Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a therapeutic approach designed to relieve and resolve the symptoms of trauma and chronic stress. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE is based on the observation that wild prey animals, though regularly threatened, are rarely traumatized. Unlike humans, these animals utilize innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with survival behaviors. Somatic Experiencing helps individuals tap into these natural rhythms to release traumatic shock and restore inner balance.

Understanding Somatic Experiencing

SE emphasizes the body’s role in trauma recovery, focusing on the client’s perceived body sensations (or somatic experiences) rather than the traumatic event itself. It’s built on the concept that trauma symptoms are the effects of a dysregulated autonomic nervous system (ANS) and that by restoring the ANS’s equilibrium, individuals can overcome trauma-related challenges.

Core Principles of Somatic Experiencing

  • Trauma is in the Nervous System, Not the Event: SE views trauma as a physiological condition that can be healed by addressing the body’s responses.
  • Titration: Introducing small amounts of traumatic material to prevent overwhelm and help the body gradually process and integrate the experience.
  • Pendulation: Observing the natural oscillation between regulation and dysregulation in the body, facilitating the return to balance.
  • Discharge: Allowing the release of pent-up survival energy through physical responses like shaking, crying, or deep breathing.

Methodologies in Somatic Experiencing

SE employs gentle, gradual techniques to help individuals release trauma from their bodies:

Body Awareness Exercises

Clients are guided to notice bodily sensations, helping them become more attuned to their physical state and its connection to emotional and psychological well-being.


Identifying and drawing upon internal and external resources to provide comfort and stability, enhancing resilience against stress.

Tracking Sensations

Encouraging clients to track their bodily sensations throughout the therapy process to increase awareness of their somatic experiences and the impact on their emotions.

Completion of Survival Responses

Facilitating the completion of thwarted fight, flight, or freeze responses, allowing the client to move through the trauma.

Benefits and Application

Somatic Experiencing has been successfully applied to a wide range of trauma-related issues, including:

  • PTSD and Other Trauma-Related Disorders: SE helps resolve the physiological aspects of trauma, reducing symptoms of PTSD.
  • Chronic Stress: Alleviates the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic stress by restoring autonomic nervous system balance.
  • Emotional Regulation: Enhances individuals’ ability to regulate their emotions by increasing body awareness and processing bodily sensations.
  • Physical Health Conditions: Can alleviate symptoms of somatic disorders that have a connection to stress or trauma, such as chronic pain and digestive issues.

Who Can Benefit from Somatic Experiencing?

Individuals who have experienced trauma, whether from acute events like accidents and natural disasters, or from chronic stressors such as prolonged illness, emotional abuse, or neglect, can benefit from SE. It’s also effective for those seeking to improve their emotional regulation and bodily awareness.

Training and Practice

Practitioners of Somatic Experiencing are professionals in the fields of mental health, medicine, or bodywork who have completed extensive training in SE. This training includes theoretical coursework, experiential workshops, and supervised clinical practice.


Somatic Experiencing offers a powerful and nuanced approach to healing trauma by focusing on the body’s wisdom and capacity for self-regulation. Through gentle and profound techniques, SE facilitates the release of trauma from the body, promoting resilience, stability, and well-being.