We know that significant and protracted trauma in childhood can adversely affect the body’s physiology leading to constant feelings of hypervigilance in adulthood due to a dysregulated autonomic nervous system and how therapy involving the body can help reverse such effects.
Somatic psychology is a type of therapy that focuses on somatic (i.e. bodily) experiences and is therefore often extremely relevant to those who have suffered severe childhood trauma and, as a result, find themselves perpetually tense, anxious, fearful, and hypervigilant as adults. (In relation to this you may wish to read my previously published article: How Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Hypervigilance).
According to Shapiro (2020), somatic psychology can be divided up into 3 main categories. These are as follows:
- SOMATIC PRACTICES AND ARTS
- SOMATIC THERAPY
- SOMATIC PSYCHOTHERAPY AND DANCE MOVEMENT THERAPY
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:
SOMATIC PRACTICES AND ARTS:
These develop the individual’s awareness of their SOMA (defined as the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche) through movement, embodiment (see embodiment theory below), and expressive arts, including:
- Authentic movement
- Five rhythms
- Open floor qigong
- Alexander technique
- Body-mind centering
- Feldenkrais method
Somatic therapy involves embodiment-based (see embodiment theory below) and movement-based activities to repair and expand developmental motor skills and movement range as well as movement techniques to repair the body. These include:
- Yoga chakra theory
- Rolfing structural integration
- Network spinal analysis
- Kestenberg movement profile
SOMATIC PSYCHOTHERAPY AND DANCE MOVEMENT THERAPY:
These involve the body, embodied experiences (see embodiment theory below), movement impulses, and expressions that help one understand and repair emotional, social, developmental, and psychological scars and lacunae. These include:
Embodiment theory stresses the important influence the body has upon emotional experience (e.g. a warm bath inducing feelings of relaxation). The theory also encompasses the idea that we make use of our somatic (bodily) experiences to facilitate our comprehension of not only our own emotional experience (e.g. feeling our face burn red with embarrassment) but also our emotional experience of others (e.g. shaking if another person is frightening us). The theory offers us a mechanism (i.e. bodily sensations modifying and interacting with how we feel emotionally) that increases our understanding of how we process our emotions.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSC; PGDE(FAHE)