While all licensed therapists share a body of knowledge and a set of legal and ethical guidelines regarding their work, many also have specializations. As such, you may wonder if a particular approach to the therapeutic process is right for you.
Somatic Psychotherapy (also called Body Psychotherapy) is an approach that integrates current research in neuroscience, body awareness practices from both Eastern and Western cultures, and aspects of Gestalt, Psychodynamic, Relational, and Humanistic therapy traditions.
This holistic model works with the whole person; body and mind, thinking, feeling, and sensing. What that means is that at times the focus will be on your experience in the moment rather than content about a particular recent or past stressor.
In addition to exploring thoughts and feelings, as would happen in any therapy, a somatic psychotherapist might also help you explore gestures, bodily tension, and particular sensations through mindful awareness, movement, or touch.
Somatic Psychotherapy is more than just a set of particular techniques
Somatic Psychotherapy is a way of thinking that holds your bodily experience in mind. Our early history, before we acquire language and the capacity for explicit memories of particular episodes, has a huge impact on us.
What we learned about the world and our place in it during this time is stored in implicit, procedural memory. Somatic psychotherapy is particularly useful in working with this unconscious aspect of our experience, which is primary in our early years but continues throughout our lives to shape our relationship to ourselves and the world around us.
How I Work Somatically
As a therapist at Well Clinic, I incorporate these types of techniques carefully and judiciously, with your permission, in the context of longer term relational psychotherapy.
Often, somatic strategies arise organically from the material you are working with, rather than being something that I prescribe or impose. They are often simple, yet can be quite powerful. Exploring these aspects of your experience often serves to help you increase your self-awareness, enhance your capacity to regulate your nervous system, or help you shape a new relationship to yourself and/or others.
Below is a list of some of the questions we might consider in our work together:
- Are you are cut off from particular emotions? How and where is this cutoff occurring in your body?
- Are you are overwhelmed by particular emotions? How is it that you are experiencing the overwhelm in your body, and how might you learn to relate to the sensations that accompany your emotions in a different way?
- Are there any places of tension or holding in your body that might be related to experiences you have had in the past, or difficulties you are having in your life now?
- As you work on specific goals, are their ways in which you might practice using your body differently to support yourself along your path?
- In your family, and in your culture, how did you have to inhibit or accentuate your body’s natural emotional responses in order to get the care and attention you required? How did that shape you?
Further reading on Somatic Psychotherapy:
- CIIS Somatic Psychology Program
- European Association for Body Psychotherapy
- Unites States Association for Body Psychotherapy
About the Author
Robin Levick is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works collaboratively with clients to create a space where you can explore your experience with the trust that whatever you share will be met with respect, empathy and curiosity.