What is Somatic Psychotherapy and is it Right for You?
Somatic therapy is a unique form of therapy that focuses on the mind-body connection to bring about holistic change. Using both psychotherapy and physical therapies, somatic therapy can help a person release pent-up tension that is negatively impacting their physical and emotional well-being.
The theory behind this type of therapy is that past mental and emotional trauma disrupts our automatic nervous system (ANS). Somatic therapists work on the basis that our bodies hold onto prior traumas and oftentimes manifest them later on as physical symptoms such as depression, anxiety, digestive issues, physical pain, hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction, and immune system dysfunction.
Who Can Benefit from Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy can help individuals that suffer from a wide range of mental issues, such as addiction, grief, depression, stress, and anxiety. It can also help people heal from past trauma and abuse and anyone currently dealing with sexual dysfunction and problems in their relationships.
Also, anyone who has not received effective traditional treatments for chronic physical pain, digestive disorders, and other chronic disorders may benefit from somatic therapy.
How Does it Work?
Somatic therapy combines traditional talk therapy with physiological interventions. During a session, the therapist will help a client notice any physical experiences that arise as they share difficult memories, relationships, or issues they are hoping to address in therapy.
At this point, different physiological interventions such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and mindfulness may be used to help explore and observe experiences in the body and mind that are occurring at the moment. Often adjunct therapies are helpful to enhance and extend tension release and may include dance, exercise, yoga, acupuncture, pelvic floor physiotherapy or other types of movement, vocal work, and massage.
By working with a client over numerous sessions, they strengthen their mind-body connection and may be able to release long-held anger, tension, grief and other painful emotions and experiences stuck in the body.
The overall goal of a somatic therapist is to help their clients free themselves from the mental, emotional and potentially physical pain that is preventing them from fully engaging with their life. Moreover, this mind-body connection helps clients to listen to the important information their body is giving them so they may honour their needs, boundaries, and relationships in more authentic and intentional ways.
What to Look for in a Somatic Therapist
You should look for someone who is licensed and has experience as a mental health professional with advanced (and supervised) training in somatic therapy techniques. It’s also important to look for someone you feel comfortable discussing your personal issues with.
At Calgary Counselling and Psychology Centre, we offer a somatic therapy called Hakomi. Stay connected for upcoming posts on the Hakomi method to learn more!
If you or someone you know is interested in exploring somatic therapy, please be in touch. We’d be happy to discuss how we may be able to help you release and move on from the pain that holds you back from an intentional life.