Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing ®

Somatic Experiencing moves beyond the cognitive process and explores HOW you feel your feelings in your body. It adds your nervous system to the equation, incorporating neurobiology, and essentially gives another lens through which to understand the human experience. When we begin to understand how to support our nervous system, we have more options in responding responding to situations, feelings and relationships.

What Is Somatic Experiencing ®?

“Developed by Peter Levine, Ph.D., it is the result of the multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, with more than 45 years of successful clinical application.” (

Somatic Experiencing is often thought of as a trauma therapy, but really, it is so much more. By using an approach grounded in the teachings of SE, you can begin to feel a greater sense of settling and regulation in your nervous system. There are a number of techniques and tools that a practitioner uses to help guide this.

How is SE®Incorporated Into Therapy?

This is not so easy to answer because it looks different in every person’s session. So if a person comes in and they are feeling really unsettled–tight in the chest, can’t sit still, having a hard time focusing—then we might do some grounding and orienting techniques. Never in the history of the universe has simply telling the person to ‘calm down’ been effective. Rather, we are entering their experience through the body. I might ask if it is okay to notice the tension in their chest. Does it stay in one place, move around, come and go? 

SE, as opposed to mindfulness, has to do with tracking the emotions, sensations, and feelings in the body to literally get out of your head.

SE ® In Daily Life

Again, there is no pat answer for this. In general, we might think of SE as an approach that helps a person notice their thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the body. Say you are going out to look at cars to buy. And you get to the dealership and test drive a car that you like. There may be a part of you that really wants the car and another part that wonders if this is the right car for you. Now pretend there is a high-pressure salesperson who is telling you that the car will be gone tomorrow, you will never get that deal again, and generally pushing the car on you. If you were ONLY ‘using your head’ that rationale might appeal. But if you turned your attention to your body, you might realize that your chest is tight, your face feels hot, you can’t even feel your feet on the floor. These are all important cues to guide your choices. SE helps build the internal muscles that allow you to align ALL of you….not just your head! 

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