You might hesitate to go to therapy because you don’t want to talk about your problems. Or perhaps you have tried cognitive behavioral talk therapy and found it triggering or unhelpful.
That makes sense. Talk therapy can be stressful, re-triggering, and may feel like you are spinning your wheels. However, it still can also be healing. Especially if combined with awareness of your own body, biology and nervous system.
Somatic psychotherapy combines the healing elements of talk therapy with awareness of associated body sensations. It’s conducted in such a way that you gain awareness of sensations in your body, reducing some symptoms while you work through old wounds.
Occasionally, therapeutic touch is used in somatic work and has been beneficial for people working through trauma.
Here are seven of the core benefits of this approach to therapy.
1. Therapeutic Touch Links Mind and Body
You are not just a head. Neither are you just a body.
Nevertheless, many of us operate as though we are one or the other. For example, during a panic attack, you might feel as if you are just a body that can’t breathe. It becomes challenging to combat that fear with logic. On the other hand, if you’ve experienced trauma, you might intellectually understand its impact on your life, yet feel detached from your body.
NeuroAffective Touch is a specific type of therapeutic training that bridges the mind-body gap. Through this somatic therapy, you can become increasingly aware of what’s happening both in your mind and your body. You are capable of top-down thinking (from the mind) as well as bottom-up understanding (through the body).
Working in both directions allows you to heal more fully.
2. It Helps to Work Through Attachment Issues
Many of us have attachment issues from childhood that show up again and again in our current relationships. There are various methods of working through these issues. However, somatic psychotherapy has been proven to be one of the most effective tools.
In his book “Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,” Dr. Allan Schore explains the developmental neuroscience behind this therapy’s effectiveness. It goes all the way back to your first attachment, with your mother or primary caregiver. That attachment was almost entirely nonverbal. You understood the world through your senses. And your mother conveyed emotions to you through touch.
As a result, you can reach new levels of attachment understanding by working with therapeutic touch. In other words, some of our most profound experiences are pre-verbal. Therefore, we can best access them through nonverbal therapies.
3. You Learn Skills to Rebalance the Body
I work within the Trauma Resiliency Model, which uses somatic therapy techniques to assist you in learning ways to bring your body back into balance. Trauma impacts the body. Even when the trauma is long over, its remnants can get stuck in the body.
Somatic therapy incorporates a wide range of techniques to help you regain your physical and emotional health. Through this therapy, you can learn methods to self-soothe, get grounded and centered, and stay connected to body, mind, and spirit.
These techniques are helpful whether or not you consider yourself to be a trauma survivor. They can reduce stress, increase mindful awareness, quell anxiety, and help with a variety of other issues.
4. It Helps You Improve Resiliency for the Future
Those skills that you learn won’t just benefit you now; they’ll also help your future self. That’s because they increase resiliency. No matter what you face in the future, you will be in a better state to work through those challenges.
One of the techniques used in somatic psychotherapy is called pendulation. This is a structured way of moving from a state of stress in the body to a state of calm and back again. As you do, you learn what your body feels like in different states. More importantly, you learn how to bring your body back to a calm state.
Learning this technique will serve you well in all future experiences. As a result, you’ll be able to reach towards greater goals because you will feel confident that you can handle what life throws at you.
5. Somatic Psychotherapy Re-Empowers You
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk studied trauma responses across war veterans, survivors of sexual abuse, and other populations. After working with people who lived through Hurricane Hugo, he came to understand that one of the most paralyzing aspects of trauma is the feeling of being completely powerless.
The brain’s amygdala responds to danger with a “fight-or-flight” response. However, sometimes our wires get crossed, and instead of doing either of those things, we freeze. The brain desperately wants to get us out of danger, but it can’t. As a result, we feel utterly disempowered.
Through working with the mind-body system, you can regain the feeling of empowerment that you lost in the past.
6. It Increases Engagement with Life
When your mind and body are in a state of disconnect, you can feel disengaged from life. You may feel like you are just going through the motions. It’s as though you’re present but aren’t fully there.
Somatic therapy helps you regain a sense of engagement with all areas of life. As you become free of physical, emotional, and psychological pain, you increase your ability to feel joy, freedom, and a greater range of positive emotions.
7. It’s a Chance to Try a New Approach
Many people have gone through several types of therapy in the past and don’t have good feelings about those experiences. In particular, therapy can trigger trauma, especially for people with PTSD. Sitting there and talking about bad things that have happened just isn’t helpful for some.
Somatic psychotherapy involves a measure of talking, but you don’t have to go over your entire past in great detail in order to move forward in therapy. If you’ve tried talk therapy in the past and are hesitant to go that route again, opening yourself up to the potential within somatic therapy can be a great stepping stone towards healing.
Contact me today with any questions that you have about somatic psychotherapy. I would be delighted to help you benefit from its power.