Somatic Experiencing® (SE)

Somatic Experiencing® works to heal trauma and stress through the experience of the body, and a deliberate focus on the patient’s physiological state, ie. fight, flight, or freeze. The Somatic Experiencing® approach was created by Dr. Peter A. Levine as a fusion of extensive study in stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics. Its brilliant synthesis of diverse practices makes this method approachable to many. Somatic Experiencing® is an especially potent approach in regards to healing trauma as it helps release emotional intensity often inaccessible and/or overwhelming. Because of this, Somatic Experiencing® is effective in helping patients progress past PTSD and early developmental traumas.

The Somatic Experiencing® approach was created through Dr. Levine’s intensive study of the effect of stress on the animal nervous system. Initially, he observed that animals don’t show symptoms of trauma the way humans do — despite that their survival is under regular threat. He realized that animals have an innate process for moving through the “survival energy” that the nervous system creates as it deciphers whether it must fight, flight, or freeze. The natural animal process is shaking or trembling until the energy is moved through (if you have pets, you may have noticed this before!). If the energy isn’t moved through via some physiological process, then part of the nervous system still thinks it is under attack — thereby affecting the overall wellbeing of the animal. As it turns out, the human central nervous system is not so different. But humans have not learned an effective process for processing survival energy post-trauma. That is, until Somatic Experiencing®.

With Somatic Experiencing®, patients are able to work through their traumas by practicing specific clinical tools that release the survival energy stuck in the body. This incomplete survival energy, stored in the physical body through sensations and movements, is the impetus of trauma symptoms. Somatic Experiencing® is a unique approach to therapy as it works with the body first, versus the mind. This is what is referred to as “bottom-up processing.” The process begins by noticing the physical symptoms of trauma. Therapy is then used to better understand the behaviors and actions associated with those physical symptoms. While this technique does work to move trauma-related energy through the body, thereby soothing the mind, the process is gradual. It only happens at the rate that the patient is comfortable with. Somatic Experiencing® practitioners are skilled at pacing this approach to fit the needs and comfortability of the patient. This intentionally slow process is called titration, and it actually helps the patient develop stress-coping skills and present moment awareness. Patients find that this supports them to not only heal, but create a more balanced experience of life and its inevitable cycles.

Somatic Experiencing® is a gentle process that sets free the body sensations associated with trauma, while allowing emotions to process in a healthy way. Somatic Experiencing® is a holistic approach to working through life traumas. While it is gentle, patients experience profound benefits from this method as it integrates body, mind, and emotions. Colorado CBT is a Denver clinic that offers Somatic Experiencing® as a form of treatment.