Archive for December 23, 2014

An Introduction to Body-Centred (Somatic) Therapies

Zen stone reflection

The field of somatics has developed over the last century through a process of inquiry into how consciousness inhabits the living body. The term is derived from the word “somatic” (Greek “somatikos”, soma: “living, aware, bodily person”) which means pertaining to the body, experienced and regulated from within. According to Thomas Hanna, who first coined the phrase, “somatics” is the study of self from the perspective of one’s lived experience, encompassing the dimensions of body, psyche, and spirit. 

The field of Somatic Movement Education and Therapy represents a variety of approaches to the process of awakening awareness of the human body, or soma, in movement. Registered practitioners guide individuals and groups into inner experiences of their bodies, deepening the clients’ understanding of themselves in motion. This transformational learning process can include sound, breath, touch and imagery in addition to movement.

The table below presents a summary of the different types of body-centred therapy that are now available around the world. These different body-centred healing approaches have a number of common terms, concepts, underpinnings and understandings, including:

  • The effects of trauma and traumatic shock are felt and stored within our physical body;
  • Unresolved emotional issues can get in the way and can cause ‘blockages’ within us;
  • Suppressing and ‘holding onto’ our unresolved emotional issues consumes a lot of our energy, reducing the amount of energy that we have available to us in our present day;
  • There is an inextricable link between our unresolved emotional issues and the physical sensations, injuries, illnesses, pain and discomfort that arises within our body;
  • Body-centred therapies offer a way of working with our whole body and the inherent energy and energetic pathways within our body that can assist in the release of the effects of trauma and traumatic shock from our body;
  • Our bodies are a ‘storehouse’ of intelligence, stored memories and associated physical sensations from past events, innate wisdom and inner knowing which we can access through these modalities to help us to heal more rapidly, effectively, holistically and completely;
  • Body-centred therapies typically involve a combination of: getting in touch with our body’s intelligence and innate inner wisdom, focusing on our breathing as a means of gaining more body awareness and becoming more attuned and in touch with our body, our energy patterns, our energetic pathways and our own unique inner natural rhythm.

Some may find that the number of different body-centred therapies now available is overwhelming and confusing. The reality is that there are actually many benefits available to us through having such a wide range of body-centred therapies to choose from. The reality is that we all have different birth, childhood, teenage, early adult, mid-life and later years experiences. We all have our own unique story. We all have our own unique experience of trauma and all of the details of the incidents, complexity, degree and frequency of the traumatic events that we have experienced in our lives. With the exceptions of our siblings, we all have different parents with their own strengths and weaknesses just as we, ourselves, have our own varying strengths and weaknesses.

When we begin to consider all of the complex multitude of variables that have gone into contributing to the way in which we respond to, react to, deal with, cope, manage and live with the effects of the sum total of all of the trauma that has occurred across the span of each of our lifetimes up until now, we can begin to understand why it is impossible to come up with a ‘one size fits all’ approach to healing trauma.

Inevitably, a number of unique human beings around the world, with their own individual accumulated assortment of: stories, histories, strengths and weaknesses have created and developed their own approaches to healing the effects of trauma. The reality is that all of these body-centred approaches will help you to progress on your healing journey to some degree, some modalities will be more effective for you than others, one modality may help you more at a particular crisis or time in your life and then may not be so effective for you at another time in your life and vice versa.

So the moral to the story is to maintain an open mind and to constantly be open to experimenting with different therapies and different combinations of therapies and to also be open to re-visiting a particular modality that may not have been effective for you the first time you tried it. Always remember that the ultimate effectiveness of any therapy in assisting you with progressing on your healing journey is directly dependent on the combination of both the modality itself and the therapist who is practising it. There will be times when you find an effective modality but you may not experience optimal results due to a lack of knowledge, skill, competency, insight and understanding on the therapist’s part.

So … be open to all of the different types of body-centred therapy that you have available to you, consider trying more than one therapist who practices a particular modality, ask lots of questions, don’t take anything at face value, notice what works for you and what doesn’t, do your research, read up on the different types of healing that are available, listen to your instincts, make the effort to notice and tune into what feels true and right for you.

Remember that you spend every moment of your life with you, so no one else on the planet has spent more time with you, than you! No other person on the planet knows you better than you. You are the world expert on you. No professional person, despite all of their University degrees, knowledge, other qualifications and skills, is more qualified than knowing what is right and true for you than you. Allow your own inner knowing and your own sense of what feels right and true for you to be your predominant, ever present guide.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To thine own self be true.

– William Shakespeare

For brevity’s sake, I’ve included only a brief summary of each type of body-centred therapy in the table below. These summaries are all direct extracts taken from each type of body-centred therapy’s official website.

If you are interested in learning more about one or more of these healing modalities, visit the official website and/or read the books listed in the table below. Additionally, most of the people who have developed these modalities have produced CDs, DVDs and/or Youtube videos about their work so you could do a search by the developer’s name to find out more about all of the books that they have written or CDs, DVDs and/or Youtube videos that they may have produced about their particular body-centred approach.

Summary of the Different Types of Body-Centred Therapy Currently Available:

Name and Brief Description (from each official website) of Body-Centred Healing Modality: Developed by /Website:
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – a universal healing tool that can provide impressive results for physical, emotional, and performance issues. EFT operates on the premise that no matter what part of your life needs improvement, there are unresolved emotional issues in the way. Even for physical issues, chronic pain, or diagnosed conditions, it is common knowledge that any kind of emotional stress can impede the natural healing potential of the human body.In many cases, EFT can be applied directly to physical symptoms for relief without exploring any emotional contributors. However, for the most powerful, longest lasting results with EFT, we do expect to identify and target related emotional issues.The EFT premise also includes the understanding that the more unresolved emotional issues you can clear, the more peace and emotional freedom you will have in your life. With that in mind, EFT can be an ongoing process that we use to clear out the old traumas, and welcome any new challenges with a healthy, productive attitude. Gary Craigwww.emofree.comBooks by Gary Craig:The EFT Manual 



The Healing Power of EFT and Energy Psychology


The Promise of Energy Psychology

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) – is recognized as an effective form of trauma treatment in numerous practice guidelines worldwide.  In the US, this includes organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association and Department of Defence.  More than 20 randomised studies support the effectiveness of the therapy in the treatment of PTSD.  Further, more than twenty randomised studies have demonstrated positive effects of the eye movements.EMDR is a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach. It contains elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centred therapies.EMDR psychotherapy is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviours and mental health. Francine Shapirowww.emdr.comSome books by Francine Shapiro:EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy in Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma 

Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy


Faster EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – a collection of new cutting-edge techniques and processes that integrates the most effective elements of EFT, Be Set Free Fast (BSFF), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), spiritual understanding, science and the mind’s great ability to transform itself. One of the greatest aspects of FasterEFT is that it is fast, direct and to the point. It has a healthy and logical belief system that is easily accepted. With this great mix of understandings, FasterEFT can quickly transform how you represent your past, shift your emotional disruptions and restore your physical health. Robert G. Smithwww.fastereft.comBe Set Free Fast (BSFF)
Focusing – shows how to pause the on-going situation and create a space for new possibilities for carrying forward. This practice, shows how to apply open attention to something which is directly experienced but is not in words.Your body knows more about situations than you are explicitly aware of. For example, your body picks up more about another person than you consciously know. With a little training, you can get a bodily feel for the ‘more’ that is happening in any situation. From that bodily feel come small steps that lead toward resolution. Dr Eugene T. Gendlinwww.focusing.orgBooks by Dr Eugene T. Gendlin: FocusingThinking Beyond Patterns: Body, Language and Situations
Hakomi – integrating scientific, psychological and spiritual sources, has evolved into a complex and elegant form of psychotherapy that is highly effective with a wide range of populations. The method draws from general systems theory and modern body-centered therapies including Gestalt, Psychomotor, Feldenkrais, Focusing, Ericksonian Hypnosis, NLP and the work of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen. Core concepts of gentleness, nonviolence, compassion, and mindfulness evolved from Buddhism and Taoism.At its most basic level, Hakomi is the therapeutic expression of a specific set of Principles: Mindfulness, Nonviolence, Unity, Organicity and Mind-Body Integration; these tenets inform every aspect of the work. Ron Kurtzwww.hakomiinstitute.comSome books by Ron Kurtz:The Body Reveals  Body-Centered Psychotherapy

Grace Unfolding

Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) or Network Chiropractics – an evidence-based approach to wellness and body awareness. Gentle precise touch to the spine cues the brain to create new wellness promoting strategies. Two unique healing waves develop that are associated with spontaneous release of spinal and life tensions, and the use of existing tension as fuel for spinal re-organisation and enhanced wellness. Practitioners combine their clinical assessments of spinal refinements with patient’s self-assessments of wellness and life changes. Greater self-awareness and conscious awakening of the relationships between the body, mind, emotion, and expression of the human spirit are realised through this popular healing work. Donald Epstein (also developer of SRI)www.reorganizational.orgBook: The 12 Stages of Healing, A Network Approach to Wellness by Donald Epstein
Reiki – a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Mikao Usui www.reiki.orgBook: A Modern Reiki Method for Healing by Hiroshi Doi
Somatic Experiencing (SE) – a potent psychobiological method for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.SE offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, freeze, or collapse responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including, mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others. Dr Peter A. Levinewww.somaticexperiencing.comSome books by Peter A. Levine and others: Waking the Tiger, Healing TraumaTrauma Through a Child’s Eyes, Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – is a body-centred psychotherapy that makes it possible for clients to discover the habitual and automatic attitudes, both physical and psychological, by which they generate patterns of experience. This gentle therapy teaches clients to follow the inherently intelligent processes of body and mind to promote healing. It is particularly helpful in working with the effects of trauma and abuse, emotional pain, and limiting belief systems. Through the use of simple experiments, unconscious attitudes are brought to consciousness where they can be examined, understood, and changed. A synthesis of somatic therapy and the Hakomi Method, from which it evolved, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy has gained international acclaim. Dr Pat Ogden, Sensiomotor Psychotherapy Institute,www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.orgBook: Trauma and the Body: A Sensiomotor Approach to Psychotherapy by Dr Pat Ogden
Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) – is designed to offer you new options in your experience of your body and your personal healing. It educates you to your body’s rhythms and inner wisdom through focused attention, gentle breath, movement and touch. SRI provides you with a means of placing your attention on your body, the vessel of human spirit, and provides a tool for focusing your attention in a way that works for your healing and empowerment. Donald Epstein (also developer of NSA)www.wiseworldseminars.comBook: The 12 Stages of Healing, A Network Approach to Wellness by Donald Epstein
Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) – help individuals release stress or tension as a result of difficult life circumstances, immediate or prolonged stressful situations, or traumatic life experiences. TRE consists of six simple exercises that help individuals release tension from the muscles, which in turn relaxes the anxiety of our minds, by evoking a muscular shaking process in the body.The exercises elicit this shaking in a controlled and sustained manner. When evoked in this way, this shaking, also called neurogenic tremors, begins to release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body. They come from the centre of gravity of the body (S3), which is protected by the psoas muscles. When shaking is evoked at this powerful centre of the body, it reverberates throughout the entire body, travelling along the spine, releasing deep chronic tension from the sacrum to the cranium.When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals and produces new hormones for relaxation and comfort. Often, this release of tension is much like receiving an internal massage. Dr David Berceliwww.traumaprevention.comSome books by Dr David Berceli:The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process, Transcend Your Toughest TimesTrauma Releasing Exercises


Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald: Childhood Trauma & Adult Pain


In her recent novel Adult Onset, Ann-Marie MacDonald provides an amazingly sensitive account of a grown woman coming to terms with her own childhood trauma. As most of us, the heroine doesn’t want to believe she was abused. It is only through the pain in her body that she is finally forced to recognize that her mother abused her physically and emotionally, while her father, wanting everything to be nice, stood by, pretending nothing was happening.

Mary Rose, the lesbian heroine of the story, suffers from bone cysts. In her middle years, she discovers bone cysts are often caused by repeated trauma: not, as her mother always told her from her “badness coming out.” She is faced with disturbing memories of her mother yelling, “I’ll teach you!” and “Is that what you want?” as she beats her.

Those of us who suffer childhood trauma will recognize Mary Rose’s signs and symptoms.

  • “And why is it surprising that truth makes its way out through the body like a vine invading from within? What you mistook for sinews now revealed as sprouts from a seed swallowed long ago, creeping, pushing, straining toward the light, ensnaking arteries, choking heart and lungs; vines disguised as veins, forcing blindly our, I’m going to smash you.”(Page 348)
  • Pills distance the phantom pain to the point that “someone is feeling the pain, but not me.”
  • “I feel I’m making this up,” says Mary Rose.
  • All of it happened, none of it happened, it is still happening.
  • Mary Rose begins to remember her mother breaking her arm. “I’m afraid that it’s true. And I’m afraid that it isn’t.”
  • Why did no one get help for the child with the sore arm? Delaying treatment for a child’s injuries is a sign of possible abuse, Mary Rose reads online.