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  • Suzanne Milligan

How Somatic Therapy Works

Updated: Jun 1

Somatic therapy

Here is a brief introduction to the topic of how Somatic Therapy works, in case you are considering this kind of therapy for yourself.

What is 'somatic'?

The key thing to understand is that the word 'somatic' relates to the fact that our body plays a very important role in the therapeutic work. Yet unlike some treatments that focus on the body, like massage for example, Somatic therapies focus on building our awareness of what information dwells within our bodies. The body is seen as a source of wisdom, wisdom that may be beyond our attention up until now. This wisdom can hold clues to past trauma, pre-verbal memories that unknowingly guide our daily lives, or beliefs we may not be aware of. Through exploration of the body, we can take steps towards releasing what is no longer needed in our lives.

Embodied Self-Awareness

There are many types of Somatic Therapy and all focus on helping people develop more embodied self-awareness. Many of us lose our connection to our bodies, either due to everyday stress, to early traumas, or to sudden accidents or threats. We rely on living only in our thoughts, always looking to the future or dwelling on the past. We may have no idea of who is steering this ship we call 'me,' but we carry on hoping for the best or with no hope at all. Developing embodied self-awareness gives us the chance to know ourselves, how we feel emotions, sensations, and movement in this present moment. It is like bringing your mind home, putting aside the judgemental thoughts long enough to see what is, and what it is like to simply be.

How Somatic Therapy works

Now this may sound lovely, but it takes time and practice, practice, practice! This is where the therapist comes in, someone to introduce and be a guide into a different way of being, one step at a time. The therapist brings the intention that we can get to know ourselves without judgement and without trying to flee, constantly reminding us of this important approach. The following steps are the usual path of the Somatic Therapist:

**Resources. Finding new, recovering old, acknowledging present ways we find strength and resilience.

**Going slowly. Start where you are and take small steps that are manageable. Do not re-trigger the traumas, be able to come back to resources.

**Safety. Therapist as co-regulator, witness, support. Teaching the nervous system what safety can look and feel like through the relationship. Building trust in self and other.

**Expression. Verbalising what is discovered through embodied self-awareness. Assisted mindfulness. What is the body telling you? What does it need to do in this moment? Following through with thwarted movements.

**Self-regulation. You become your own resource, learning what it means to be with yourself in ways that nurture, support and heal.

**Acts of triumph. Being able to maintain self-awareness; being empowered and self-assured; knowing your boundaries, when to say yes or no; Self-love gives space for love of others.

**Letting go. Being able to live in the present, with all that entails. No longer carrying the heavy load of the past or fears of the future. Realising that you have a choice in every moment to be present for yourself.

If any of this interests you, here is a list of the different Somatic Therapies that I know of:

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Hakomi Method

Internal Family Systems Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR

Somatic Attachment Theory Somatic Experiencing

Applied Polyvagal Theory Focusing, Dance/Movement Therapy

Feel free to get in touch if you want to know more or try Somatic Therapy for yourself!


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