How Somatic Therapy Can Help Patients Suffering from Psychological Trauma

A variety of therapies for trauma victims is emerging, and it is satisfying to know of additional ways to assist trauma-impacted individuals.

When a cognitive approach may not be first choice

We are finding that traditional cognitive approaches for individuals who are not in the cognitive part of their brain seem to be less effective than the more sensory types of therapy.  Following is an article by Kauser Khan that features somatic therapy as a way to help trauma-impacted individuals.

Whatever happens in our lives impacts our mind either consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes events — such as the unexpected death of a loved one, illness, fearful thoughts, near-death accidents or experiences — result in traumas. Psychological trauma causes damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event.

How Somatic Psychotherapy Helps

Somatic psychotherapy is one of the best ways to help patients suffering from psychological traumas cope, recover and live a normal life. The word somatic is derived from the Greek word “soma” which means living body. Somatic therapy is a holistic therapy that studies the relationship between the mind and body in regard to psychological past. The theory behind somatic therapy is that trauma symptoms are the effects of instability of the ANS (autonomic nervous system). Past traumas disrupt the ANS.

According to somatic psychologists, our bodies hold on to past traumas which are reflected in our body language, posture and also expressions. In some cases past traumas may manifest physical symptoms like pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction and immune system dysfunction, medical issues, depression, anxiety and addiction.

However, through somatic psychotherapy the ANS can again return to homeostasis. This therapy has been found to be quite useful in providing relief to disturbed patients and treating many physical and mental symptoms resulting from past traumas.

Somatic psychology confirms that the mind and body connection is deeply rooted. In recent years neuroscience has emerged with evidence that supports somatic psychology, showing how the mind influences the body and how the body influences the mind.

How it Works

The main goal of somatic therapy is recognition and release of physical tension that may remain in the body in the aftermath of a traumatic event. The therapy sessions typically involve the patient tracking his or her experience of sensations throughout the body. Depending on the form of somatic psychology used, sessions may include awareness of bodily sensations, dance, breathing techniques, voice work, physical exercise, movement and healing touch.

Somatic therapy offers a variety of benefits. It reframes and transforms current or past negative experiences, inculcates greater sense of oneself, confidence, resilience and hope. It reduces discomfort, strain and stress while developing a heightened ability to concentrate.

Some of the somatic methods that therapists use are titration and pendulated method. Titration uses a resource state, a place of safety. The patient is guided through traumatic memories and then the therapist asks the patient if he or she notices any change in the way they feel when the memory is revived. The physical stimulus is usually gentle and small. However, if physical symptoms occur, they are then attended to at length.

On the other hand, pendulated method refers to the movement between homeostasis and instability. Unlike titration, in this type of method, the patient is moved from a state of homeostasis to a state where physical symptoms are present. Then the patient is helped to return to the state of stability. In this method, discharge occurs. Discharge is stress that is stored by the nervous system. It can include discomforting experiences, nausea, twitching and flushing of the skin.

When somatic therapy sessions are completed, the patient often reports a feeling of being free, less stressful and more engaged with life. It decreases the level of physical pain and mental stress, too.

Helping victims of trauma

We are constantly learning there are some very productive therapy methodologies that can really help the victims of traumatic events and experiences.  This is a door of therapy that should be opened as we continue to look at new ways to utilize healing techniques to bring homeostasis and stability to those who have been trauma-impacted. We need to bring healing to individuals who feel the devastating effects of trauma.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network


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