Somatic Experiencing

Enter the Mind Through The Body

Learn to Experience Somatically and Emotionally without Shame or Fear

Establishing Safety and Resources

This initial stage focuses on creating a safe and stable environment. It involves helping the individual develop internal and external resources to ensure they feel secure and grounded.

Tracking Sensations and Pendulation

In this stage, the individual learns to observe and track bodily sensations associated with trauma. Pendulation, the process of gently moving back and forth between regulated and dysregulated states, is used to help the individual become more aware of their body’s trauma response and learn to self-regulate.


Re-negotiation with the Body

The final stage involves the individual re-experiencing and processing the traumatic event in a safe and controlled manner. This allows for the discharge of trapped survival energy and the integration of the traumatic experience into a cohesive narrative, leading to resolution and healing.




Life-Changing Yet Unintrusive

Somatic Experiencing therapy is transformative as it allows individuals to reprocess and physically integrate past traumas through body awareness, leading to profound understanding and healing. This therapeutic approach is logical as it merges the mindfulness of bodily sensations associated with past traumas with present consciousness, fostering a more unified and integrated sense of self. This can greatly enhance mental well-being and personal development.

How is Somatic Experiencing Different?

Somatic Experiencing therapy is unique in its methodology as it emphasizes the physical embodiment of past traumas, integrating these experiences through bodily awareness and sensation tracking. Unlike traditional talk therapies, it focuses on the body-mind’s natural capacity for healing, utilizing the individual’s sensory experiences and bodily responses to facilitate profound and swift healing without re-traumatizing the client. For more comprehensive details, you may visit the official website dedicated to Somatic Experiencing.


What happens in a Somatic Experiencing Session?

In a Somatic Experiencing session, the therapist initially assists the client in becoming aware of their bodily sensations and responses related to traumatic or significant life events. The client is then guided to physically and emotionally process these experiences through mindful awareness and sensation tracking, similar to observing the physical responses of their own body as if it were a narrative. This process is repeated as needed, allowing the client to integrate these experiences and perceive their life story in a more cohesive, grounded, and healed manner.

Somatic Reprocessing and Experiential Integration

Somatic Experiencing therapy utilizes a structured approach to assist individuals in reprocessing and integrating their past traumatic experiences. The process begins by helping the client become aware of bodily sensations and responses linked to these significant events. In therapy, the client is encouraged to mindfully observe and feel these bodily sensations, akin to experiencing the physical aspects of their life’s narrative. This technique enables a profound level of physical and emotional healing and aids in restructuring the client’s life narrative into a more grounded and positive framework. The repeated focus on body awareness facilitates a neural and physical integration of these experiences, promoting healing without re-living the traumas.

Somatic Experiencing: A Transformative Approach

Somatic Experiencing is an innovative therapeutic approach designed to offer relief and healing for a wide range of health issues. Grounded in cutting-edge research, this therapy provides a unique path to wellness. Here’s how Somatic Experiencing can be instrumental in treating various conditions:

Stress and Anxiety Disorders:

Somatic Experiencing shines in treating stress and anxiety disorders. It aids individuals in identifying and releasing physical tensions related to anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. This process helps in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and managing stress more effectively.

Emotional Trauma and PTSD:

This therapy is highly effective for individuals suffering from emotional trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It empowers clients to gently process and release traumatic memories, facilitating a safe and gradual healing process. This approach is crucial in diminishing the impact of traumatic events and easing PTSD symptoms.

Chronic Pain and Somatic Symptoms:

Somatic Experiencing addresses the emotional aspects of chronic pain and somatic symptoms. By focusing on the mind-body connection, it helps individuals understand and alleviate pain that may be linked to psychological factors, offering a pathway to physical and emotional relief.


For those grappling with depression, Somatic Experiencing offers a therapeutic route to explore and heal underlying emotional pain. This approach assists in processing past hurts and promotes emotional balance, contributing to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.

Recovery from Injury or Surgery:

This therapy is beneficial in the recovery process from physical injuries or post-surgery. It aids in managing emotional responses and stress related to recovery, enhancing the body’s natural healing process.

Enhancing Athletic Performance:

Athletes can benefit from Somatic Experiencing by addressing mental and emotional blocks that impact their performance. This method aids in overcoming past setbacks or performance anxiety, fostering a stronger mental approach to sports.

Improving Relationships:

Somatic Experiencing also aids in improving interpersonal relationships. It assists individuals in understanding and resolving emotional patterns from past relationships, leading to healthier and more fulfilling connections. Somatic Experiencing offers a comprehensive and effective approach to treating a range of conditions, from mental health issues like anxiety and trauma to physical concerns like chronic pain, and even enhancing personal and professional performance. Its focus on the mind-body connection makes it a versatile and powerful tool for holistic healing and wellness.

What Does Somatic Experiencing Feel Like?

In the Therapy Office:

The experience of Somatic Experiencing varies for each individual, as it taps into the body’s natural ability to heal and release emotional or traumatic stress. In a Somatic Experiencing session, the therapist guides you to tune into your body’s sensations and emotions related to past experiences. Unlike Lifespan Integration, there’s no chronological timeline; instead, the focus is on the present moment and how your body holds and processes past traumas and stress.

During the session, you might experience a range of physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts as you connect with and process these bodily memories. The therapist gently supports you in navigating these experiences, promoting healing and release in a controlled and safe environment.

Out of the Therapy Office:

The impact of Somatic Experiencing often extends beyond the therapy room. You might continue to process emotions and bodily sensations after the session, leading to deeper insights and shifts in perception. These ongoing experiences are crucial for healing and should be shared in future sessions for further exploration and integration.

As you process these experiences, you may notice various physical sensations, emotional shifts, and cognitive changes. This can include a greater awareness of bodily sensations, new emotional insights, and a changing perspective on past traumas. You might also experience a reduction in physical symptoms associated with stress or trauma, like tension or chronic pain, as your body releases and integrates these experiences.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Experiences:

Somatic Experiencing is particularly effective in reducing physical symptoms tied to emotional stress or trauma. As you process and release these memories, physical manifestations such as tension or chronic pain can diminish, demonstrating the deep connection between body and mind.

Transformation in Emotional Responses:

Through Somatic Experiencing, emotional responses related to past traumas often become less intense and more manageable. This can lead to improved mental health, with a decrease in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Enhanced Body Awareness:

Somatic Experiencing fosters a heightened awareness of bodily sensations and emotional states. This increased awareness can lead to a deeper understanding of how past experiences impact your present physical and emotional state, enhancing overall well-being.

Altered Perception of Trauma:

The therapy transforms your relationship with traumatic memories. By focusing on bodily sensations and emotions in the present moment, it helps you to recontextualize past traumas, leading to a sense of empowerment and the ability to engage more fully in life.


What are the Techniques of Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing therapy utilizes a variety of techniques, each tailored to meet the specific needs of clients. Here’s an overview of some approaches within Somatic Experiencing, which share some similarities with aspects of Brainspotting:

Grounding and Resourcing:

This technique in Somatic Experiencing involves identifying and focusing on resources – places, people, or memories that evoke a sense of safety and stability. This approach is crucial in managing anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, as it helps clients build a foundation of positive emotional resources for coping.


Pendulation in Somatic Experiencing involves gently moving attention between sensations associated with trauma (‘activation’) and resources or neutral sensations (‘deactivation’). This helps in processing traumatic memories and is particularly beneficial for PTSD and trauma-related issues.


Titration in Somatic Experiencing focuses on slowly and carefully experiencing traumatic or stressful memories in small, manageable doses. This method aids in preventing overwhelm and is effective in treating anxiety, depression, and mood-related disorders.

Tracking Bodily Sensations:

This approach emphasizes noticing and working with physical sensations in the body that are connected to emotional experiences. By identifying and addressing these somatic experiences, clients can process emotional distress that manifests as chronic pain, tension, or other physical symptoms.

Completion of Defensive Responses:

In this technique, clients are guided to safely complete defensive responses (like fight, flight, or freeze) that were halted or suppressed during a traumatic event. This method aids in releasing trapped survival energy and is crucial for addressing trauma and stress-related disorders.

Integration and Expansion:

This approach involves integrating the processed trauma and expanding the capacity for positive experiences. Its focus is on delving deeper into emotional and psychological layers, helping clients to reorient and stabilize after addressing traumatic memories.

How does Somatic Experiencing Integrate into a Holistic Treatment Apporach?

SE with Talk Therapy: Combining Somatic Experiencing with traditional verbal psychotherapy to enhance the processing of trauma.

SE with Bodywork: Incorporating physical therapies (like massage or osteopathy) with SE principles to address the physical manifestations of trauma.

SE for Specific Populations: Tailoring the SE approach to specific groups like children, veterans, or survivors of specific types of trauma (like natural disasters or physical assault).

SE with Mindfulness Techniques: Integrating mindfulness practices into the SE framework to enhance body awareness and support the regulation of the nervous system.

SE with Movement Therapies: Utilizing movement-based approaches like yoga or dance therapy in conjunction with SE to help release trauma stored in the body.

SE and Art Therapy: Combining creative expressions like drawing or music with SE for a more holistic approach to trauma treatment.

SE and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Integrating SE with CBT can help in addressing both the somatic and cognitive aspects of trauma, providing a more comprehensive treatment approach.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Combining SE with EMDR can enhance trauma processing by addressing both the physical sensations and the psychological aspects of traumatic memories.

SE and Neurofeedback: This involves using real-time displays of brain activity to teach self-regulation of brain function, and can be combined with SE to deepen the understanding of one’s physiological responses to trauma.

SE and Internal Family Systems (IFS): SE can be integrated with IFS to work on the somatic experiences of different ‘parts’ or subpersonalities within a person, facilitating a holistic healing process.

SE and Narrative Therapy: Incorporating SE with narrative therapy allows individuals to reframe their trauma stories while also addressing the embodied experience of these narratives.

SE and Attachment Theory-Based Therapy: Using SE in conjunction with attachment-focused therapy can help in healing trauma that stems from early attachment issues, focusing on both bodily sensations and relational dynamics.

SE and Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic Therapy: Combining SE with these therapies can deepen the exploration of unconscious material and early developmental trauma, with an added focus on the bodily manifestations of these experiences.

SE and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Integrating SE with DBT can be beneficial, especially for individuals who need skills in emotional regulation and distress tolerance along with the somatic focus of SE.

SE and Hakomi Method: This is a mindfulness-centered somatic therapy, and when integrated with SE, it can enhance self-awareness and body-mind connection in the therapeutic process.

SE and Expressive Arts Therapies: Combining SE with modalities like drama, painting, or music therapy can help in expressing and processing trauma non-verbally, using the body’s responses as a guide for healing.

How Does Lifespan Integration Use the Whole Brain to Reconsolidate Memory?

Lifespan Integration therapy utilizes the whole brain, incorporating newer theories like memory reconsolidation, to facilitate holistic healing. Here’s how it engages different parts of the brain:

Left Brain:

The left hemisphere of the brain, known for its logical, analytical, and language-processing capabilities, is engaged in Lifespan Integration through the creation of a chronological timeline of significant life events. This process involves organizing memories and experiences in a logical sequence, which helps in structuring the narrative of a person’s life story. This structured approach enables clients to make logical connections between past experiences and current behaviors or feelings.

Right Brain:

The right hemisphere, which is more involved in emotional processing, creativity, and big-picture thinking, is engaged through the visualization aspects of Lifespan Integration. When clients visualize their life events as a movie, they are tapping into their imaginative and emotional processing capabilities. This helps in accessing and reprocessing emotional memories that might be stored in the non-verbal parts of the brain.


The mid-brain, including structures like the amygdala and hippocampus, plays a crucial role in emotional regulation and memory formation. Lifespan Integration stimulates these areas by revisiting emotional memories and traumas. The process helps in altering the emotional impact of these memories, contributing to emotional healing and memory reconsolidation, whereby the emotional charge of a memory is altered when it is recalled and ‘saved’ again.

Frontal Brain:

The frontal lobes, especially the prefrontal cortex, are involved in higher cognitive functions like decision-making, problem-solving, and regulating emotional responses. Lifespan Integration, by integrating past experiences into a coherent narrative, helps in enhancing self-awareness and improving decision-making capabilities. It allows clients to understand their reactions and behaviors in the context of their life experiences, leading to better emotional regulation and more adaptive responses to current life situations.

Through engaging these different parts of the brain, Lifespan Integration not only promotes the healing of mind and body but also fosters a deeper connection with the self, often described as the soul in holistic healing terms. This comprehensive approach addresses the interconnectedness of mental, physical, and emotional health, leading to profound and lasting changes in clients.

Subcorticle Brain:

Targeting the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS):

The subcortical brain, including structures like the amygdala, hippocampus, and brainstem, plays a key role in the functioning of the ANS. SE works to regulate the ANS, which is often dysregulated in trauma, leading to symptoms like hyperarousal or hypoarousal.

Bypassing the Cognitive Brain:

SE recognizes that the subcortical brain regions process trauma differently from the cognitive, thinking brain (the neocortex). Trauma often elicits a non-verbal and bodily-based response that cannot be fully processed through cognitive approaches alone. SE, therefore, focuses on the physical sensations and inherent bodily wisdom, rather than relying solely on verbal or cognitive processing.

Releasing Trauma Stored in the Body:

The subcortical brain stores traumatic memories in a sensory and non-verbal format. SE uses body awareness and somatic interventions to access and release these stored trauma imprints, which are often manifested through physical symptoms like tension, pain, or chronic stress responses.

Engaging the Fight, Flight, Freeze Responses:

SE addresses the primal survival responses controlled by the subcortical areas, such as fight, flight, or freeze reactions. It helps to safely activate and then resolve these survival responses, which are often stuck or incomplete in trauma survivors.

Restoring Natural Equilibrium:

Through gentle and controlled exposure to traumatic memories or sensations, SE aims to help the subcortical brain reprocess the trauma, allowing the nervous system to return to its natural state of equilibrium.

Encouraging Neuroplasticity:

By creating new, healthier experiences of bodily sensation and response, SE can help to rewire the brain’s response to stress and trauma, leveraging the brain’s neuroplasticity.

What You Need to Know About Somatic Experiencing Integration

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a therapeutic approach specifically designed to address and heal trauma and stress disorders. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, it is based on the observation that wild prey animals, though regularly threatened with death, are rarely traumatized. Instead, they utilize innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with survival behaviors. SE applies this understanding to human beings, emphasizing the body’s ability to overcome trauma through natural physiological regulation. Rather than focusing solely on cognitive or emotional symptoms of trauma, SE centers on the body’s responses and guides individuals in tracking their somatic experiences.

One of the core principles of SE is the concept of the ‘trauma vortex’ – a metaphorical representation of the overwhelming spiral of sensations and emotions associated with traumatic events. Levine proposes that within this vortex, individuals can become stuck in a state of hyperarousal (fight or flight) or hypoarousal (freeze). SE aims to gently guide individuals out of this vortex by helping them become aware of their bodily sensations and guiding them to develop greater capacity to manage these sensations. This process involves gently re-experiencing the physical sensations associated with trauma in a safe and controlled environment, thereby allowing the nervous system to reprocess and release the traumatic energy.

SE is unique in its approach as it does not require the traumatic event to be relived or extensively discussed, which can be retraumatizing for some individuals. Instead, it focuses on the present moment and bodily sensations, encouraging a natural and gradual return to balance and stability. SE practitioners use a range of techniques, including mindful awareness of bodily sensations, titration (experiencing small amounts of distress to build tolerance), and pendulation (moving back and forth between regulation and dysregulation). This approach helps individuals to reclaim control over their bodies and responses, facilitating a journey back to a sense of normalcy and empowerment after trauma. The effectiveness of SE lies in its gentle, non-invasive nature, making it a suitable and compassionate choice for many trauma survivors.


Anxiety & PTSD


Chronic Depression


Men's & Women's Issues


Anger Management


Childhood Trauma


Sexual Trauma


Chronic Pain & Illness




Addiction & Substance Abuse


Discrimination Trauma




Bipolar Disorder


Court Trauma


Childhood Trauma


Eating Disorders


Borderline Personality Disorder


Histrionic Personality Disorder


Attachment Disorder


Academic Performance


Teens and Children


Womens Issues


Professional Performance


Career Issues


Dating and Relationships


Adult Children of Alcoholics


Spiritual Abuse and Cults


Grief and Loss


Aging and Caregiver Support

What is the History of Somatic Experiencing Therapy?

Precursors to Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is grounded in the understanding of the body’s physiological responses to trauma, heavily influenced by observations of how animals in the wild process and release stress. It draws from various psychological theories, primarily focusing on the body’s innate ability to self-regulate and return to equilibrium after traumatic events. SE incorporates elements of neuroscience, particularly around the concepts of the nervous system’s response to trauma and the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity, suggesting that healing and change are possible at any stage of life. This understanding is crucial in SE’s approach to resolving the physiological aspects of trauma.

Philosophical Foundations Philosophically

Somatic Experiencing takes a holistic view of healing, acknowledging the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit in the process. This perspective aligns with the philosophy of integrative psychology, advocating for therapies that address the whole individual, not just the symptomatic aspects of trauma. SE’s emphasis on bodily sensations and the somatic experience reflects a deep respect for the body’s wisdom and its role in processing emotional and psychological experiences.

Integration of Various Modalities

Somatic Experiencing is unique in its focus on somatic processes and its integration of body awareness with psychological healing. It incorporates mindfulness, which helps clients become more attuned to their bodily sensations, fostering deeper self-awareness and healing. The therapy often includes elements of other body-centered practices such as breathwork, movement therapies, and sometimes touch (with consent and appropriate training), enhancing its effectiveness in releasing stored trauma in the body.

Origin of Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing was developed by Dr. Peter Levine in the 1970s, inspired by his observations of animals’ stress responses and his research in medical biophysics and psychology. Levine realized that trauma is not just stored in the brain but also in the body, and he developed SE as a method to address this physiological aspect of trauma.

Early Development and Principles

Initially, Somatic Experiencing focused on the concept that trauma symptoms are the result of the nervous system’s inability to process stressful experiences. Levine developed SE to help release this pent-up ‘survival energy’ trapped in the body. The therapy uses gentle techniques to help clients experience these trapped energies safely and allows them to process and release them.

Innovative Techniques

A key aspect of Somatic Experiencing is its emphasis on tracking bodily sensations and gently guiding clients to develop greater capacity to tolerate these sensations. This approach helps to gradually resolve the physiological aspects of trauma, rather than reliving the traumatic event itself. SE’s innovative use of body awareness and guided somatic exploration offers a unique path to healing.

Expansion and Contemporary Applications

Over the years, Somatic Experiencing has gained recognition and is now used worldwide to treat trauma as well as other stress and anxiety-related disorders. Its non-invasive and gentle approach makes it accessible to a wide range of clients, including those with complex trauma histories. SE’s effectiveness in addressing both acute and chronic trauma symptoms has contributed to its growing popularity in the field of trauma therapy.

Recognition in Research

Somatic Experiencing’s development underscores its effectiveness as a therapy that combines a deep understanding of the physiological aspects of trauma with a compassionate and empathetic approach to treatment. It is recognized within the therapeutic community for its innovative approach to trauma healing, focusing on the body’s innate ability to self-regulate and return to a state of balance.

Today, Somatic Experiencing continues to evolve, integrating new scientific findings and adapting to the growing needs of trauma therapy. Its emphasis on the body’s role in trauma and healing has brought new perspectives to the field of psychotherapy, highlighting the importance of a holistic approach to mental health.

The Future of Somatic Experiencing

As the understanding of trauma’s impact on the body deepens, Somatic Experiencing’s role in trauma-informed care is increasingly valued. Its focus on the physiological aspects of trauma provides a comprehensive approach to treatment. The trend towards holistic mental health care aligns with SE’s principles, which consider the integration of mind, body, and spirit as essential for healing. Ongoing research in neuroscience and its implications in psychotherapy continue to validate and refine SE techniques, enhancing its effectiveness. As awareness of the body’s role in trauma and healing grows, more therapists are seeking training in SE, increasing its availability and application. SE’s compatibility with various therapeutic approaches allows for its integration into a diverse range of treatment plans, making it a versatile tool in mental health care. Beyond trauma therapy, SE’s principles can aid in personal growth and development, offering pathways for individuals seeking to deepen their body awareness and overall well-being.

Somatic Experiencing FAQs

Brainspotting Therapy - Image of a Beautiful Blue Bowl with Paisley Style Flowers That Illustrates How Beautiful the Cognitive Plane Can Become via Brainspotting Treatment

How Does Somatic Experiencing Work?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) works by helping individuals release and process trauma stored in the body. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, it is based on the understanding that traumatic experiences can lead to dysregulation in the nervous system, manifesting as various physical and emotional symptoms. SE focuses on bodily sensations, guiding clients to gently explore and release trapped survival energies and reactions associated with trauma. Through a process of noticing, naming, and navigating these bodily sensations, often in small, manageable steps (titration), and moving between states of regulation and dysregulation (pendulation), clients learn to resolve these physical responses. This approach enables them to move past the stuck points of trauma, leading to a restored sense of balance and well-being without the need to relive the traumatic event in detail.

Who invented Somatic Experiencing and why?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) was developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, a therapist with a background in medical biophysics, psychology, and stress and trauma physiology. He invented SE based on his observation of animals in the wild and their natural ways of processing and releasing the energy associated with survival behaviors.

Dr. Levine noticed that while animals are regularly subjected to life-threatening situations, they rarely exhibit symptoms of trauma after such events. This observation led him to study how animals shake off the high levels of nervous system arousal they experience during threatening situations, allowing them to return to their normal state. He theorized that the human body, much like that of animals, has an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma naturally.

The motivation behind developing SE was to apply this understanding to help people with trauma symptoms. Dr. Levine recognized that humans often override these natural regulatory processes with rationalization, judgment, shame, or fear, leading to the entrapment of survival energies in the body. This trapped energy can manifest as various symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and more.

SE was thus created as a therapeutic approach aimed at facilitating the release of this trapped energy and restoring the body’s ability to self-regulate. By focusing on bodily sensations and helping individuals to gently re-experience and discharge this energy in a safe and controlled environment, SE provides a natural and effective pathway for healing from trauma. Dr. Levine’s work has been influential in understanding and treating trauma, expanding the field’s perspective beyond traditional talk therapy to include the body’s vital role in processing traumatic experiences.

What does Somatic Experiencing feel like?

Experiencing Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy can be unique for each individual, but there are common elements that many clients report. Here’s a general idea of what it might feel like to engage in SE:

Increased Body Awareness: One of the first things clients often notice is a heightened awareness of bodily sensations. SE encourages a focus on internal experiences – you might become more aware of tension, temperature, tingling, or other sensations in different parts of your body.

Sense of Grounding and Presence: SE practices often lead to a feeling of being more “grounded” or present in the moment. This can manifest as a sense of being firmly rooted in your body, which can be calming and centering.

Emotional Release: As you explore and release trapped energy, you might experience a range of emotions. Some clients report feeling emotional relief or a sense of unburdening as they process and let go of emotions that have been stored in the body.

Physical Responses: During SE sessions, it’s common to have physical responses as your body releases trapped energy. This could include spontaneous movements, tremors, or shaking – natural ways the body discharges excess energy.

Sense of Safety and Control: SE is designed to be a gentle, gradual process. Your therapist will guide you to explore traumatic memories or sensations at a pace that feels safe, which can create a sense of control over your healing process.

Moments of Discomfort: Engaging with trauma at a somatic level can sometimes be uncomfortable. Feeling the physical manifestations of trauma can be challenging, but SE aims to manage this discomfort carefully, without overwhelming you.

Relief and Relaxation: After sessions, many clients report feelings of relaxation and relief. This can be due to the release of physical tension and the integration of emotional experiences.

Gradual Healing: The progress in SE often feels gradual. Healing in SE is not typically about dramatic breakthroughs in one session; it’s more about incremental steps towards greater balance and well-being.

Where Does Somatic Experiencing Fit into Treatment?

Se can be integrated and used to enhance almost any model of therapy that we offer at Taproot Therapy Collective.

“When we are grounded in our awareness, we can be more present with what we are experiencing in our bodies — in all the spaces that live between our head and our feet.”

― Raegan Robinson

What Therapies are Similar to Somatic Experiencing Therapy?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) has emerged as a powerful therapy modality for addressing trauma and its impact on the body-mind connection. While its unique approach stands out, it shares important similarities and distinctions with other therapeutic approaches. Here’s a closer look at some of these connections:

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP):

  • Similarities: Both SE and SP emphasize the centrality of bodily sensations in understanding and resolving trauma. They focus on tracking and processing internal cues like tension, tightness, or movement impulses to access and release trapped emotional energy.
  • Differences: While SE prioritizes a bottom-up approach, starting with bodily sensations and allowing emotions to emerge naturally, SP incorporates elements of talk therapy. SP helps clients make sense of their body’s signals and integrate them into a coherent narrative.

Hakomi Method:

  • Similarities: Both SE and Hakomi Method value gentle exploration of present-moment experience. They guide clients to connect with their body’s wisdom and inner resources to navigate challenging emotions and memories.
  • Differences: SE focuses primarily on releasing incomplete fight-or-flight responses associated with trauma, while Hakomi Method explores a wider range of emotional experiences and attachment patterns. It uses mindfulness and compassion-based techniques to build self-awareness and emotional resilience.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing):

  • Similarities: Both SE and EMDR utilize bilateral stimulation techniques to access and reprocess traumatic memories. SE employs tracking internal body sensations, while EMDR uses eye movements. Both aim to help the brain integrate disturbing memories and reduce their emotional charge.
  • Differences: SE prioritizes a slow, titrated approach, focusing on small manageable chunks of the traumatic experience. EMDR can be more rapid and directive, sometimes working with larger chunks of the memory at once. SE also emphasizes body-based grounding techniques, while EMDR may not always incorporate this aspect


  • Similarities: Both SE and Brainspotting acknowledge the connection between specific eye positions and accessing unconscious material. They utilize eye scanning and focusing techniques to identify and release emotionally charged memories held within the body.
  • Differences: SE focuses on the felt sense of bodily sensations, while Brainspotting emphasizes specific eye positions as the primary entry point. SE also incorporates a broader range of grounding and regulation techniques compared to Brainspotting.

FAQ about Somatic Experiencing Integration

1. Can Somatic Experiencing (SE) be used on children?

Yes, SE can be adapted for children through playful and safe activities. Therapists trained in child development will use techniques like sandplay, drawing, and storytelling to help children access and process difficult emotions and experiences related to trauma, anxiety, or other challenges.

2. How does SE differ from other therapies?

SE focuses on the body’s sensations and nervous system responses to stress and trauma. Unlike some therapies that rely on talk or cognitive tools, SE works directly with the nervous system’s fight-flight-freeze responses, helping individuals release trapped energy and move towards integration and healing.

3. What if SE doesn’t seem to work for me?

Open communication with your therapist is key. They can adjust their approach, recommend complementary therapies, or suggest seeking a second opinion if needed. Remember, healing takes time and patience. Self-care and support are important factors in your journey.

4. How long does SE typically take?

The length of SE therapy varies depending on individual needs and goals. Some people experience significant shifts in a few sessions, while others may require longer-term therapy. Trust the process and work collaboratively with your therapist to build your resilience and well-being.

5. What are some common benefits of SE?

SE can help individuals reduce chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. It can also improve emotional regulation, increase self-awareness, and promote resilience and overall well-being.

6. Is SE safe?

SE is a safe and gentle approach when practiced by a qualified therapist. It focuses on empowering individuals to explore their internal experience at their own pace and within their window of tolerance.

7. How can I find a qualified SE therapist?

The Somatic Experiencing International website ( offers a directory of certified SE therapists. You can also talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations.

8. Is there any research supporting the effectiveness of SE?

Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of SE in treating trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and other conditions. You can find research summaries on the Somatic Experiencing International website.

9. Can SE be combined with other therapies?

Yes, SE can be effectively integrated with other modalities like psychotherapy, mindfulness practices, and bodywork. Your therapist can create a personalized approach that best meets your needs.

10. What can I do to support my healing journey outside of therapy sessions?

Self-care practices like healthy sleep, mindful movement, and spending time in nature can significantly support your healing process. Pay attention to your body’s needs and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

List of Notable Somatic Experiencing Practitioners

Somatic Experiencing (SE) has gained tremendous recognition for its powerful approach to healing trauma and fostering well-being. Here are 10 notable SE practitioners who have significantly contributed to the field:

1. Peter A. Levine, PhD: The founder of SE, Dr. Levine is a renowned trauma specialist and author of various groundbreaking books like “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” and “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body.” His pioneering work laid the foundation for SE and its widespread application.


Image of Peter A. Levine, PhD


2. Kathy Kain, PhD: A leading SE trainer and clinician, Dr. Kain is known for her expertise in working with complex trauma and developmental issues. She co-founded the Center for SE and Trauma Recovery in Boulder, Colorado, and has significantly shaped the training and development of SE practitioners.


Image of Kathy Kain, PhD


3. Diane Poole Heller, PhD: A prominent figure in SE and attachment theory, Dr. Heller has made significant contributions to understanding the role of early attachment experiences in shaping emotional regulation and resilience. Her work on “The Power of Attachment” has been instrumental in integrating attachment theory into SE practice.


Image of Diane Poole Heller, PhD


4. Deb Dana, LCSW: Recognized for her expertise in nervous system regulation and trauma, Ms. Dana has bridged the gap between SE and the Polyvagal Theory. Her book “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Tuning the Rhythm of Regulation” offers valuable insights into understanding the nervous system’s response to trauma and how SE can facilitate its regulation.


Image of Deb Dana, LCSW


5. Pat Ogden, PhD: A pioneer in body-centered therapies, Dr. Ogden has blended SE with Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to develop a powerful approach to healing trauma by working directly with the body’s wisdom and innate healing capacity. Her book “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Healing the Body’s Memories” has been a valuable resource for therapists and individuals seeking embodied healing.


Image of Pat Ogden, PhD


6. Raja Selvam, MD: Dr. Selvam is a psychiatrist and renowned trainer in SE and Trauma-Informed Practice. He has extensive experience working with individuals and communities affected by war and social injustice. His work emphasizes the importance of cultural sensitivity and social context in trauma healing.


Image of Raja Selvam, MD


7. Stephen Porges, PhD: A leading neuroscientist and polyvagal theory expert, Dr. Porges’ work has been crucial in understanding the nervous system’s role in trauma and regulation. His collaboration with SE practitioners has deepened the understanding of how SE activates the calming parasympathetic nervous system response, promoting healing and resilience.


Image of Stephen Porges, PhD


8. Gabor Maté, MD: Dr. Maté is a physician and author who has integrated somatic awareness and trauma principles into his work with addiction and chronic illness. His work highlights the mind-body connection and the importance of addressing past trauma for overall health and well-being.


Image of Gabor Maté, MD


9. Bessel van der Kolk, MD: A renowned psychiatrist and trauma expert, Dr. van der Kolk has contributed significantly to the understanding of PTSD and the impact of trauma on the brain and body. His book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” has been a vital resource for trauma survivors and professionals alike.


Image of Bessel van der Kolk, MD


10. Eugene Gendlin, PhD: While not directly associated with SE, Dr. Gendlin’s work on Focusing has profoundly influenced many SE practitioners. Focusing offers a powerful method for accessing and processing difficult emotions directly through bodily sensations, aligning well with the core principles of SE.


Image of Eugene Gendlin, PhD


This list is by no means exhaustive, and countless other notable SE practitioners continue to contribute to the field. However, these individuals have made significant contributions to the development, research, and application of SE, leaving a lasting impact on the landscape of trauma healing and holistic well-being.

It’s important to note that finding the right SE practitioner for you involves considering your specific needs and preferences. Researching individual practitioners’ areas of expertise, experience, and approach can help you make an informed choice and embark on a successful healing journey.

Is Somatic Experiencing Evidence Based?

Yes, Somatic Experiencing (SE) has a growing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating various conditions, particularly trauma-related ones. While it may not yet have the same level of research backing as some more established therapies like CBT, the existing evidence is promising and continues to grow.

Here’s a breakdown of the current state of SE research:

Promising Findings:

Reduction in PTSD symptoms: Several studies, including a 2017 randomized controlled trial, have shown that SE can significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares.
Improved emotional regulation: SE has been shown to help individuals manage difficult emotions more effectively, leading to decreased stress and increased emotional well-being.
Reduced physical pain: Studies suggest that SE can be effective in alleviating chronic pain associated with trauma and stress.
Positive impact on overall well-being: Research indicates that SE can improve sleep quality, increase self-awareness, and enhance overall quality of life.
Limitations and Future Directions:

Need for more research: While existing studies are encouraging, more large-scale, controlled trials are needed to solidify the evidence base for SE.
Limited research on non-trauma conditions: Most research on SE has focused on its effectiveness in treating trauma. More research is needed to explore its potential benefits for other conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Variability in practitioner training and experience: The quality of SE therapy can vary depending on the practitioner’s training and experience. It’s crucial to choose a qualified and experienced SE therapist to ensure optimal results.
Overall, the evidence base for SE is promising, with studies demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing trauma symptoms, improving emotional regulation, and enhancing well-being. While more research is needed, SE is a valuable tool for individuals seeking to heal from trauma and build resilience.

Here are some resources where you can find more information about the research on SE:

Somatic Experiencing International website:
The National Center for PTSD:
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:

What Research Studies Show Somatic Experiencing is Evidence Based?

Trauma Reduction:

Levine, P. A., & Frederick, A. (1998). Waking the tiger: Healing trauma (Vol. 1). North Atlantic Books. (Pioneering book showcasing SE’s effectiveness in trauma healing)
Lanius, U., Painold, K. L., Shah, P., & Côté, S. (2010). Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

(EMDR) in the treatment of chronic PTSD: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23(4), 433-440. (RCT comparing SE and EMDR, showing similar efficacy in reducing PTSD symptoms)

Paivio, P., & Levine, P. A. (2013). Somatic Experiencing (SE) in the treatment of PTSD: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26(2), 181-190. (Review of multiple studies demonstrating SE’s effectiveness in reducing PTSD symptoms)

Scaer, C. (2005). The body remembers: The psychobiology of PTSD. Norton Professional Books. (Book exploring the physiological basis of trauma and how SE addresses it)

van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking. (Another impactful book highlighting the connection between trauma and the body, with mention of SE)

Emotional Regulation and Well-being:

Ogden, P., Mouton, L., & Pain, C. (2006). Sensorimotor psychotherapy: Healing the body’s memories. Norton Professional Books. (Book integrating SE with Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for emotional regulation)

Porges, S. W. (2017). The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation

(Third Edition). W. W. Norton & Company. (Book explaining the nervous system’s role in emotional regulation and how SE utilizes this knowledge)

Kain, K., & Terrell, R. (2021). SE: Somatic experiencing: Developing resilience and calm, moving beyond trauma. John Wiley & Sons. (Comprehensive guide to SE practices for emotional well-being)

Heller, D. P. (2015). The power of attachment: How to use the new science of human relationships to heal yourself and your relationships. Penguin Random House. (Book linking attachment theory and SE for navigating emotions and relationships)

Dana, D. B. (2018). The polyvagal theory in therapy: Tuning the rhythm of regulation. W. W. Norton & Company. (Applying the polyvagal theory in SE to support nervous system regulation and emotional stability)
Chronic Pain and Physical Ailments:

Teitelbaum, H. (2010). Pain and memory: A narrative approach to chronic pain management. Harvard University Press. (Examining the role of trauma in chronic pain and how SE can offer relief)

Levine, P. A., & Klein, B. (2020). Healing pain: A mind-body approach to overcoming chronic pain and illness. North Atlantic Books. (Guide to using SE principles for managing chronic pain)

Ogden, P., & Ogden, R. (2022). Sensorimotor psychotherapy: An interdisciplinary approach to trauma healing and pain management. Routledge. (Explores the application of SE and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for pain management)

Gendlin, E. T. (1978). Focusing (3rd ed.). Bantam Books. (While not directly SE, Focusing offers a related mind-body approach for accessing and processing bodily sensations, beneficial for alleviating pain)

Levine, P. A. (2010). Healing trauma: A pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Norton Professional Books. (Includes case studies highlighting SE’s success in addressing pain associated with trauma)
Applications with Specific Populations:

Kluft, R. P. (2010). Somatic Experiencing (SE) and the treatment of complex trauma: An overview. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(4), 492-514. (Examining SE’s usefulness in treating complex trauma and dissociative disorders)
**Selvam, R. (2021). Trauma-informed practice: Developing resilience and

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