Shanly Weber, MA, SEP
Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” – Peter A. Levine, Ph.D
Developed by trauma expert Peter Levine, Ph.D, Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a scientifically-validated, highly effective, body-oriented therapy that supports nervous system (re)regulation and resiliency, helping to heal trauma and other mental health and stress disorders.
The result of Dr. Levine’s extensive study of and experience with psychology, stress physiology, ethnology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices and medical biophysics, Somatic Experiencing has evolved over almost five decades, used by certified, experienced practitioners to help millions of trauma survivors mitigate and even alleviate uncomfortable psychological and physical symptoms, feel calmer and more resourced, and experience a much higher quality of life.
Often, people associate trauma with experiencing or witnessing life threatening, violent and/or highly frightening events. While true, trauma comes in many forms, and how it is experienced is unique to each person. A trauma response depends on how the nervous system responds to an event and a person’s capacity/resilience to process it. Simply said, an experience that may be mildly upsetting to one person could feel highly traumatic to another.
You’ve likely heard of the fight/flight response that is triggered when we encounter a threat that creates fear or anxiety. Most often, the body prepares to either fight the real (or perceived) threat or flee from it. However—and this is often experienced by children—when we are not able to defend ourselves or get away, the body activates a freeze response. The problem is that many people stay trapped in the freeze response long after the threat has passed. While no longer in immediate danger, the body still holds the energy built up from the fight/flight response. Because of the freeze, the energy that wasn’t released stays trapped in the body, preventing recovery from the jolting, frightening experience. Without a chance to “reset,” the brain, body and nervous system continue to repeat pieces of that trapped trauma experience, which manifests as trauma symptoms. Left unresolved, trauma can turn into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may be expressed through anxiety, depression and more.
Because trauma affects the nervous system—your body’s command center—and is stored in the body, it must be processed and released through the body. This is why talk therapy and other therapeutic models for treating trauma, while helpful, are often not sustainable in resolving trauma. Somatic Experiencing, however, as a body-oriented therapy, helps you move beyond the cognitive understanding of trauma, renegotiating the body’s primal survival instinct and “trapped” response, creating a greater sense of connection, safety and ease.
Initially developed to work specifically to help resolve trauma that occurred abruptly, over decades, SE has also proved to be extremely beneficial in treating all forms of trauma, including childhood trauma and developmental trauma, as well as anxiety disorders and other forms of physiological distress.
It’s my belief and experience that the most important aspect of healing trauma is through initially creating safety and trust, which are often compromised through traumatic experiences. In sessions, we start with where you are as I slowly and gently begin to evaluate your nervous system and identify your access points. In sessions, I notice and track your physical responses—movements, sensations, tone, posture, etc—as I help orient you to a place of safety. Somatic Experiencing can be done with or without gentle touch, depending on what you feel comfortable with and is an integral part of trauma therapy and somatic touch therapy.
In using SE, we do not go immediately into the trauma, as doing such can often exacerbate rather than relieve distressing emotions and sensations. Rather, we begin with increasing the capacity and resilience of the nervous system through titration, a term and process developed by Dr. Levine. Titration literally means to dilute the process so as not to overwhelm the system. Because trauma over-stimulates the nervous system, making everything feel like “too much,” “too fast,” “too soon,” we counter the fight/flight/freeze response by slowly and gently working through small pieces of the trauma/traumatic experience at a time, gradually working toward the trauma vortex, while consistently strengthening and regulating nervous system capacity.
Trauma also often causes fragmenting, which is why trauma memories often seem distorted. In renegotiating the trauma experience through SE, we’re able to gradually stitch missing or fuzzy pieces back together, holistically integrating the experience as the trauma resolves.
I provide a warm, safe and trusting environment and experience, taking this highly effective, gentle trauma treatment at a pace that feels right for you. Trauma takes a heavy toll on us mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually, which is why, while renegotiating the trauma, we’ll also both mindfully and somatically work on increasing self-awareness and self-compassion while inviting in a loving kindness so you can feel more at ease within and about yourself. Through this work, you can stop trying to just survive and begin to thrive, enjoying again (or, perhaps for the first time) living in the present moment and the fullness and flow of your life.
It is possible to live with more fullness, ease and connection, and Somatic Experiencing can help. I’ve seen this highly effective modality yield incredible results. If you’re interested in learning more about Somatic Experiencing, trauma therapy, somatic therapy, other effective healing modalities and my practice, contact me today.
Shanly Weber, MA, SEP is a certified Somatic Experiencing International practitioner, trained directly by Dr. Peter Levine. With more than a decade of advanced training, education and experience in Somatic Experiencing, Shanly has served as SE provider and currently offers support and SE consultations for Somatic Experiencing practitioners.