What is Somatic Psychotherapy?

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Written by Kimberly Jeffs, LPCS, SEP
and Co-Owner of NC Center for Resiliency, PLLC

Somatic psychotherapists believe that the body has its own innate intelligence to heal. The primary goal of somatic therapy is to assist people in understanding the language of their own body so that they can reach an optimal state of psychological and relational functioning.
Somatic psychotherapy can help create balance in the autonomic nervous system, restoring physiological coherence. Physiological coherence is akin to what athletes call “the zone” or what meditators call a “zen” state. In the coherent state the body is at its optimal range of functioning: neurotransmitters are firing properly, hormone and immune systems are functioning in a normal range, the digestive system is operating properly, and we are able to experience and perceive our current environment in a more pleasant way. We know that experiences of safety, danger, and life threat are woven into personal narratives and become beyond conscious control. Somatic psychotherapy addresses the underlying traumatic stress that is stored in the autonomic nervous system.
Psychobiology is a branch of psychology that studies the interactions between biology and behavior, especially as it is exhibited in the nervous system. A somatic (psychobiological) approach differs from traditional talk therapy in that it recognizes that emotion and cognition effect a person’s physiology. A somatic psychotherapist may address diet, nutrition, exercise, and social engagement. Somatic psychotherapy may include touch work, teaching somatic mindfulness skills, and incorporating movement and sensations in the therapeutic process.
Somatic psychotherapy is best suited for people who:

  • have gained a great deal of insight but struggle with what next steps to take;
  • are not interested in talk therapy;
  • have plateaued with traditional therapies; OR
  • may not have emotionally rich language or insight to describe in words how they are impacted by the struggles in their lives.

Through focusing on the next steps from insight, clients are able to address emotions and utilize the body’s sensations, impulses, and behaviors to allow the mind and body to heal. The somatic approach can be used for a wide array of both mental and physical health conditions.
Who offers this style of therapy locally?
NC Center for Resiliency, PLLC is a mental health organization that is focused on the restoration of resiliency and coherence in the mind and body through the use of psychobiological therapy approaches. The center offers counseling, research and high-level collaboration with contract integrative medical practitioners. All therapists at NCCR are trained in traditional talk therapy as well as various forms of somatic practices, which are incorporated into their core specialties.

Resources:
Levine, Peter. Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body. 2005
Levine, Peter. In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. 2010


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