I used to struggle very deeply with mental health challenges, self-image issues, chronic stress, chronic physical health challenges, lack of clarity, lack of purpose and lack of emotional fulfillment. In addition, I lost all hope in most of Western medicine and the limited effects of therapy and even many alternative healing approaches. In my career, I’ve met 1000s of people who’ve been in therapy or some kind of treatment for years with minimal progress and a deep yearning for something that really helps them achieve wholeness, happiness and higher levels of daily productivity. If this sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right page. Somatic therapy offers hope; hope in the form of an incredibly effective set of tools and processes which can deeply transform someone’s life from the inside out. Whether you're new to personal growth and healing or you have experience with therapy, mindfulness and other techniques, somatic therapy can greatly improve your outcomes in a safe, effective and efficient way.
"Somatic therapy works at a much deeper level and helps people resolve their challenges at the root level, leading to permanent and lasting positive change."
What's the difference? A Comparison of Western Therapy vs. Somatic Therapy
Before I delve into the benefits and techniques behind somatic therapy, it would be helpful to distinguish between western therapy and somatic therapy, to help you see more clearly that the two different approaches to psychotherapy have their own philosophies, techniques, and goals. Here's a comparison between the two.
Western Therapy: Often rooted in cognitive-behavioral or psychoanalytic theories, Western therapy focuses on understanding and changing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to improve mental health.
Somatic Therapy: Somatic therapy views the mind and body as interconnected, believing that unresolved emotions and traumas can manifest as physical symptoms. It emphasizes bodily sensations and experiences to promote healing.
Western Therapy: Typically involves talk therapy, where clients discuss their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a therapist. Techniques may include cognitive restructuring, behavioral interventions, and exploring past experiences.
Somatic Therapy: Integrates physical sensations and movements into therapy sessions. Techniques may include body awareness exercises, movement therapy, and touch-based interventions to address trauma and promote emotional well-being.
Western Therapy: Goals often include improving coping skills, resolving conflicts, increasing self-awareness, and fostering personal growth and insight.
Somatic Therapy: Aims to help individuals reconnect with their bodies, release stored tension and trauma, and restore balance between mind and body. It seeks to promote holistic healing by addressing both psychological and physiological aspects of well-being. In my experience, somatic therapy works at a much deeper level and helps people resolve their challenges at the root level, leading to permanent and lasting positive change.
Western Therapy: Widely practiced in various settings such as clinics, hospitals, and private practices. It's often the primary approach used in mainstream mental health care. It can also go alongside more traditional Western medical approaches like psychiatry which has a heavy dependence on medication, diagnostics and pathogenics.
Somatic Therapy: While gaining recognition, somatic therapy may be less common in traditional mental health settings. It's often utilized in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities or in specialized practices focusing on mind-body integration. Interestingly, the effectiveness of somatic therapy is profound and often incorporates aspects of Eastern philosophies and practices. This makes it an incredibly compelling method for holistic healing and wellness.
Western Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, humanistic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), etc.
Somatic Therapy: Somatic experiencing (SE), sensorimotor psychotherapy, dance/movement therapy, yoga therapy, somatic healing, breathwork, etc.
Western Therapy: Well-suited for individuals who prefer verbal communication and analysis of thoughts and emotions.
Somatic Therapy: Particularly beneficial for those who experience physical symptoms related to emotional issues or trauma, or for individuals seeking a more embodied approach to healing. In my experience, somatic therapy is far more comprehensive, integrative and beneficial and is an excellent compliment to Western therapy.
My Personal View:
Ultimately, the choice between Western therapy and somatic therapy depends on individual preferences, needs, and the nature of the issues being addressed. In my experience, individuals benefit from a combination of both approaches, integrating verbal processing with somatic techniques for a comprehensive therapeutic experience. In addition, somatic therapy facilitates deep transformation of the nervous system and can resolve trauma, limiting beliefs, chronic stress and chronic physical health issues.
How Does Somatic Therapy Work?
Somatic therapy, also known as body-centered therapy, works by focusing on the connection between the mind and body to promote healing and well-being. The approach is based on the understanding that emotional experiences, trauma, and stress can become stored in the body, leading to physical symptoms and psychological distress. This includes auto-immune conditions, chronic pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal problems, hyper-tension, chronic anxiety, hypersensitivity, panic attacks, fear, relational difficulties, and many more. Somatic therapy aims to address these issues by engaging the body in the therapeutic process. Through somatic practices, we can peel back the layers of tension, pain, and disconnection that have accumulated over time, reestablishing a harmonious mind-body connection. At its spiritual core, somatic healing can serve as a bridge to a deeper understanding of self and the interconnectedness of all beings. As individuals explore the wisdom held within their bodies, they often tap into a wellspring of intuition and insight and can start to create a life that is authentic to us.
As the image below shows, any situation we experience around us is a combination of 4 components within us. We have thoughts, emotions, behaviors and bodily sensations. Where Western therapy largely focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors, Somatic therapy places a heavy emphasis on bodily sensations and emotions. The power and efficiency of somatic therapy is found in its emphasis on becoming aware of and changing bodily sensations.
Let’s use the fear of public speaking as an example:
Thoughts: “I can’t do this.” - “I am going to make such a fool of myself.” - “What is everyone going to think?”
Emotions: Stress, anxiety, dread, shame, nervousness, embarrassment.
Behaviors: Avoiding speaking, rushing through the words, forgetting to address certain points.
Bodily Sensations: tightness in the stomach, shortness of breath, racing heart rate, increasing breathing rate, tense muscles, contraction in the throat and sweating.
In the above example, the bodily sensations are the foundation of the experience and if we can learn to regulate ourselves at this level, the other 3 tend to resolve themselves. To illustrate, if you can reduce your heart-rate, slow your breathing, relax your muscles, loosen your throat, release the stomach then your body will feel much more comfortable. Subsequently, the thoughts, emotions and behaviors will be reflective of an internal body state that is more relaxed, regulated and calm. In practicality, this looks like a more confident, grounded, and fearless speaker.
The Different Components of Somatic Therapy:
Body Awareness: Somatic therapy begins by cultivating awareness of bodily sensations, movements, and patterns. Clients are guided to pay attention to their physical experiences in the present moment without judgment. The physical sensations are the essence of our current experience. If they are uncomfortable, we don’t feel good. If they are comfortable, we feel safe, grounded and whole.
Tracking Sensations: Clients learn to identify and track sensations in the body, including areas of tension, discomfort, or relaxation. This process helps them become more attuned to the signals their bodies are sending and to recognize the connection between emotions and bodily responses.
Exploration of Body Responses: Therapists help clients explore how emotions and experiences are manifested in the body. This may involve noticing changes in posture, muscle tension, breathing patterns, or other physical reactions in response to different thoughts or memories. This has a strong emphasis on the physical sensations in the body.
Release of Tension and Trauma: Somatic therapy provides techniques for releasing physical tension and stored trauma from the body. This can include gentle movement exercises, breathwork, guided imagery, or touch-based interventions aimed at facilitating the release of emotional energy.
Integration of Mind and Body: Through somatic therapy, clients learn to integrate their mind and body experiences, recognizing the interconnectedness between thoughts, emotions, behaviors and physical sensations. This integration promotes a deeper understanding of oneself and supports overall well-being.
Resourcing and Regulation: Therapists help clients develop resources and tools for self-regulation and coping. This may involve learning grounding techniques, self-soothing strategies, or ways to navigate overwhelming emotions by tuning into the body's natural rhythms.
Transformation and Healing: By addressing both the psychological and physiological aspects of experience, somatic therapy supports the transformation and healing of past traumas, emotional wounds, and maladaptive patterns. Clients may experience greater resilience, vitality, and a sense of wholeness as they integrate their body-centered experiences into their overall sense of self.
Somatic therapy can be practiced in various forms, including Somatic Experiencing (SE), Hakomi Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and Movement Therapy, Breathwork, Somatic Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy among others. The specific techniques and approaches used may vary depending on the therapist's training, client's needs, and therapeutic goals.
What Specifically does a somatic therapist do?
In my practice I utilize many of the previously mentioned modalities to help clients reach their goals and achieve deep and lasting changes in their lives. A typical journey with me looks something like this.
1. You complete an intake form and initial assessment which accurately measures the state of your body and reveals specific subconscious patterns. One of the obligatory assessments I use is the FEBI which is a validated psychometric which assesses behaviors patterns based on four major energies.
2. We have an initial session to get a better overview of the challenges that you'd like to address. Often, we begin somatic practices in the first session to begin addressing the problems.
3. A Therapy plan is created and a trajectory for the journey is established. This includes activities and resources outside of the one-on-one sessions to ensure continued progress. Many of the exercises the client can use on their own to build their own capacity and ability to continuously regulate and change their mind-body.
4. You will not only be utilizing various techniques consistently but also engaging periodically in more immersive and deep healing sessions using breathwork, TRE and Hypnosis as needed.
5. Once the initial milestones of the program are achieved you will have a chance to continue as is, reduce the number of sessions or start a new journey.
6. You will have permanent access to resources and activities created during the program to ensure you have a reliable fall back for continued growth.
What is the science behind somatic therapy?
Somatic therapy draws from many modern Western disciplines in addition to ancient Eastern practices. Because it is an emerging field, the science is not as pervasive as other disciplines yet, but the research so far is very promising. This is an outline of some of the key techniques used in somatic therapy and the research that backs them up:
Somatic Experiencing was pioneered by Peter Levine and has shown incredible promise treating trauma and trauma related conditions.
EMDR therapy is also useful for trauma and processing.
Focusing therapy was one of the original body-based therapies which clearly demonstrated the immense power of understanding how physical sensations can be explored to greatly improve clinical outcomes.
TRE (Tension Release Exercise) is beginning to gain traction and research is starting to emerge.
The Feldenkrais Method which was also a pioneering modality in this field.
Keep in mind, that other modalities like Yoga, Mindfulness, Tai Chi and other movement and body-based approaches are heavily used in Somatic Therapy.
Who is Somatic Therapy Ideal For?
Somatic therapy is an excellent addition for anyone currently in traditional therapy for more conventional mental health treatment, in addition to those looking for an alternative approach to physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. Somatic therapy is also an excellent way to help high performing professionals, leaders and executives improve their energy, mental health, executive function and productivity. Specifically, somatic therapy is useful for:
Anyone who wants a more integrated and holistic approach to genuine healing and recovery.
Making progress where traditional therapy and counseling is not working and you’d like to experience something more efficient.
Those wishing to learn the necessary tools and techniques to achieve tangible changes in their physical and mental health
Anyone looking for a scientifically validated, non-invasive alternative to traditional Western medicine
Improve self-awareness, self-regulation and deepening mind-body connections.
Increasing performance and energy
Enhancing confidence, authenticity and clarity
Can you do Somatic Therapy Yourself?
One of the core principles of Somatic therapy is empowerment. In short, the client should be empowered to navigate their own experience in their bodies and apply various tools and techniques to self-regulate, heal, improve mental and physical health and optimize performance. In the course of your journey with your therapist, you will be invited to apply certain practices into your life consistently which creates the opportunity for you to take our life and healing into your own hands.
About Me & My Journey
I have a particular love of somatic therapy because mind-body work has been such a huge part of my own personal healing journey and my professional work. I was chronically physically and mentally ill for years and nothing (I mean nothing) really helped to heal me until I started to integrate somatic tools into my life. It took me many years and 1000s of hours of therapies, retreats and certifications to get where I am today and I can say with the deepest level of integrity that it really works. My case was significantly challenging but I was able to fully recover. Now, I have optimized and condense these learnings so you DON’T have to spend $1000s of dollars and 1000s of hours to achieve recovery, we can do it in much less time if you’re willing to dive in!