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Embodied Recovery: An Intro to Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Updated: Apr 16

Embodied recovery represents a shift away from solely cognitive approaches towards healing and embraces the concept that our emotions, trauma, and coping mechanisms are intrinsically linked to our physical experiences. Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET) is a potent, body-centric therapeutic approach that seeks to process and release unresolved trauma by gently guiding individuals through their somatic sensations and emotions.


In this article, we delve into the principles of Somatic Experiencing Therapy and its potential for addressing a range of issues faced by clients of Staying Sane 101—from self-worth struggles and relationship problems to anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation. By integrating the body and mind, SET offers a holistic, transformative path to healing and emotional well-being, fostering resilience and restoration in the face of life's challenges.


The Foundational Principles of Somatic Experiencing Therapy


Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, Somatic Experiencing Therapy (SET) is grounded in the belief that the body holds the key to understanding, processing, and releasing trauma. While traditional talk therapy often focuses on the cognitive aspects of emotional distress, SET emphasises the role of the body in both retaining and resolving trauma. The foundational principles of SET include:


1. Trauma as a Physiological Phenomenon: SET posits that the core of trauma lies within the nervous system's maladaptive response to a perceived threat rather than the traumatic event itself.

2. Natural Healing Abilities: Inspired by the innate capacity of animals to recover from traumatic experiences, SET seeks to harness and guide that natural ability to restore balance in humans.

3. Gentle Unwinding: Instead of pushing individuals into the depths of their traumatic memories, SET follows a ‘titration’ approach, working with small, manageable amounts of traumatic energy and gradually guiding clients towards resolution.


How Somatic Experiencing Therapy Works


The SET process consists of carefully facilitated sessions in which the therapist supports clients in tracking their bodily sensations, emotional states, and thought patterns. The therapy aims to achieve the following objectives:


1. Balancing the Nervous System: Somatic Experiencing helps to regulate the autonomic nervous system—consisting of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight response) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest response) branches—by promoting healthy cycles of activation and deactivation.

2. Discharging Traumatic Energy: Trauma is often characterised by a freeze response, trapping excess energy in the body. SET seeks to release this pent-up energy by allowing clients to process their experiences and complete the interrupted stress cycles.

3. Building Somatic Resources: SET encourages the development of personal resources through guided body awareness, such as grounding exercises and breathwork, empowering clients with tools to navigate stress and emotional upheaval.


Applications of Somatic Experiencing Therapy in Counselling


Somatic Experiencing Therapy can be employed as part of a comprehensive counselling approach to address a wide array of concerns faced by our clients. Within the context of issues such as self-worth, relationship difficulties, depression, and anxiety, SET offers unique therapeutic value:


1. Self-Worth: Accessing and releasing bodily-held emotions can foster a deeper self-connection, promoting greater self-compassion and self-worth.

2. Relationship Issues: By unravelling the layers of embodied trauma, individuals can develop a healthier attachment style, facilitating more satisfying and sustainable relationships.

3. Domestic Abuse: Survivors of domestic abuse can benefit from SET as they process and release the traumatic energy trapped within their bodies, regaining a sense of autonomy and safety.

4. Depression and Anxiety: Addressing the physiological underpinnings of mental health concerns, SET offers a complementary approach to mitigate the severity and impact of depressive and anxious symptoms.

5. Suicide Ideation: Through sensitive and gentle exploration of the body's sensations, clients with suicide ideation can access a deeper understanding of their emotional distress, paving the way for coping strategies and resilience-building.


Integrating Somatic Experiencing Therapy with Traditional Counselling


For optimal therapeutic outcomes, Somatic Experiencing Therapy can be integrated alongside traditional counselling methods, creating a comprehensive approach to emotional healing. Integration of SET might involve:


1. Concurrent use of traditional talk therapy: SET sessions can be held separately or merged into conventional therapy sessions, allowing clients to explore the intersection of cognitions and bodily experiences.

2. Emphasis on individualised therapy plans: Recognising the unique needs and preferences of each client, therapists can carefully tailor the blend of SET and traditional counselling techniques according to the individual's therapeutic goals and progress.

3. Collaborative goal-setting: Both clients and therapists can actively participate in setting achievable, meaningful goals that encompass the aspects of cognitive, emotional, and somatic experiences, ensuring an inclusive and personalised recovery process.


Somatic Experiencing Therapy's transformative potential is rooted in its emphasis on the role of physiological responses in trauma and emotional distress. By gently guiding clients through their embodied experiences, SET holds the potential to unlock profound healing in individuals grappling with concerns ranging from relational turbulence to mental health struggles. As an integral part of a comprehensive therapeutic approach, SET can illuminate a holistic path towards emotional recovery, resilience, and well-being.


Embrace Embodied Healing with Staying Sane 101


Somatic Experiencing Therapy offers a valuable, body-centred approach to emotional healing—empowering individuals to access their innate capacity for resilience, restoration, and well-being. By integrating SET with traditional counselling techniques, clients at Staying Sane 101 can traverse a holistic, transformative path towards recovery from trauma, self-worth struggles, relationship issues, and mental health challenges.


Our compassionate therapists at Staying Sane 101 are dedicated to supporting you in this journey of embodied healing. Harness the power of somatic awareness and address the physiological roots of your emotional distress through our expert guidance and counselling services. Unearth the profound potential for transformation that lies within the integration of the body and mind.


Take the first step towards harnessing the power of Somatic Experiencing Therapy. Contact us today and embrace the transformative journey of embodied recovery.


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