What is Somatic Experiencing? How does it work?

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is based in an understanding of the physiology of trauma and stress – how they manifest in the body and how paying attention to the body in an informed way can help relieve the stuck energy of the fight/flight/freeze reactions that sometimes persist in the wake of distressing experiences. Clients are not asked to discuss upsetting stories at length or to relive unpleasant events. SE does not seek out “buried memories” or require a client to remember events in their entirety.

Somatic Experiencing sessions may occur either sitting and talking or, when clinically helpful, with a variety of simple holds while clothed on a massage table. No touch work will occur unless the client is fully comfortable with doing so.

The client will learn to attend to and “track” body sensations and/or imagery and feelings associated with the topics discussed or that arise from the simple exercises clients may be invited to do. As the client becomes more able to track experiences of being resourced, the body becomes more able to identify and tolerate safety. This allows the client the space and resilience to more easily sit with and process fight/flight/freeze states.

“Slow is Fast.” Large cathartic experiences are avoided – the emphasis is on developing the body’s capacity to notice and respond to subtlety. In the study of trauma, this is known as working within one’s “Window of Tolerance.” Difficult content is “titrated” – worked with slowly and in bite sized pieces to build the client’s capacity over time. This integrates the work more deeply and reduces the chance of overwhelm.

Clients find themselves becoming more empowered in the face of distressing memories, uncomfortable physical sensations and hard to break patterns while also becoming more present, more resourceful, more assertive and better able to access the full range of their emotions.

What does the touchwork consist of?

When clinically helpful, and only if the client is fully comfortable with doing so, we may integrate SE Touchwork into our sessions. SE Touchwork is not a massage and is done fully clothed either sitting in a chair or laying on a massage table. SE Touchwork can be a very effective way to help the body find its way into more resourced states and to build the client’s capacity to track the body sensations relating to safety, especially when the body may tend towards feeling chaotic or shut down due to early life stressors. Clients develop their ability to resource and differentiate through a variety of forms of simple contact.


For more information about Somatic Experiencing, click here and/or watch this video:

Somatic Experiencing Practitioner