What is Somatic Trauma Resolution or Somatic Processing?
Somatic Trauma Resolution (STR) is a combination of psychotherapeutic type process and somatic or body-centered process that is focused on the release of trauma bound energy in the body and restoration of resiliency in the nervous system. It is based on the premise that the body holds memory of traumatic and stressful or overwhelming events or circumstances that have occurred in our lives. Those memories can be held in our physical body, and areas of our brain that are not accessible by rational thought. This can wreak havoc with our body, mind and spirit. STR is an amazingly effective therapy to discharge held trauma and reorganize the nervous system towards healing.
The objectives of STR are:
- To facilitate the safe discharge of trauma bound energy.
- To encourage the body’s inherent ability to heal tissues, emotional patterns and relationships.
- To restore nervous system resiliency.
- To help restore confidence and feelings of empowerment.
- To assist the client to process feelings, develop strategies for new ways of being with life’s challenges, reducing stress, and creating wellness.
Trauma is defined as anything that is overwhelming to the nervous system. Many events can cause traumatic reactions, including but not limited to:
- witnessing violent or traumatic events
- emotional and physical abuse or assault
- sexual abuse or assault
- loss and illness of loved ones
- physical injuries such as falls or car accidents
- birth trauma
- medical and dental procedures
- repeated negative thought patterns or treatment
Trauma and overwhelm can cause many seemingly unrelated symptoms, which can be addressed though STR such as:
- chronic pain, including headaches/migraines
- immune imbalances
- gastrointestinal disorders
- constant muscle tension
- memory lapses and problems
- anxiety and panic attacks
- hypersensitivity, hyper vigilance
- addictions, OCD, repetitive destructive behavior
- relationship problems
- emotional imbalance
- chronic fatigue
- decreased vitality
- shame, guilt
- negative behavior and thought patterns
- feelings of despair, hopelessness, self-blame and re-occurring anger
In somatic process work, the sessions are sensation-based and body-centered. We use the body’s innate wisdom to develop a greater sense of our body voice through sensation, which is the language of the hindbrain and is the direct access point to trauma bound energy. As we follow sensations we gain access to the frozen energy, which then begins to move and release, signs of which can obviously be felt by the client.
Clients stay fully clothed and are typically in a seated position. There is generally no touch involved with this therapy. Experiences and responses to the therapy are as individual as those receiving the work, and can vary from session to session.
Clients can experience a profound sense of relaxation, more connection to self and a greater sense of balance and peace. One can also expect to feel lighter, an increase in energy, release of tension, more grounded and focused even during the first session. Changes from this work can be physical, emotional, mental and spiritual depending on how the body chooses to manifest health. The length of time and number of sessions needed is extremely variable and depends, in part, on the complex layers of injury, trauma and compensatory factors.
Why is STR necessary?Our bodies hold memory of trauma. In a traumatic event or situation, the human brain tends to override the instinct to discharge trauma. As a result, the trauma cycle is not allowed to complete and needs further attention (usually later in life). The animal world is much different. Animals in the wild are regularly faced with traumatic and life threatening situations. In these cases, the sympathetic nervous system activates the “fight, flight or freeze” response, and adrenaline and other chemicals are dumped into their bodies to provide the energy or “charge” to motivate a reaction. It is well documented that once the animal has reached safety, it instinctively goes into a “motoring” phase where it discharges the remaining adrenaline energy by trembling, shaking, twitching, making sounds and the like. Because the animal completely discharges the excess adrenaline energy, it doesn’t hold the memory or the energy of the trauma in it’s system, and the trauma cycle is complete.
Humans have this same discharge instinct available to us via our hindbrain or “reptilian” brain, but our frontal or “rational” brain usually overrides it. When this discharge is interrupted and incomplete, the excess energy that motivated our fight/flight response is still surging around in the body. Our frontal brain overrides our hindbrain and demands that we stop shaking, trembling, etc and convinces us that we are ok. When this happens, our body must contain this energy and so it “freezes” it into our tissue and our nervous system. This frozen energy remains in the system until it can be discharged, sometimes for the rest of a person’s life. This trauma bound energy can create a multitude of symptoms and compensatory behavior.
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