wired in the nervous system.

These are in the very broad categories of too much activation or too little. For example the impulse to fight or run away when presented with a threat. It could also involve different states like freezing or collapsing and shutting down.

The trouble with the stress and traumas that we often go through is that these survival responses often get stuck in the nervous system in an incomplete state, due to the experience being too much, too fast or happening to soon to be fully processed. Or sometimes our well developed 'thinking brain' - our prefrontal cortex - stops us doing what we would have to do to keep our nervous system healthy - whereas animals in the wild don't have that problem, as it can be seen in this video.

Which is where Somatic Experiencing comes in. In an SE session or integrating SE into a therapy session we would be entering a different 'gear' - as it were - slowing things down and using the body to complete and express what needs to be completed for the experience we are working on to come to a fuller resolution.

It can sometime involve supportive touch or self-touch, but it doesn't necessarily have to. This could be small things like placing your own hand on your heart when anxious or placing one hand under one armpit and the other one on the opposite shoulder for a more containing self-hug.

Another great tool is the 'Voo breath' - developed by Peter Levine - which stimulates the vagus nerve and promotes nervous system regulation. This is basically not dissimilar to and Ohm but on a 'Voo' sound instead, holding the sound until the very end of the out breath, then pausing for a second and letting a natural breath come back in.

For more information on Somatic Experiencing and on body oriented approaches to trauma healing, feel free to get in touch.

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