Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in South East London (Rotherhithe), UK

Lara Lagutina, Dr. Clin. Psychol., Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), Trauma Therapist

Somatic Experiencing (SE)

SE is a body awareness approach to healing symptoms of trauma, developed by Dr Peter Levine through over forty years of research, observation and clinical work.

It is based on observation that animals in the wild, although frequently subjected to life-threatening experiences, do not become traumatised. Instead, they seem to be able to use innate mechanisms for discharging the intense energies involved in survival responses, such as fight, flight or freeze. Why do humans, who have the same inherent mechanisms, seem to struggle with such events and develop various long-term symptoms? Part of the reason seems to lie in our tendency to stop and suppress the discharge of these survival energies through interference of our higher brain, often because we feel scared of the intensity of these energies and because our body reactions (such as shaking) seem strange and unfamiliar to us.

In this way, the highly charged survival energies remain frozen in the body. In attempting to manage them, the body creates symptoms. Such symptoms may range from conic hyper-alertness, anxiety and panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares, to feeling numb or developing chronic pain. They can also manifest as difficulties in relationships, feeling stuck in life, experiencing life of meaningless or feeling unable to relax and compelled to keep busy. This list is far from exhaustive. 

Through attention to feelings and sensations in the body, the practitioner can help the client regain access to the frozen in time traumatic patterns as well as to the body resources, which often seem inaccessible from the traumatic state. The person is then guided to gently release these highly charged energies. This often leads to disappearance of symptoms, renewed feeling of vitality, connectedness with oneself and others, and sense of wholeness.

SE has been successfully used with combat veterans, survivors of natural disasters, sexual and physical abuse, road accidents and many other traumas. Sometimes the initial trigger may be unclear or symptoms may stem from experiences which may not appear traumatic, but which nevertheless exceeded the individual’s capacity to manage them at the time. They can also stem from repeated adverse developmental experiences, forming the basis of what is also called attachment or developmental trauma.  Thus, people may suffer from chronic anxiety, avoid certain social situations or experience panic attacks without knowing why they feel this way.

Through gentle attention to the body experiences SE can help resolve these symptoms and renegotiate one’s relationships with one’s feelings, leading to increased ability to tolerate intense feelings and life experiences without producing symptoms.