What are Somatic Therapies?
This kind of psychotherapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body. It works with the body as well as thoughts and emotions to help shift emotional events and trauma. It combines both talk therapy and attention to the way the body responds.
These therapies are based on the belief that emotions you experience during a trauma may get trapped in your body. That may affect the way your nervous system responds in the future. The traumatic event becomes 'frozen in time' which can feel as if the threat is still ongoing. The aim of therapy is to release the emotions that are stored within the body so you can process the memory and learn to feel safe.
Many types of somatic therapies are used to treat mental health challenges. Those used most often with children and youth are Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing. Both pay attention to sensations in the body and emotional responses.
The goal is to slowly and safely recognize, and then release, the ongoing, distressing physical and emotional reactions that happen when trauma is triggered. In this process you are supported to start moving in small ways that you couldn't do at the time of the traumatic event. Using physical motions to experience the protective responses or reflexes blocked during the trauma helps to release it and turn off your body's threat alarm.
The goal is also to build more confidence as you become more aware of the mind-body connection and learn ways to control your responses.
What types of challenges are best suited for Somatic Therapies?
This therapy is effective as part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment. It may also be helpful for a range of mental health challenges, including:
- Eating Disorders
- Grief and loss
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Relationship issues
- Somatic symptoms
- Substance use challenges
It can be adapted in playful and creative ways to fit a child's age and ability to cope with strong negative emotions.
How long will it take?
This therapy is used short-term for a single event trauma such as a car accident, or treatment may span many years for developmental trauma. It can be combined with regular talk therapy and used in both individual and group therapy settings.