What is somatic experiencing?
I feel joyful to share some news! But first, how do I know that I’m feeling joy? I can feel it in my body! I first begin to notice my heart rate. It is not fast, not slow, it’s just right. I can feel a lightness in my chest and it goes out to my arms. My breathing feels expansive and light. I can notice a warm sensation that starts in the back of my neck, and runs down through my spine. I have a smile on my face and I can also sense a brightness in my eyes. This is a good feeling!
The news, which I am feeling joyful to share, is that I have started a new direction in my training and growth as a therapist! This past fall I applied, and was accepted, into a 3 year program to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP).
Last week, I completed the first, of several, 4 day learning and training sessions through Somatic Experiencing International. This was led and taught by the incredible Dr. Abi Blakeskee. Dr. Blakeslee also works closely with Dr. Peter Levine, the author of “Waking the Tiger” and creator of Somatic Experiencing as a therapeutic approach to healing.
After completing this initial intensive training, I am invigorated and refreshed! I have a new, and more clear, lens on my ability to help others and my role as a therapist. This modality and training has consolidated all my previous experience and various training. It has refocused all of it into a clear approach to care. It’s kind of like when you have been practicing and trying different things for a long time, and then, all of a sudden, it all clicks into place! It’s like finally being able to play a favorite song on the piano or hitting an elusive PR.
What is Somatic Experiencing?
In short, Somatic Experiencing practices, and teaches, techniques to help find safety, and experience it, in one’s own body.
This is developed through practices that enhance nervous system regulation and embodiment. The experiences throughout our development, and into adulthood, shape and program the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for letting us know, without thinking, if we are safe or unsafe. Oftentimes, the baseline programming is in great need of a system update due to past experiences in which the ANS is still signaling as a stored, unresolved threat.
Safely experiencing, in a therapeutic setting, how survival activation shows up in the body, aids in developing more conscious awareness of when we are in need of regulation and safety. A partnership is developed with the automatic safety system and the conscious self. A somatic therapist works with clients to either “up regulate” or “down regulate” depending on their nervous system state.
The body speaks, and when we know what to listen for, how to connect with the sensations in the body and track the flow, we can develop a more natural ability to self-regulate.
A Somatic therapist guides the client through the activation phase into a more regulated state. These experiences begin to help retrain the nervous system.
The resulting long term benefit is, without any effort, an increased ability to remain within the “window of tolerance.” This greatly contrasts with the helpless feeling of getting stuck in an “up or down” dysregulated state. As a person grows in developing resources and new experiences, the nervous system begins to heal. There will be a more fluid and rhythmic movement in the nervous system, the body and through life’s full range of stressors.
I am also feeling joyful because I have personally benefited from Somatic experiences myself!
A requirement of the training is for students to meet with their own Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP). I have first hand experience of the healing happening within my own nervous system through these techniques! In the coming months, I will be doing more educational and practical blogs on Somatic therapy, the nervous system, “the window of tolerance ”, “up regulation and down regulation” and skills you can practice on your own to aid in regulation. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this, or have any questions, please contact me and we can schedule a free consultation!