Somatic Experiencing

A body-oriented approach to healing trauma and stress disorders.


Somatic Experiencing is a therapeutic technique that aims to relieve and resolve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress-related conditions by focusing on the client's perceived body sensations. This approach is based on the understanding that trauma and stress are not just psychological, but also have a significant physiological impact on the body. Somatic Experiencing helps individuals to release traumatic shock 'frozen' in the body, which can lead to a reduction in stress and an increased sense of vitality and resilience.

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Somatic Experiencing was developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, a psychologist and biophysicist, who studied stress and trauma for over 45 years. His work is based on the observation that wild animals, despite routinely facing life-threatening situations, rarely develop traumatic symptoms. Levine proposed that this is due to their innate ability to release trauma from their bodies through shaking, trembling, and other physical responses. Inspired by this insight, he developed Somatic Experiencing as a way to help humans tap into this natural healing mechanism and overcome the effects of trauma.


  1. Reduces Trauma Symptoms Somatic Experiencing can help alleviate symptoms associated with PTSD and other trauma-related disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
  2. Enhances Resilience By learning to process and release traumatic experiences, individuals can develop a greater sense of resilience and ability to cope with future stressors.
  3. Improves Mind-Body Connection Somatic Experiencing promotes a deeper awareness of the connection between physical sensations and emotional experiences, fostering a greater sense of mind-body integration.
  4. Supports Self-Regulation This approach teaches individuals to recognize and regulate their physiological responses to stress, leading to improved emotional and physical self-regulation.
  5. Non-Invasive and Safe Somatic Experiencing is a gentle, non-invasive approach that respects the individual's pace and boundaries, making it a safe option for trauma recovery.
  6. Complements Other Therapies Somatic Experiencing can be effectively integrated with other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy, for a comprehensive treatment approach.

How It Works

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented therapeutic approach that works with the nervous system to address trauma and stress. It focuses on the physiological responses to traumatic events, rather than just the psychological aspects. SE helps individuals to become more aware of their bodily sensations, allowing them to gradually release and process trapped energy and tension related to past traumas. By gently guiding the client to pendulate between states of activation and settling, SE aims to restore the body's natural self-regulation mechanisms and promote a sense of safety and resilience.


While Somatic Experiencing can be highly effective for many individuals, it's important to consider that the process may take time and patience. Some people may experience temporary discomfort or heightened emotions as they work through traumatic memories. It's crucial to work with a qualified and experienced SE practitioner who can provide a safe and supportive environment. SE may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with severe dissociative disorders or active substance abuse issues. It's always advisable to consult with a mental health professional to determine if SE is an appropriate approach for your specific needs.

How Much It Costs

The cost of Somatic Experiencing sessions can vary depending on factors such as the practitioner's experience, location, and session length. On average, individual SE sessions can range from $100 to $200 per hour. Some practitioners may offer package deals or sliding scale fees based on income. It's important to check with your health insurance provider to see if they cover SE therapy, as coverage can vary. Keep in mind that the total cost of treatment will depend on the number of sessions needed, which can vary from person to person based on their individual needs and progress.

Virtual & Online Options

Both virtual and in-person Somatic Experiencing sessions have their advantages. Online SE sessions offer convenience, accessibility, and the ability to work with practitioners from anywhere in the world. This can be particularly beneficial for those with busy schedules, limited local options, or mobility issues. However, in-person sessions may provide a more immersive and hands-on experience, allowing for direct observation of body language and physical cues. In-person sessions can also foster a stronger therapeutic relationship and sense of safety. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person SE sessions depends on individual preferences, needs, and circumstances.


To become a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), individuals must complete a comprehensive training program through the Somatic Experiencing International (SEI) organization. The training consists of three levels, each involving a combination of lectures, demonstrations, and supervised practice sessions. Participants must complete all three levels, as well as additional case consultations and a final exam, to earn the SEP designation. Prior to enrolling in the SE training, individuals must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as psychology, social work, or counseling, or be a licensed healthcare professional, such as a physician, nurse, or physical therapist.

Complementary Practices

Somatic Experiencing can be complemented by other body-based therapies and practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and dance/movement therapy. Mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises can also enhance the effectiveness of Somatic Experiencing by promoting greater body awareness and emotional regulation. Additionally, incorporating elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy alongside Somatic Experiencing can provide a comprehensive approach to healing trauma and improving overall well-being.

Practitioner Types

Somatic Experiencing practitioners include licensed mental health professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and nurses with additional training in Somatic Experiencing can also offer this therapy. Some bodyworkers, such as massage therapists and Rolfers, may incorporate Somatic Experiencing techniques into their practice if they have completed the necessary training and certification.

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  • Q: What is Somatic Experiencing and how does it work?

    • A: Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented therapy that helps individuals resolve symptoms of trauma and chronic stress. It works by gently guiding clients to develop greater awareness of their physical sensations, allowing them to release trapped survival energy and restore a sense of safety and equilibrium in their bodies.
  • Q: Who can benefit from Somatic Experiencing therapy?

    • A: Somatic Experiencing can be helpful for people who have experienced various types of trauma, including childhood abuse, sexual assault, natural disasters, accidents, and military combat. It can also benefit those dealing with chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
  • Q: How long does Somatic Experiencing therapy typically take?

    • A: The length of Somatic Experiencing therapy varies depending on the individual's needs and the severity of their trauma. Some people may experience significant relief after a few sessions, while others may require longer-term treatment. On average, Somatic Experiencing therapy may last between 6 to 12 sessions, with each session typically lasting 50-60 minutes.
  • Q: Is Somatic Experiencing covered by insurance?

    • A: Coverage for Somatic Experiencing therapy varies depending on the insurance provider and plan. Some insurance companies may cover Somatic Experiencing if it is provided by a licensed mental health professional and deemed medically necessary. It is best to check with your insurance provider to determine your specific coverage and out-of-pocket costs.
  • Q: Can Somatic Experiencing be done online or remotely?

    • A: Yes, Somatic Experiencing therapy can be conducted online or remotely through video conferencing platforms. While in-person sessions may be preferred by some clients and practitioners, online Somatic Experiencing sessions can still be effective in helping individuals process trauma and develop greater body awareness and emotional regulation skills.


Somatic Experiencing is a powerful body-based therapy that can help individuals heal from the effects of trauma and chronic stress. By focusing on physical sensations and gently guiding clients to release trapped survival energy, Somatic Experiencing promotes a greater sense of safety, resilience, and overall well-being. With its growing recognition in the mental health field and the availability of trained practitioners from various backgrounds, Somatic Experiencing is becoming an increasingly accessible and sought-after approach to trauma recovery. Whether pursued on its own or in combination with other complementary practices, Somatic Experiencing offers a promising path to healing and transformation for those seeking to reclaim their lives from the grip of trauma.