Somatic Experience – What is it and can it help you?

Nanette Thomas Shepardson, M.A., LPC, CADC


Have you ever had a “gut feeling,” or felt like your “skin was crawling,” or maybe you experienced a “bad vibe” from someone?   If so, you may have put into words what we Somatic Experience Practitioners (SEP) define as a “somatic experience.”  It is a bodily (somatic) sensation (experience) that sends a message to your brain, explicitly designed to get your attention!  For what purpose, exactly?

All living organisms, including humans, are meant to survive and repopulate their species.  Throughout our lifetimes, we can and will experience obstacles, difficulties, or traumatic events that will test our will to live.  Whether we experience a single or multiple different forms of these events, we can and do store them as memories and sensations in our brains and bodies as testimony to our ability to survive.

As a result, if someone or something “triggers” or reminds us of that distant memory, we may sometimes react or behave in ways that can startle or harm us or others. We can become highly anxious, startle easily, become quick to anger, act out in rage, or become overwhelmed, shut down, and isolate ourselves from friends and loved ones.

How can we help ourselves learn to turn off the triggers that activate these behaviors? With the support of responsive somatic experience techniques and skills, we can learn to listen to our bodies’ sensations, and the feelings that signal us to ACT NOW can become a distant memory!

Somatic Experience therapies include:

  • SIBAMtechniques—These techniques support our unique ability to sense, imagine,

 find behaviors and affects or emotions that will shift how we think and feel by reprocessing our traumatic memories and helping us find new meaning in our lives.

  • Somatic skills – Used to help regulate and support our ability to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and sensations, i.e., panic attacks, extreme anxiety, depression, shame, rage, fear, and terror.
  • Hands-on-therapy – Used to help and support the body’s innate ability to heal and release stored traumatic memories and sensations.

If you would like to learn how to apply Somatic Experiencing to your healing process, please contact St. Charles Counseling to get scheduled with me.  I’d love to help!