Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a therapy developed for Trauma which focuses on the body. Developed by Peter Levine, PhD, this bottom up approach emphasizes attention to sensation and movement in the body. Symptoms of traumatic stress are seen as incomplete defensive responses caused by the inability of the nervous system to process and integrate overwhelming information from traumatic events. The goal of the therapy is to release the traumatic activation enabling the trauma to be discharged from the body. Focus on bodily sensations can increase tolerance to the sensations and related emotions. SE uses invitational language and does not require extensive retelling of trauma memories which can be retraumatizing.
Trauma memories are approached indirectly and gradually. Clients learn to engage and disengage through learning skills to help regulate activation in the body. The trauma work can be titrated in order to keep clients from becoming overwhelmed and to help them to build increased tolerance. The client learns to monitor and downregulate arousal by using inner resources such as positive sensations and memories. Discharge of previously incomplete defensive responses allows the natural healing process of the body to restore the nervous system to balance and increase resiliency.