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what is somatic therapy

What is Somatic Therapy?

You’ve been researching your or your loved one’s intimacy disorder (more commonly known as sex addiction) for a while now. One of the terms you’ve probably come across more than once is Somatic therapy – and you’re probably asking, “what is somatic therapy?”

Somatic therapy is the body-focused process that seeks to understand and alter the connection between body and mind. It is a holistic process that seeks to relieve you of tensions you experience in your physical body while still tending to your emotional well-being. 

Imagine that you’re experiencing a moment of intense grief over the loss of a loved one. Your heart feels like it’s in a cage, there’s a knot in your stomach, you begin to cry and have difficulty regulating your breathing patterns.

Those are all physical responses to emotion.

This demonstrates a key concept of somatic therapy and treatment: understanding how you experience your emotions in your body and learning how to not only notice those changes but how to get control over them as well.

Somatic therapy focused treatments can have long-lasting benefits. For your intimacy disorder or sex addiction, but in the rest of your life as well. Somatic therapy gives you the tools you need to understand and transform your response to negative experiences.

What are the Origins of Somatic Therapy?

What is somatic therapy? Well, the origins of the theories behind somatic therapy are far-reaching. They really began to take shape in the 1950s based on the “body-mind conflict.” This term was popularized by Alexander Lowen and Wilhelm Reich. This spawned the concept of “body-reading” where therapists and clinicians observe and try to interpret a person’s breathing patterns and muscle tension.

You probably practice this regularly. Imagine a person has their jaw clenched, their fists closed, and their shoulders hunched. You would assume they were experiencing stress, right? That’s body-reading!

What is Somatic Therapy & What Does it Look Like Today?

What somatic therapy looks like has evolved considerably over the decades. While still relying on these core concepts, somatic therapy is now commonly integrated into psychotherapy, counseling, and recovery programs. It can be coupled with other forms of treatments such as EMDR and talk-therapy.

Over the last few decades, there has been a lot of additional research between somatic therapy and what is called interoception, or the conscious and unconscious states that are processed in the body and mind as a result of external input. Links have been drawn that establish Somatic therapy as a treatment for psychiatric disorders like anxietydepression, and substance use disorders.

learning about somatic therapy

How Does Somatic Therapy Work?

The core principle behind somatic therapy is that the body, mind, emotions, and spirit are all connected to each other. Therefore, when you experience something traumatic it is stored in your central nervous system, the system that regulates your responses to events in your life, which can lead to changes in the body. Common changes you may experience are physical pain, altered facial expressions, and even your posture.

By exploring the tensions, sensations, and gestures that are conjured up by when you’re recovering from a traumatic experience, you learn how to guide your emotions and reactions in response to triggering events. This enables you to be in control of your responses and move with more freedom in your life since you are no longer at the mercy of your emotive reactions.

As Dr. Arielle Schwatz said, “The brilliance of somatic interventions is the ability to directly intervene by developing new neural pathways and behaviors that provide alternative ways of responding to your environment without getting stuck in the habits of the past.” 

How is Somatic Therapy Applied in Daily Life?

When coupled with mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, you can gain the power to be your own moderator and process traumatic material that you have survived. 

Imagine that you are suffering from an intimacy disorder, you are triggered by seeing erotic pictures on your phone. Your immediate thought is to find a place to masturbate. 

However, now that you’ve learned how to separate the triggering event from the reaction, you breathe. 

You examine your body and find where this trigger lives. You remind yourself to stay in this present moment and be aware of what is happening inside you. This little moment in time creates the space you need to consider your next move. Instead of masturbating, you think about how far you’ve come in your recovery and your loved ones that are supporting you. 

You consider reaching out for support. Instead of pursuing your old habits you simply move on with your day and feel proud of yourself for recovering from this triggering event.

How is Somatic Therapy Used in a Sex Addiction Treatment Setting?

As you will come to understand, many of those recovering from intimacy disorder or sex addiction have survived a great deal of trauma in their lives. 

Trauma causes not only physical shifts in our body, but it can cause a great deal of damage to the decision-making portions of our brains, also known as the prefrontal cortex. Those who have experienced trauma in their lives show a specific form of the decision-making process that is characterized by choosing an immediate reward, regardless of potential future consequences. 

By incorporating somatic therapy into a substance use disorder program, you learn how to process emotions and decisions in a more aware state. Thus, this shift in processing emotional signals can lead to healthier choices. 

At the Begin Again Institute, many of these concepts are woven throughout our process to see if they are right for you and your healing journey. 

What Should I Expect From Somatic Therapy?

As with all things, somatic therapy takes time and effort to not only adjust to but to utilize in your daily life. 

By learning “what is somatic therapy” and spending time with one of our experienced somatic therapists, you too can learn the foundational tools necessary for rewiring your brain. Some of the key tools that a Somatic therapist will guide you through include:

  • Grounding: This process involves feeling your body in the present moment and syncing it with your physical environment. A common form of meditative practice, it brings you into awareness of the surroundings and allows them to calm down your nervous system.
  • Somatic Awareness: Working with breathing patterns and tension, you become consciously aware of your body’s reaction to changes in your environment. This fundamental concept can give you the choice to be subject to your brain and body’s natural impulses or help you realize that you have a choice.
  • Titration: When you become aware of how traumatic events are stored in your body, you start to recognize patterns of tension and how you respond to certain stimuli. The word Titration simply means that you process the experiences in small bites and release the tension from your body consciously. This leads to a feeling of safety, being calm, and being in control.
  • Boundary Development: Something that is critical to anyone’s healthy development is learning how to feel and articulate consent to not only the outside world but to what is happening within your body. Staying present allows you to recognize what a “yes” or a “no” feels like for you in a way that makes you feel empowered and safe.

At the Begin Again Institute, somatic therapy is one of the many paths you’ll travel down on your journey to healing. Scientifically studied and proven, these techniques can soon help you regain a sense of control over your life. If your sex addiction or intimacy disorder has taken over your life and you’re ready to get help, consider joining our Men’s 14-Day Intensive

  • Category: Mental Health
  • By Dr. Michael Barta
  • December 16, 2020

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