Somatic Experiencing (SE) is an integrative (mind-body) approach developed by Peter Levine Ph.D. It focuses on the biological basis of trauma and the resolution of post-traumatic stress activation through the principles of biological completion and self-regulation (Levine, 1996). SE emphasizes that human responses to threats are primarily instinctive and biological and only secondarily are cognitive and psychological.
It is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though routinely threatened, are rarely traumatized. Animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms to regulate the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors. These mechanisms provide animals with a built-in “immunity” to trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly “charged” experiences.
The focus of treatment is to unlock the somatized “stress memories” and movement impulses that remain bound in the body after trauma and to restore balance to the nervous system (Levine, 2005) by working with small gradations of traumatic activation alternated with the use of somatic resources. Cognitions and emotions are addressed in SE but are not the primary focus of intervention. This makes SE well suited to individuals who do not want traditional psychotherapy.
This approach is appropriate for:
- Acute Traumatic Stress (ATS)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Nervous System Dysregulation
- Stress and Anxiety Disorders
- Life Threatening Illness
- Loss and Grief Issues
Dr. Daniel Bruce is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) through the Foundation for Human Enrichment, Boulder, CO.