Somatic (body-centered) trauma therapy acknowledges just how much is stored within the physical body. Trauma lives in our cells, and deep in our bones. It runs through our nervous systems; it runs through the generations. And as loaded a term as “trauma” is, trauma is also normal. If you live in a human body, you have experienced trauma of some kind. Anytime you have experienced something life-threatening, seemingly life-threatening, or so overwhelming that you couldn’t fully process it, it gets stored in our nervous systems. These stored traumatic experiences impact the ways we show up in the world, our relationships, and our work. We all have this backlog of unprocessed or unresolved emotions, tensions, and traumas; our bodies have stories to tell, songs to sing, dances to dance, and pain to release and transmute.
It is through somatic body-centered awareness practices and trauma resolution techniques that we may heal from overwhelming experiences, cultivate a more balanced mental state, move on from post-traumatic stress, and live into a passionate and meaningful life of growth and thriving.
“Our bodies are filled with superpowers called resources; deep pools of wisdom and goodness which are always available to support us in moving through and beyond trauma, towards wholeness.”
Just as our challenges have been documented in the body, so have our successes. Our resilience, health, and brilliant sanity all live in the body as well. Our bodies are filled with superpowers called resources; deep pools of wisdom and goodness which are always available to support us in moving through and beyond trauma, towards wholeness. We are not defined as the sum of our traumas. We are vast and complicated beings, capable of more than we know. Somatic trauma work helps us to see this.
Who is best suited for Somatic Trauma Therapy?
This modality has been successful for a wide range of clients, regardless of how much or what kinds of traumas they have been through. Many people have tried years of talk therapy but feel that it is limiting in terms of how much it can help them. They’re educated and understand how trauma gets lodged in the nervous system, but they don’t feel better. Somatic work approaches things from a completely different perspective, and clients report deep relief and transformation occurring through this process.
Some examples of traumas that can be resolved through somatic work:
- Single-event traumas: those huge moments that change you and alter the course of your life. Perhaps you think of your life as in two parts; before that thing happened, and after that thing happened. Some examples include accidents, surgeries, assaults, and other losses.
- Ongoing, long-term or developmental traumas: the challenges you experienced again and again, perhaps thinking they were normal or were what you deserved, until one day you realized they weren’t normal and you deserve much much better. For example: growing up in unsafe households or being in unsafe relationships.
- Recovery from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Trauma: sexual abuse and sexual inappropriateness are rampant in our culture, yet often remain in the shadows and unspoken about. You are not alone. Whether you have conscious memories of very difficult experiences, or a more general discomfort with sexuality but aren’t sure exactly why, somatic trauma therapy supports both men and women in restoring safety and confidence in their bodies, calmness in their nervous systems, and openness and possibility in their intimate relationships. Counsel may also extend to supportive partners who want to help their loved one process his or her history with sexual abuse.
- Heartbreak/ache and break-ups that seemingly shatter your foundation and make you start over: When we take emotional risks and open our hearts and bodies with someone and it doesn’t work out, the very foundation we stand on can crumble. Our sleep, ability to function, and willingness to engage the world can be shattered— yet with the right support we do move through it.
- Birth, Pre- and Perinatal trauma: the physical and emotional safety our mothers experience (or don’t experience) while gestating, birthing, and raising us deeply impacts our developing nervous systems and thus our way of experiencing the world. Resolution of these early imprints is so liberating! And it is entirely possible to work through birth trauma even if you or your mother don’t remember what happened.
- Ancestral Muck: unhealthy patterns that have been considered “normal” in your family, life-changing events that altered the course of your family for generations (such as immigration or war), or generations-old ways of being and thinking that aren’t particularly healthy but are just habits your family has developed over the years, perhaps simply because it didn’t occur to anyone to do anything differently.
- Bullying and Being Bullied: Our culture lacks in teaching kids how to work with difficult emotions. This leaves so many a victim to verbal and physical violence. Bullying often happens during our most vulnerable and critical years— exactly when we’re supposed to be figuring out who we are, deciding if we like and appreciate ourselves, and deciding if we trust others or not. The long-term consequences may be low self-esteem, shame, and depression for both the bully and the bullied.
What does somatic trauma therapy look like?
It is quite different than talk therapy in that we’re not just discussing things on the cognitive level. Most of life’s biggest questions can’t be answered only by the mind. Our hearts, our guts, our bodies — this is where deep wisdom resides. Somatic trauma therapy invites clients into deeper body awareness and to notice the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which their bodies are always communicating with them. We notice how our breathing changes, how our necks tighten, or how our bellies soften when discussing certain life topics, and this process guides us through the resolution of trauma. You can’t resolve post-traumatic stress disorder by thinking about it all differently. It’s about re-learning how to feel safe and supported in your body, and how to feel like yourself again, after trauma took hold of you for some time.