Ask the expert: What is somatic therapy?

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Ask the expert: What is somatic therapy?

There are lots of different therapy types available, depending on what you’re seeking support for. While it may feel intimidating at first, having this choice means you can explore which approach is right for you. One increasingly popular approach is somatic therapy.

Here clinical psychologist Dr Selina Tour highlights this incredible therapy and how it can help.


What is somatic therapy? Your questions answered

Can you tell us what somatic therapy is and the premise behind it?

The body is viewed as an important source of information – telling us important information about ourselves and our difficulties – and as such, in somatic therapy we bring the body and all that it tells us into the therapy process. The premise behind it is that our experiences and previous traumas are stored in our bodies – in its sensations, urges and movements. 

Sometimes unresolved trauma and conflict can get stuck in the body and somatic therapies aim to treat the somatic symptoms of our difficulties through understanding the body, what it is conveying to us, releasing trauma through it and finding ways to be in a state of wellbeing.

What are some of the techniques that may be used in a somatic therapy session?

There are different types of somatic therapies and each may incorporate the body in varying ways. Your therapist may notice how your body responds to what you say through a process of tracking. This helps to notice how your nervous system is relating to what you say. For example, they may notice that your hands become restless when you discuss a difficulty or your body slumping when you talk about feeling powerless.

You may focus on a somatic experience such as restlessness to better understand it, paying attention to how it impacts your sensations, movements and signals.

You may also experiment with body-based techniques to notice what supports you. For example, you may use your breathing and movement to see how it impacts on the somatic experience. This can help to release trauma, soothe, support and return us to our equilibrium. 

What can somatic therapy help with? 

Somatic therapy can help to reduce emotional and physical pain from trauma, relationship and attachment difficulties, anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints. It can help us understand why our body responds the way it does and find ways to return to a state of calm when we feel overwhelmed, stressed or triggered. Clients often say they feel lighter and like they have been able to release what they are holding, making space for other things.

What should a client look for when searching for a somatic practitioner?

Look for a therapist who has trained in a somatic psychotherapy such as sensorimotor psychotherapy or somatic experiencing. You can ask potential therapists about their somatic training and how they incorporate it into their work to see if it fits for you. Also check out what therapists specialise in and if this is what you are looking for. 

Selina’s top three tips for getting more in tune with your mind-body connection

Body posture experiment: Hunch over your shoulders and slump in the chair. Notice how you generally feel in your body, notice your gaze, notice your energy. Next, sit up with your spine upright, but comfortable, with feet flat on the floor. Notice how you feel in this position. Experiment with the two positions and notice how a simple posture change can impact on your experience.

Music experiment: Play some upbeat music and notice how your body responds, notice if there is an urge to dance and move. Next, play some sad songs with a slow tempo and notice how your body responds differently and the emotions experienced.

Tense/release: Notice which part of your body is holding the most tension. Tense that area even more, hold for 5-10 seconds, then release. Repeat five times. Notice the difference between the tense/release states. 


This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (Issue 59). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app

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