Somatic Therapy: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection

Somatic Therapy

In today’s technology-driven world, the fight for our attention continues to grow. In fact, most people spend over three hours a day scrolling or staring at their phone screen. All of this is to say that our attention is rarely tuned in to the internal state of the body. Yet, somatic therapy is changing this course and attempting to reinforce the mind-body connection. 

It’s undeniable that the body and mind are interlinked. If you have a physical illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, you are more likely to develop a mental health condition — and vice versa.

So, where does somatic therapy come into play? Why is it important? And how can you start incorporating somatic therapy into your life?

Understanding Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is technically a form of alternative therapy. It focuses on the person’s physical sensations in relation to their mental or physical trauma. However, you don’t necessarily need to have any obvious trauma to benefit from this type of therapy.

Somatic therapy has everything to do with interoception. Interoception is your ability to perceive your body’s internal states. 

A person with high interoception is very in-tune with their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. A person with low interoception, on the other hand, may struggle to interpret how they are feeling or what it means.

The good news is that interoception is possible to cultivate. You can learn to regulate autonomic functions, like your breath, heartbeat, blood pressure, digestion, and immunity. It all comes down to practice, which is where somatic therapy plays a significant part.

How Somatic Therapy Works

A practitioner of somatic therapy believes that emotions can get stuck within the physical body. Thus, they employ a variety of techniques to release this emotion and to help the individual reconnect with their physical being. Some of these techniques may include:

  • Grounding – This involves planting your feet firmly on the ground, taking note of your feet and any other sensations within the body, and actively working toward calming your nervous system.
  • Body Awareness – Through this technique, you learn to recognize areas of tension within the body and release them.
  • Pendulation – Your somatic therapy practitioner guides you back and forth between a relaxed state and feelings related to a traumatic experience. This helps to teach you how to fall into a relaxed state all on your own and as needed.
  • Titration – Your somatic therapist guides you while describing a traumatic memory. As you describe it, you are encouraged to observe any physical sensations.
  • Resourcing – This type of technique has you recall relationships or situations in your life that help you feel calm and safe. These parts of your life can help act as an emotional anchor when you need them.

Overall, the technique that works for you is based on your personal preferences, experiences, and the guidance of your practitioner. Depending on what type of somatic therapy you undergo, the techniques themselves might also differ.

Why is Somatic Therapy Important?

Somatic therapy has the ability to help deepen your connection with yourself and others. In turn, you might experience less stress and develop a better sense of your own body and feelings. 

From here, you have the ability to self-regulate your emotions and bodily reactions, which is powerful in so many ways. When you experience discomfort, whether that’s physical or emotional, somatic therapy can help you find quick relief. 

For instance, somatic therapy is useful for high-stress situations, dealing with grief, anxiety, depression, addiction, and more. But again, you don’t have to have any particular illness or grievance to reap the benefits of this therapy.

Reaffirming that connection between your body and mind regularly can have various benefits in your daily life, like reducing stress, helping you understand your own limits, and helping you connect with others more easily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is somatic therapy evidence-based?

While further research is needed, there are a variety of studies indicating the effectiveness of somatic therapy. 

A 2017 study showed how individuals with PTSD who participated in somatic experiencing had significant improvements in their PTSD symptoms.

A 2014 review examined 24 different studies that supported a type of somatic therapy called EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, in helping individuals overcome trauma. 

There is more to explore in this field of study. Yet, the preliminary research is very promising.

Who can practice somatic therapy?

When providing somatic therapy to others at a set fee, usually a person must be a licensed or registered healthcare practitioner. However, you can practice this form of therapy on yourself by using common somatic therapy techniques.

Does somatic therapy really work?

Many individuals have experienced success with somatic therapy. At the same time, some individuals may find this type of therapy triggering (specifically in cases of sexual abuse). If you are looking into therapeutic options to help you and your situation, you may need to explore a few different types of therapy before landing on the right one.

How long does somatic therapy take?

Most professional somatic therapy sessions are 50-60 minutes long and involve entirely one-on-one time with your somatic therapist.

What are examples of somatic therapy?

Types of somatic therapy include:

  • Somatic Experiencing
  • EMDR
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • Neurosomatic therapy
  • Hakomi

Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Get In-Touch With Your Senses (And Induce the Relaxation Response)

1. Practice Deep Breathing

Close your eyes and take a deep inhalation through your nose. As you do this count to four. Pause, then exhale while counting to four. Continue to do this for 10-20 breaths. Afterward, you should feel more relaxed and calm.

2. Try Progressive Relaxation

Find a comfortable place to lay face-up, such as a yoga mat or your bed. Slowly go through each body part and muscle group, tightening each area up as much as you can, before completely releasing and relaxing that same area. Start at your head and work your way downwards to your toes. 

3. Try a Body Scan

A body scan is similar to progressive relaxation but less involved. In a way, it mimics the “corpse pose” in yoga, but it requires some of your attention. As you lay face-up on a comfortable surface, go from your head to your toes, noting how you feel in each body part. What feels tight? Are there any discomforts? Can you make yourself more comfortable? If you hold tension anywhere, try to release it and fully relax into the moment. 
If you prefer having someone guide you through the process, there are various guided body scans on meditation apps, such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, or yoga platforms, like Glo.

Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.

At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.

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Meet the Author

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden is a Professional Freelance Writer, with an Honors Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She worked as a Kinesiologist at a health clinic in Ottawa, Canada for many years before pursuing a full-time writing career. She uses her extensive knowledge in health and science to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others, traveling, and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.
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