How Somatic Experiencing can Help You Treat Trauma and Addiction

Many people on the road to recovery have discovered that taking a deeper dive into the underlying drivers of their addiction is core for contented, long-term sobriety. While many 12-step groups offer great foundations for addressing these issues, many have found that therapy and complementary modalities are also extremely helpful in helping them be free of the past and live with more hope and joy.

In recent years, researchers have begun to understand more about the links between addiction and trauma. Indeed, a consensus is growing about the benefits of facing that trauma head-on as part of a recovery program. Thankfully, there are more options than ever for treating trauma, especially in well-resourced treatment facilities that offer comprehensive programs that meet people where they are.

 

Somatic Experiencing® is one such therapy. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine to address trauma, many in recovery have found that it offers healing that works well in conjunction with treatment.

Also known as SE, Somatic Experiencing® is based on the idea that traumatic events cause lingering after-effects when people don’t release them as they occur. After observing prey animals in the wild, Levine noted that the lives of these animals were regularly threatened, causing a “fight, flight or freeze” response. However, after the actual traumatic event had passed, the wild animals could “shake off” the experience and move on without much fuss. Humans, on the other hand, can seemingly get “stuck” in the experience and therefore live in a “triggered” state, as if reliving the original trauma. SE works with the anatomic nervous system to release these events and their responses, usually through focusing on physical sensations. It’s a powerful tool for helping people re-connect with the body and find new freedom from habitual responses.

What symptoms are reduced with Somatic Experiencing®?

Chelsea Valerie, LMSW, one of Scottsdale Providence’s Somatic Experiencing® therapists, offers this insight:

“The symptoms that are reduced in Somatic Experiencing® are hypo-arousal or hyperarousal. A lot of people who have experienced trauma live in a state of freeze or dissociation—shut on or shut off. “Shut on” for example, looks like high levels of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, never feeling calm. Dissociation, on the other hand, is the state of being shut off. So not only are they shut off from access to the memories, they are often shut off from feeling any of the memories or feelings related to the trauma. Neither allows for healing.

What kind of feedback do we hear from Somatic Experiencing® patients?

Chelsea weighs in with the comments people often share after an SE experience: “A lot of my clients report that the internal experiences that are connected to memories, flashbacks, dreams, all become integrated for them. A lot of people that have chronic trauma often report feeling like they are made of a million jigsaw pieces that don’t necessarily fit together. So modalities like Somatic Experiencing® can start to connect those puzzle pieces through mind-body integration. They are then able to release a lot of the ‘stuckness’ they feel from the trauma.”

Curious about if Somatic Experiencing® is right for you? Reach out today!

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