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What is Somatic Experiencing®?

Somatic Experiencing® is a neurophysical understanding of trauma. The nervous system becomes compromised during and after a trauma event due to the result of the body's “threat response.” The nervous system then, cannot regulate itself without intervention. When we bring curiosity and attention to the body’s sequence of “states not fully processed,” then individuals can shift neuro patterns and symptoms abate.

Somatic Experiencing® uses methods that develop awareness similar to the use of mindfulness and integrates a “Wakeful Witness” that remains available to the individual. Treatment focuses on awakening this inner “Witness” so that integration can occur, decreasing the dissociated parts of Self and bringing a return to a state of well being.    

Trauma can be understood as anything that has a lasting negative effect (conscious or unconscious) on a person's mind, body, or spirit, including emotional neglect and abandonment as well as overt abuse or even invasive medical procedures and/or accidents. 

Dr. Peter Levine on Trauma

Dr. Peter Levine reports, "No one can heal effectively and efficiently from emotional, physical or spiritual pain and suffering without involving the body." Dr. Levine teaches that trauma is not in the event that took place, but in how un-discharged “fight, flight, and freeze” threat-responses were activated during that event, and then stored within the nervous system. The holding of this powerful energy, unexpressed, is what creates the array of symptoms associated with complex trauma and/or PTSD. 

Even though clients have a strong need to tell someone the story of what happened, just telling the "Story," does not change it. What seems to happen is that we continue needing to "tell" the story over and over again, often getting "stuck in the loop" without shifting the impact that it has had on us. I am committed to an integrated body-centered approach to treatment. This heals the roots of trauma and integrates the mind and body's reactive patterning. 

Therapeutic Touch

What you need to know about Somatic Regulation & touch therapy.

Katharine Knapp, M.Ed., LPC, SEP, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Has a Masters Degree in Special Education and a Masters Degree in Counseling and is a Somatic ExperiencingTM Practitioner who has completed hundreds of hours of advanced specialized training in a number of trauma therapy approaches that focus on neuroscience, biophysiology, attachment and polyvagal theory.

This section aims to help you understand her role in resolving or stabilization physical and emotional symptoms related to complex trauma/PTSD, chronic stress/fatigue, fear, anger, anxiety, shame, health conditions or complex syndromes, dissociation, spiritual emergencies and addictions, as well as in restoring boundaries, regulation, resiliency, empowerment, aliveness and a healthy sense of self.

In keeping with best practices, trauma therapy at Creative Integration Therapy, follows a staged approach, beginning with safety and stabilization, fostering self-regulation and trust in the therapeutic relationship before proceeding with the processing of deeper traumatic material. Like learning to drive a car, we need to make sure there is a good brake system in place before we can press the gas pedal and drive safely.

Trauma Informed Care

Trauma informed care is about understanding the impact of developmental trauma. When we consider early experiences of unpredictable stress or traumatic experiences that impact not just the “story” of who we were, but also the body that carries us into and through our lives, then we can understand the limits of someone’s ability to use creative imagination and perception.  Their lives become focused on survival where the need to learn and develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, and cognitively become overridden by the need to survive.  

This is a relationship approach, knowing that through relationship, healing can and will happen.  This extends to our community and local supports beyond just the family.  This is a way of viewing the individual and the community.

Touch Therapy 

Touch Therapy is an advance Post-Graduate training for Somatic Experiencing Practitioners. It is the practice of using tactile skills, somatic awareness, and other touch-related skills in the context of working with the resolution of trauma.

What are Touch and Table Work?

Ideally our earliest experiences of being soothed, nurtured and held in a bonded relationship happen through attuned touch. However, some of the deepest shock experiences held in the body occur when we are so young that our brains and nervous system are not yet sufficiently developed to process those experiences cognitively. When caregivers are unavailable or the source of distress, co-regulation and soothing often weren’t available, resulting in the body’s tendency to flip between hyper-arousal or dorsal vagal shutdown (freeze) as a way to cope with overwhelm. As demonstrated by the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, this can result in complex health syndromes when the body becomes highly sensitive and has to hijack or tax other systems as a management strategy.

Since early developmental trauma is largely pre-verbal and involves body memory, the skilled and appropriate use of touch can be an essential part of the healing process and provide corrective emotional experiences, especially when words are not available, when there were significant attachment ruptures that were never repaired, or when the body is stuck in survival mode as a baseline state. Touch work can involve no touch at all, focusing instead to resolve the activation associated with anticipating touch or closeness, or voicing the ability to say no without shame, guilt or overriding to please others.

Touch and table work are applied with hands and occasionally with forearm or foot contact, and can also be offered indirectly, such as providing support through a cushion. Touch work is done fully clothed, occasionally over blankets or a sheet if preferred, and is not used to manipulate, rehabilitate or repair the body as done in physiotherapy, kinesiology, chiropractic or massage. It does not constitute medical treatment and it is not a replacement for other bodywork approaches, which are different in focus, intent and method. Touch and table work are used primarily to explore interpersonal processing and attachment, as well as self-regulation, safe touch, healthy boundaries, as well as work through early pre- verbal trauma and shock trauma. It can be incorporated while seated, as well as lying face up on a table, or standing during movement-based exercises.

Touch was incorporated in Somatic Experiencing by Dr. Peter Levine, and was further refined as a practice by Kathy Kain, MA, SEP, somatic and bodywork practitioner and senior faculty member with the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, in collaboration with Steve Terrell, PsyD, SEP (www.somaticpractice.net).

Somatic Experiencing, touch and table work, especially during the release of a self-protective response or body memory, can bring up unexpected emotions, thoughts, pain, physical reactions or memories. It is also quite common for the body to vibrate or tremble during a release, and for clients to experience a sense of fatigue or soreness. This is typically temporary, and your therapist will support you to work through these in a helpful and contained way that reduces the likelihood of overwhelm. It is important to honor the body’s needs and rest following sessions to support integration.