What is Somatic Experiencing (SE)?

SE is a body-based approach that helps to safely release the energies activated in trauma. It works with your body’s natural systems to help heal and release the symptoms of trauma.

An image of how trauma lives in the body
When something overwhelming or life-threatening (or perceived as life-threatening) happens, powerful forces in the body come into play. Our body gets us ready for fight or flight. Huge amounts of energy are mobilised. For many reasons we often reject that powerful primal instinct and those energies get stuck in our body/being.

It is like a balloon completely full of air that has no way of releasing. This trapped energy contributes towards many symptoms and difficulties.

For some people, they feel that their symptoms come very close to a traumatic experience. For many, however, it can be years or even decades before any symptoms surface

How SE works
Put simply, SE allows you to safely release these energies and restore health and wholeness to your life.

It uses your self-awareness and the support of the practitioner to listen to what the body needs to do in order to move towards feeling more safety and well-being.

SE is about supporting you to improve your symptoms, whatever they are.
It is not about reliving the trauma. You do not even have to know the cause of your symptoms.

The emphasis is working with the nervous system and on finding the body's natural way of letting go of the trapped energy and feeling safe again.

Some elements that are used with SE:
  • Self-awareness of the body, feelings and mind
  • Grounding and finding ways of feeling safe
  • Using movement to help bring release and safety
  • Education about how the body deals with stress and trauma
  • Everyday tools to help you find ease and safety
  • Sometimes SE uses gentle contact or touch in a safe and respectful way

SE was developed by American psychotherapist, Dr Peter Levine. Levine observed that wild animals, though routinely threatened, rarely are traumatised. When the threat has passed, that intense energy is discharged.

Find out more from the main SE website

See how Peter Levine explains SE