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Wellness

Listening To The Language Of The Body: Somatic Therapy's Approach To Healing

Over the last few years, there’s been a growing interest in individuals seeking support for mental health outside of their immediate circle. While traditional talk therapy is a common point of entry, allowing individuals to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns verbally, some may find themselves seeking an alternative approach to therapy that goes beyond the surface.

And in this case, somatic therapy could be the answer.


What Is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy recognizes the intricate connection between the mind and body, offering a holistic approach to healing that distinguishes it from traditional talk therapy. “It taps into the different sensations and physiological signs that your body sends you in order to determine whether it's processed your emotions, tough feelings, and reprocessed memories,” Simone Saunders, Managing Director, MSW, RSW, at The Cognitive Corner, tells xoNecole.

How Somatic Therapy Differs From Traditional Talk Therapy

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Although there are different forms of talk therapy, somatic therapy differs from traditional talk therapy because it is often centered around the narratives that we have inherited and taken on. On the other hand, somatic therapy is primarily focused on the subtle things that go unsaid. “Whether that's body language, your posture, the way that you're moving, the way that you're breathing, or the different sensations that come up,” Saunders explains, based on the experiences you share, your body is essentially doing the talking for you.

Rooted in the idea that the body and mind are interconnected, somatic therapy aims to address and release stored trauma and stress, promoting overall healing.

The thought of having your every move analyzed could make you uneasy, but as a therapist, Saunders ensures that her job is to notice and bring awareness to these sensations, as opposed to critique.

“If someone's talking about their experience and maybe they're holding their chest or I can see them ball up their fists, or tighten their shoulders, I'll call attention to that,” she explains. “We'll just notice what that feels like and sort of name if that's something that's positive, negative, neutral, and sort of play around with the idea of: what would it be like if we relax a little bit more? What does your body feel like it needs in this moment?

Diving Deeper in Somatic Healing

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Understanding how your body is responding to a memory or sensitive topic is just as important as understanding why it’s responding that way. Somatic therapy places a strong emphasis on cultivating awareness of bodily sensations by focusing on the present moment, which allows individuals to gain insight into the connection between their emotions and bodily responses.

If you’re familiar with the term, “the body keeps the score,” it relates to how traumatic events can leave a lasting impact on the body, manifesting as both physical symptoms and emotional distress. Saunder says that somatic therapy is particularly effective in addressing trauma.

“Often when you've experienced trauma, you are used to being disconnected to your body because you've had to be for the purpose of survival,” she says. “Somatic therapy can be really helpful to get you connected again and understand what your body is saying to you, whether or not your body feels safe in different moments, and how you can cultivate a sense of safety.”

Our body is our home — and the need to feel and be safe in our bodies is tantamount to our ability to heal. Having tools outside of therapy to practice self-safety can help us restore a feeling of secureness and wholeness within oneself.

“If you're looking to feel more connected with yourself, a good place to start is with your daily bodily function,” Saunders suggests. “You can check in: Am I thirsty? How do I know when I'm thirsty? How do I know when I'm hungry? How do I know when I need to use the bathroom? Because for a lot of us, it's just automatic. We just do it when we do it, or we ignore those sensations. Starting from there is often a safer place to start — and from there, we can start to understand what it feels like to feel sensations.”

“As far as at-home somatic practices, simply doing things like rocking or cold or hot stimulation can help,” she continues. “There are a lot of things that we do on a day-to-day basis that would be considered somatic practices that we don't necessarily realize — it's just about getting in touch with yourself.”

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Featured image by Maskot/Getty Images

 

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