Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) and Somatic Touch FAQ’s
What is the difference between SE™ and Somatic Touch?
SE™, which works very well with shock (sudden, single incident) trauma, emphasizes the concepts of titration (working with small chunks of activating sensation/information at a time) and pendulation (shifting awareness from the activation to a comforting resource and back again, repeating the cycle until the “charge” dissipates). Somatic Touch uses these same concepts, but adds the gentle hands-on contact that seems to work particularly well with developmental and attachment (pre-verbal) trauma.
How do I know whether SE™ or Somatic Touch would work best for me?
During our first session together, we will discuss your goals, and from that develop a treatment plan. As one of the very few Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP™) licensed bodyworkers in our area, I specialize in working with clients from a hands-on perspective. Having said that, my first priority is to create a safe container, and I find at times that beginning without any physical contact can be very reassuring. This is why I use both SE™ and Somatic Touch in my practice and why I have combined the methods together for booking purposes.
Is SE™ psychotherapy?
Although it is a tool used by many psychotherapists (psychologists, counselors, social workers, etc.), SE™ is not talk therapy. Rather, it is a method to help clients access the sensations, images, behaviors, affect (emotions), and meanings (thoughts) which remain as unprocessed trauma residue within their bodies. SE™ may perhaps be considered accompanied, supported physical self-discovery.
What if I want or need talk therapy, too?
This is often a very good idea! I work with many clients who regularly see a talk therapist, and I’m happy to make referrals. I also routinely receive referrals from psychotherapists who believe their clients can benefit from SE™ or Somatic Touch work, and the therapist is either not SE™ trained or prefers to not use hands-on techniques with clients.
Do I have to tell you about my trauma(s)?
No. Your story is important, and through my years of working with abused children and their families I am accustomed to listening and keeping confidence. However, during an SE™/Somatic Touch session we work with how your body is housing and managing residual trauma energy. Our focus is on physiology, not psychology.
What happens in an SE™/Somatic Touch session?
Appointments may include movement exercises, energetic bodywork, aromatherapy, guided visualization, self-touch, and/or supportive touch. Depending on the modality and your level of comfort, you may remain seated or rest on the massage table. You remain fully clothed during an SE™ or Somatic Touch session.
Why is touch used with SE™?
Our goal is not only that you recover from previous traumatic experiences, but that your nervous system is able to effectively meet future challenges. Building your capacity to return to settled equilibrium is key. Because we are born without fully formed nervous systems, we are designed to acquire this skill through connection with a loving, regulated caregiver. With Somatic Touch, the therapist makes contact with specific areas of the body which are connected to stress responses and intentionally invites this healing co-regulation. Our nervous system neuroplasticity allows this capacity to develop, regardless of our actual age.
I don’t like being touched. Is it necessary?
Approaching trauma from a body perspective can feel scary—after all, invasive physical contact is often the source of the problem! While the Somatic Touch techniques are done over clothing and are designed to feel supportive, it is more important that you feel safe and in control. It is not unusual that we spend a session or two simply increasing and decreasing the physical space between us, not making actual contact, to allow you to notice what it feels like to have boundaries and to have those boundaries respected. Self-touch is another method we can use to build your capacity to tolerate physical connection.
What results may I expect from this work?
As bound trauma energy is released, your nervous system’s capacity (ability to organically and effortlessly manage stressors) increases. Energy that was being siphoned off to simply manage your symptoms is now newly available for use by other body processes. Clients have reported improved digestion, fear and anxiety reduction, an increased sense of physical and emotional balance, expanded resiliency and resourcefulness, a heightened sense of vitality, and a new capacity to more easily connect with and interact with others.
How can you do Somatic Touch sessions over the internet?
While I agree it sounds a bit “woo-woo,” I have trained in many modalities and have been licensed as a bodywork therapist for over 19 years. In my work with over 10,000 clients, I have become accustomed to tuning into physical and energy bodies. All that you need to receive a virtual SE™ or Somatic Touch session is a laptop/tablet/phone with internet connection, and a comfortable space in which to sit or lie down. I use a body pillow for my hand placements, and clients from as far away as Japan are often surprised at how much they can sense as we work.