Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy are body-oriented approaches to healing trauma and other stress disorders. Each helps to gently guide individuals from a fixed fight, flight, or freeze response by releasing traumatic shock and survival energy bound in the body. These models can also help activate new internal resources for future experiences and help individuals feel more in control of their responses and ability to relate to others in healthier and safer ways.
When we perceive a life threat, we are often triggered into one of three responses, fight, flight, or freeze. Freezing is an adaptive response when fight or flight are not available options. Peter A. Levine found, however, that the freeze response was time-sensitive, meaning that eventually the energy that was prepared for a fight or flight response needed to be discharged. If this energy could not be released at the time, it became stored in the body, so the body would still perceive itself as under threat.
Such trauma may result from a wide variety of acute or ongoing stressors that can include accidents, invasive surgical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, early developmental attachment ruptures, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. Body work helps to restore the individual’s body and nervous system to that of increased resilience, ease, and safety, rather than the heightened state of trauma.
These models approach trauma from a “bottom-up” perspective, meaning they deal with the body first. Therapy, therefore, is not about reclaiming memories, changing beliefs, or even talking about or re-feeling the traumatic event.
Since these responses and energies are stored in the body, these models make sure that the client makes his/her way through the experience slowly and gently; guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for distressing emotions and sensations. Because stress operates in such a powerful way, being stored within the body, it prevents many from living the resilient, peaceful lives they yearn for. Skilled LifeSong clinicians can help clients feel released from the past traumas and truly experience a full body freedom.