Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) is an organic healing method, pioneered by Dr. Peter Levine and his organization, SETI (The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute) and taught worldwide. It helps people to heal from deep trauma even years after the occurrence of the traumatic event.
SE therapy helps people to overcome both ordinary traumatic events (car crashes, surgical and medical procedures, chronic pain, sudden losses or trauma associated with birth) and extraordinary traumatic events (natural disasters, combat, war and genocide, rape or assault).
ITI Israel is the official and SOLE provider of SE training for mental health professionals and other health providers in the Middle East.
SE is a gentle and compassionate method of healing. It helps restore inner balance and enhances resilience to stress. It protects therapists from burnout and compassion fatigue. Most importantly, it can be added to most other methods of healing as it introduces the role of the body in healing trauma. It can work on symptoms without narrative; it is effective in healing syndromes.
Its effective skills can be used by a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others, at different levels of competence.
Trauma and the Science behind the SE Approach
Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end-product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.
The SE approach teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure of the body, nervous system and psyche to process adverse events in a timely and effective manner.
Dr. Levine identified what was interfering with the human threat-recovery process and based on the body-based survival mechanisms, he developed tools to restore people’s innate capacity to rebound from overwhelming experiences, and restore their inherent self-regulatory mechanisms.
We automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain, mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Under threat, massive amounts of stress hormone energy are mobilized in readiness for self-defense via the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once safe, we spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy through involuntary movements including shaking, trembling, deep spontaneous breaths, yawning and heat waves. This discharge process resets the ANS, restoring equilibrium.
But we sometimes override the natural discharge of excess survival energy with rationalizations, judgments, shame, and fear of our bodily sensations; we disrupt our innate capacity to self-regulate, “recycling” disabling terror and helplessness. When the nervous system does not reset after a traumatic experience, sleep, cardiac, digestion, respiration, and immune system function can be seriously disturbed, and an array of other physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms can ensue.
How the SE Approach Works
SE facilitates the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body and the completion of self-protective motor responses, the root causes of trauma symptoms. It offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It creates a greater capacity to hold difficult bodily sensations and emotions without decompensating. SE does not require the traumatized to re-tell or re-live fully the traumatic event; it permits – in a slow and supported way—to restore the body’s instinctual fight, flight and freeze responses. People can then relax into a growing sense of safety and empowerment, with an increase of vitality and capacity to actively engage in life