“The mind-body clash has disguised the truth that psychotherapy is physiology. When a person starts therapy, he isn’t beginning a pale conversation; he is stepping into a somatic state of relatedness” -Thomas Lewis
What is Somatic-Based Therapy?
Merriam-Webster defines somatic as “relating to, or affecting the body especially as distinguished from the psyche.” Somatic therapists believe that past traumas, emotions, and experiences can become trapped within the body and then externalized by posture, facial expressions, etc and/or internalized through muscular pain and other types of body language.
Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to healing traumas through different techniques such as dance or other body movement, breathing exercises, massage, voice work, and more. There are various forms of somatic therapies such as Core energetics, Bodynamics, Hakomi, and Bioenergetic analysis.
The father of Somatic-Based therapy is an Austrian psychoanalyst,Wilhelm Reich, who became known for his idea of muscular armour. Muscular armour aka Segmental Armouring Theory, states that all living organisms contain a life force which Reich named as orgone energy. When the orgone energy does not flow properly through the body due to various reasons (in this context trauma), the body will internalize and/or externalize the blockages through various means. When the blockages are identified and then worked through, it enables the release of extra orgone energy or repletion depending on the needs in order to rebalance the body to a natural equilibrium.
Techniques used in Somatic-Based therapy
As mentioned earlier, somatic-based therapy utilizes different techniques in order to help the body process traumas. The needs of clients are met depending on their own preferences. For instance, dance is known to be an efficient technique to release traumas through body movements.
Another technique is acting/drama and/or vocal exercises which would require the client to verbalize and/or exteriorize the trauma through movements and voice work. Also, different massages can be used such as energetic massages and/or physical massages. Breathing and grounding exercises can also be used along meditation, visualization, and mindfulness. Somatic-Based therapy has a wide array of tools which clients can choose from.
Somatic-Based Therapy at Sofia University:
There are multiple classes where you will be introduced to Somatic-Based Therapy and its effectiveness on yourself as well as on clients. Classes such as “Creative Expression” and “Psychotherapy Theory and Interventions” are good environments where you will be able to conduct your own somatic exploration and how to communicate with your body. You will also be introduced to the different interventions and how to use them efficiently. If you feel like this might be a good tool for you to have, come join us at Sofia University!
Faculty Connections: Manuela Mischke-Reeds, MA, MFT
Manuela Mischke-Reeds, MA, MFT, is an international teacher and writer of mindfulness-based somatic psychology. She co-directs the Hakomi Institute of California and teaches in the US, Europe, and Australia. A meditation practitioner for over 25 years, Manuela lectures, consults and trains professionals in mindfulness, attachment, trauma, and movement therapy. She maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Menlo Park, CA.
Manuela frequently lectures at conferences and Universities and has been faculty for the past 15 years at JFK University, Sofia University, and The California Institute of Integral Studies in California.
Come join the family 🙂
A bientôt! by Pierre Araman
Somatic Body Oriented Studies
If you would like to read about studies conducted on the effectiveness of Somatic-Based Therapy, here are some links:
The Effectiveness of Body-Oriented Psychotherapy: http://www.pacfa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PACFA_LitReview_Body-Oriented-Psychotherapy_Final.pdf
Empirical Support for Somatic Regulation in the Treatment of Traumatized Adolescents: http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/Body_Change_Score_W0001.pdf
Neuroscience in Somatic Psychotherapy: http://cellularbalance.com/Articles/Neuroscience_Somatic_Psychology_Part_III.pdf
Blog writer Pierre Araman is a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program who enjoys sharing his growing knowledge of therapy and therapeutic technique with the wider audience.