How does Somatic Experiencing (SE) Therapy work?
Somatic Experiencing Therapy offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze response.
#1: How do I know if I've been traumatized?
It is quite a common experience for people to not understand that they're traumatized or to remember what events actually traumatized them.
We can experience various traumatic events throughout our lives that we no longer associate with trauma, or as something that could contribute to an ongoing problem in our lives.
#2: How does SE help with complex trauma?
Many of us have really complex trauma histories. There've been many events throughout our lives that have created some sort of havoc or ongoing problem for us.
The interesting thing about Somatic Experiencing (SE) is that we really don't have to work event by event, story by story, perpetrator by perpetrator because the body is the common denominator. The autonomic nervous system is the core structure that we're working with.
#3: Why am I still affected by past events?
It's a really common experience for people to wonder how an event so long ago could still have an impact on their life today.
An interesting thing about trauma is that it can go dormant and not show up for years and then suddenly something triggers it. Triggers can show up in all different kinds of ways – it can be the sound of footsteps or certain smell or seeing someone who reminds you of the perpetrator, or hearing a car backfire.
#4: Can you explain the benefits of SE?
There are so many benefits to Somatic Experiencing (SE), including just feeling better. No matter what your presenting symptoms are coming in, we are going to be able to reduce your stress levels, your anxiety, stop panic attacks in their tracks, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
You also find benefits in your relationships because as we build greater understanding boundaries then we're able to show up in our relationships in a different way.
#5: How fast will I see results from sessions?
The cool the thing that results from Somatic Experiencing (SE) can happen in the first session. But the thing that you need to understand is that just because you have a reduction in the presenting symptoms that you're coming in for, doesn't mean that the work is done or the potential that the work is done there.
What I find with my clients is that, yes, initially they feel profoundly different after the first session, two or three. But overtime, there's a deeper and deeper shift that can occur.
#6: How many SE sessions will I need?
It depends on your presenting symptoms, on your defense structures, your coping mechanisms, the length of time you've been going through whatever you've been going through. But initially it's helpful to have that consistency over time because we are working on a lot of different levels.
Now I will say that oftentimes, clients find a profound shift in their presenting symptoms in the first and second and third sessions. Then somewhere around the fifth or sixth session, they really start to see how this is affecting their life as a whole.
#7: How often should I have SE sessions?
The frequency of Somatic Experiencing (SE) sessions really depends on you. It depends on what your presenting circumstances are, what your presenting symptoms are, what events have occurred on your life, how long has it been that you’ve been dealing with all of this.
Sessions are typically spaced a week apart. Sometimes in rare circumstances, we might wanna work more often than that and at other times, every other week or even once a month.
#8: How does SE help with breaking patterns?
We have a difficult time feeling dis-coordinance or short-circuits in the autonomic nervous system that can create a disease, or discomfort, or anxiety, or tension, or stress, or holding patterns. But these patterns can lead to repetitive behavior.
When past traumatic events are resolved we’re able to get our nervous system to let go of those holding patterns, then there seems to be a reduction in the need to self-soothe through these behaviors.
#9: Is there homework that I need to do?
There really isn't homework or exercises, per say, that are indicative of this work.
Most of the work really transpires in the one-on-one session. However, there certainly are resourcing skills and tools and techniques that I like to share with my clients so that you can kind of build a toolkit, or tool box, and develop better coping mechanisms and ways to handle stress and threat when it to shows up again in the future.
#10: Am I a psychologist or psychiatrist?
I get this question often, and the answer is No. I think that works to my benefit and to my clients benefit.
I am a somatic experiencing purist meaning I use doctor Peter Levine's technique on its own, unadulterated.