Somatic therapies are new and important ways to access and clear foundational experiences held in the body. Essential contributors to the field include Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing), Pat Ogden of the Hakomi Institute, and, later, the attachment emphasis of Sharon Stanley’s Somatic Transformation. In general, the somatic approaches emphasize working with the neurobiological response to acute and chronic stress and trauma.
In the Somatic Transformation approach, acute and chronic stress and trauma reactions are understood to be aspects of development and relational experiences throughout the life span, from infancy, through adulthood. The methods also address other sources of acute and chronic stress, such as medical procedures, falls, accidents, assaults, natural disasters, and terrorism from the point of view of the felt sense of unworked experience in the body. Recent theories and research on brain-body physiology and memory mechanisms have expanded our understanding of the possibilities of somatic therapy processes in the resolution of conditioned reflexes of trauma.
Dr. Paulsen completed one year of somatic experiencing training, and one year of somatic transformation training. She incorporates somatic therapy into her work with EMDR and Ego State Therapy as appropriate.
Bainbridge Institute affiliate Tim Iistowanohpataakiiwa also completed those same trainings, and incorporates some of the elements into his spiritual direction practice. Interestingly, somatic interventions are very compatible with the felt sense of Native American ways of being and enhance spiritual practice.
D. Michael Coy has studied the employment of somatic release methods with Dr. Paulsen, specifically in the context of EMDR and Ego State Therapy, and uses them in a limited manner, as needed.
A key element of any somatic approach is the activation of one’s ventral vagal nervous system, using any kind of resourcing that is life enhancing. For links to more information about the approaches mentioned above, as well as link to videos of indigenous song, dance, drum, chant that access Native American and Native Hawaiian spirituality and community, please refer to the Somatic Therapy Resources menu located on this page.