What is somatic psychotherapy?

Traditional psychotherapy primarily pays attention to thoughts, emotions and behaviors and it utilizes the words of a person as the entry point for treatment. In contrast, body-oriented, or somatic therapies, depend on your present moment bodily experiences as a gateway to awareness and improved mental health. Mindfulness and an awareness of the body can help uncover what is unconscious and would otherwise remain hidden, to help you explore your model of reality. Your body – the way you hold it and use it – can communicate your inner states more loudly than your spoken words (Weiss et al., 2015). Indeed, 70–80% of communication occurs through (mostly unconscious) somatic signaling – how you stand, move, speak, and breathe. Attention is also given to sensations and felt experiences in the body. It may be as simple as bringing attention and awareness to a felt sensation, or it might entail “taking over” a particular tension or holding, in order to explore what lies beneath. While your words are extremely valuable, so too are the nonverbal messages that surface directly from your core beliefs and model of the world. 

A movement, facial expression, sigh, or hand gesture can openly communicate anger, sadness, upset, and even disgust. The therapist seeks a connection with the nonverbal, along with what is spoken. Crucial to somatic psychotherapy is the act of making such implicitly held beliefs and somatic knowledge available to you; limiting beliefs can then be challenged, and new ones identified to bring improved perceptions and behavior. Somatic methods also recognize the importance of events in your childhood and their subsequent impact on your behavior, emotions, and feelings. These therapies have the potential to reach deep into your memory and access fundamental beliefs that shape the choices you make, perceptions you have, and how you respond to life. If you become more aware of yourself, then you will be less automatic in your reactions. The goal of therapy is to encourage communication among parts and to bring attention and care to those parts that are lost, hidden or isolated.

Body-oriented psychotherapy can provide an added dimension to the therapeutic process by presenting information that is often overlooked. Mindfulness and present moment awareness help you recognize, explore and shift habitual ways of acting and responding and connect more with your aliveness. With the partnership of the conscious mind, it can provide a deeper and more efficient path to work directly with the unconscious mind, facilitating self-discovery and transformation.



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