Mountain Lake

SOMATIC THERAPY

“Somatic” is a fancy way of saying “of the body.” Somatic therapy focuses on becoming aware of physical sensations in the present moment. What do you notice in your body when you’re angry, anxious, or distressed? Connecting with those sensations can yield important insights about how you uniquely experience your emotions. Together we can practice body-based interventions to meet those sensations directly. 


Here’s a brief example: you’re startled by a loud noise out in public. Your body reacts in an instant, releasing a cascade of adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart rate spikes, your breathing is shallow and rapid. Your stomach knots and your muscles tense. Rather than trying to think yourself out of this state, you focus your attention on your breathing. Consciously, you make each inhale a little deeper, release the clenching in your stomach, and feel your feet on the ground beneath you. As you breathe more deeply into your diaphragm and stomach, the panic starts to wane. You remind yourself that the panic will pass, because you’re noticing it lessening its grip on you.


Somatic therapy is often used alongside cognitive (thought-based) techniques. Panic, for example, often comes with racing thoughts along with the physical reaction. Counting the length of each inhale and exhale is just one example of how you could soothe yourself in the moment. By focusing both the mind and the body, you build your ability to ride the waves of emotion and return to a state of calm. Because each person is unique, we can work together to design techniques that best suit your individual needs.

 

I DON'T FEEL CONNECTED TO MY BODY. WILL SOMATIC THERAPY HELP ME?

Yes. It’s so common to experience ourselves as a floating head, led around by an inconvenient and distant meat machine. For people with trauma history, this disconnect was at one time likely key to your survival. For others, it could be a symptom of our cultural ideas of “mind over matter.” The body is a sensing instrument and can help us navigate more effectively in the world, especially if that connection is built with intentionality and care.

 

I DEAL WITH CHRONIC HEALTH ISSUES. HOW DOES SOMATIC THERAPY WORK WITH THAT?

I find the work of Jon Kabat Zinn and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction especially helpful for people living with chronic illnesses and recurring pain. MBSR uses breathing, mindfulness meditations, and gentle movement to foster awareness and deepen relaxation. In addition, we can uncover the negative beliefs around yourself and your illness.  Living with chronic illness is hard enough already — let's get shame out of the equation.

 

DO I NEED TO BE A BUDDHIST TO USE MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION?

No. Many faiths have contemplative practices that may interest you if religion is a big part of your life. If you’re atheistic, there are lots of scientific findings on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. I describe my approach as somatic because it’s not just about noticing what’s happening in your body – it’s about finding deliberate, specific ways to respond to your needs in the moment. For some folks, noticing, breathing, and releasing are enough to bring relief. For others (me, and many people I work with), you have to “get in there” and actively work with what’s happening in a loving, compassionate, and proactive way. I am influenced by Buddhist teachings and bring that lens into my work. I also practice meditation in my own life. You can check out more about that here

 
Image by Jared Rice

THINK SOMATIC THERAPY COULD BE HELPFUL FOR YOU?

Contact me to set up a free consultation and we can talk about it.