Somatic therapy is a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses both psychotherapy and physical therapies for holistic healing. In addition to talk therapy, somatic therapy practitioners use mind-body exercises and other physical techniques to help release the pent-up tension that is negatively affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.
When It's Used
Somatic therapy can help people who suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, grief, addiction, problems with relationships, and sexual function, as well as issues related to trauma and abuse. Those for whom traditional remedies have not been helpful for chronic physical pain, digestive disorders and other medical issues may also benefit from somatic therapy. Somatic therapy techniques can be used in both individual and group therapy settings.
What to Expect
Somatic therapy combines talk therapy with what are sometimes considered alternative forms of physical therapy. The therapist helps you revive memories of traumatic experiences and pays attention to any physical responses you have once the memory is recovered. Physical techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and meditation are then used to help relieve symptoms. Some of the adjunctive physical techniques that may be used with somatic therapy include dance, exercise, yoga, or other types of movement, vocal work, and massage.
How It Works
The theory behind somatic therapy is that the mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all related and connected to each other. As a result, the stress of past emotional and traumatic events affects the central nervous system and can cause changes in the body and even in body language, often resulting in altered facial expressions and posture as well as physical pain. Through developing awareness of the mind-body connection and using specific interventions, somatic therapy helps you to release the tension, anger, frustration and other emotions that remain in your body from these past negative experiences. The goal is to help free you from the stress and pain that is preventing you from fully engaging in your life.
What to Look for in a Somatic Therapist
Somatic therapy can be integrated into other psychotherapy and counseling practices. Look for a licensed, experienced mental health professional with advanced, supervised training in somatic therapy techniques. In addition to finding someone with the appropriate educational background, experience and positive approach, look for a therapist with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal issues.
- United States Association for Body Psychotherapy
- Levine PA and Crane-Godreau MA. Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology. 4 Feb 2015.
- Cohen S. Coming to our senses: The application of Somatic Psychology to Group Psychotherapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. July 2011;61(3):397-413.