Developed by Peter Levine, Somatic Experiencing (SE®) is a body–mind therapy specifically focused on healing trauma by helping clients draw their attention to their bodies.
SE is based largely on the idea of a freeze response. When you encounter some type of physical threat or anything that causes fear or anxiety, your body typically responds by preparing you to either fight the (real or perceived) threat or flee from it. However, if you feel overwhelmed, trapped, or helpless in the face of such threats (for example, children’s response to physical or emotional abuse), you will freeze, akin to a trapped animal playing dead.
The problem is that you can stay trapped in this freeze response long after the threat disappears. You’re no longer in danger, but your body still holds the energy built up from the fight-or-flight response. Because you froze, the energy wasn’t used, so it lingers in your body and prevents you from completely recovering from the experience.
SE helps you access and address this trauma that lingers in your body, allowing you to work through emotional symptoms, including feelings of anger, guilt, or shame.
This approach prioritizes the mind-body connection in treatment to help address both physical and psychological symptoms of certain mental health concerns, including trauma, grief, anxiety and depression.