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Benefits of Holistic Healing with Somatic Therapy for Trauma and Stress

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By Jessica Carson, LMHC

Overview of Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and incorporates neuroscience and different bodywork practices such as mindfulness, movement, breath work, body scanning, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding, touch; massage and acupressure and emotional regulation. This therapy works on the principle that trauma gets trapped in the body, which may lead to PTSD symptoms and a dysregulated nervous system. Understanding our body’s role and response to trauma and stress is crucial for healing and can help regulate the nervous system and return to safety and stability. By learning how to recognize and change body responses to stress we gain a sense of empowerment and control. 

Body’s Response to Trauma and Stress

Trauma and long-term stress can trigger psychological responses in our bodies. 

Your fight, flight, or freeze response kicks in when your body perceives danger. This response causes an increased heart rate and hormones, like epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), to enter your bloodstream to stay and fight or run and flee danger. Once that threat has passed, however, your body needs to return to its resting state. 

When our body doesn’t go back to its normal state via the relaxation response, energy gets locked and stuck in the body’s nervous system. When this energy and arousal is not released, it causes several physical and emotional symptoms. 

During chronic stress, the body is in a constant state of physiological arousal as our nervous system becomes so overwhelmed that the brain cannot process what is happening or actual perceived threats. The effects of trauma and chronic stress on the brain create difficulty in regulating emotions and responding to fear. 

Techniques in Somatic Experiencing Therapy

Mindfulness and Body awareness: Involves mentally scanning the body from head to toe and mindful breathing to recognize and identify areas of tension in the body, as well as calming thoughts and feelings.

Grounding: Techniques that help connect ourselves the to present moment and utilize our senses to alleviate overwhelming emotions and calm our nervous system.

Pendulation: A therapist guides you from a relaxed state to one that feels similar to your traumatic experience. This allows the release of the pent-up energy. While the energy is released, you may feel uncomfortable or anxious. Each time, you will be guided back to a relaxed state. Over time, you will learn to get into a relaxed state on your own. 

Resourcing:  In this technique, you focus on a safe and peaceful time, places, people, or personal strengths and recall the good feelings and sensations associated with these resources to calm the body. 

Titration: This technique guides people through a traumatic memory while noting any accompanying physical sensations with a focus on releasing the tension from the body.

Movement: Includes acting out physical feelings through yoga, dance, and other movements to release tension and energy in the body.

Self-regulation: Learning skills and techniques such as breathwork, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding skills to move through emotions.

Power of Healing with Somatic Therapy

In conclusion, Somatic therapy is holistic body-based healing with the premise that we store emotions, experiences, and memories in our bodies, not just our minds. These techniques create empowerment transformative awareness and connection to deep-rooted beliefs. It is effective in helping individuals who struggle with all kinds of stress and trauma including anxiety, depression, relational issues, attachment insecurities, parenting, and other adversities. 

Embark on your journey towards holistic healing through somatic therapy, finding resilience in the face of trauma and stress—please reach out to us here at Fortitude Mental Health Counseling today.

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