What Is Somatic Psychology and How Does It Work?

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Although it has been studied for centuries, somatic psychology continues to be a form of holistic, alternative therapy, with many people still doubting its efficiency. Nonetheless, this form of therapy has already proved to be very effective for a wide range of psychological disorders. At its core, somatic therapy focuses on the connection between the mind and the body, and it uses body oriented activities as part of the healing process. More specifically, this type of therapy is based on the fact that a person’s emotions, feelings, beliefs, and thoughts had a strong impact on their physical well-being, while physical matters such as exercises, diet and lifestyle also have a strong impact on a person’s emotional and mental state. Based on these principles, somatic therapy seeks to identify negative behaviors and habits and promote positive alternatives in order to bridge the connection between the mind and the body.

Understanding somatic psychology :

This area of psychology is very diverse, but its most popular branch is the psychotherapy approach. Somatic psychotherapists see the body and the mind as a single entity, which needs to be guided towards healing. This guiding process needs to happen on the terms of each individual patient, in a safe environment, and on account on their individual interpersonal connections.

This form of psychotherapy starts from the idea that the sensations experienced during traumatic events remain trapped in the body and continue to express themselves in time through various physical ways such as an improper posture, unnatural facial expressions, and even more severe expressions such as muscular pain. Obviously enough, conventional therapy such as talking, is an integrated part of the somatic therapy, since it is essential for each individual to openly talk about their emotions and thoughts to better understand their problems. However, somatic psychotherapists combine conventional therapy with holistic treatments such as dance, music or yoga. This holistic approach has the purpose of promoting positive behaviors and physical expressions, to speed up the mind’s healing process. Many people confuse somatic therapy with body therapy. While they use similar treatment techniques, body therapy is used for superficial issues like stress. On the other hand, somatic treatments can be used to heal even chronic mental health problems.

How it works :

First of all, it is important to know that somatic psychotherapists are trained to notice negative bodily expressions. This skill is very useful in quickly uncovering emotional problems that patients may be unwilling to talk about. Talk therapy is indeed the most efficient type of therapy, but it is a slow process, and it can take a long time for patients to learn to recognize and acknowledge their emotions. A somatic approach can speed up this process, and it can help therapists teach their patients how to be more aware of the way that their minds are expressing themselves through their bodies. After acknowledging their negative emotions, patients are taught to use various holistic therapies in order to relieve tension and other negative bodily expressions.

The most common holistic therapies used in somatic therapy are dance, breathing exercises, yoga, music, massages, grounding exercises and posture exercises. However, any type of positive physical activity can be used as a treatment, as long as it encourages patients to reflect on their behaviors and emotions.

The first results of somatic therapy consist in a boosted sense of self-awareness, which usually leads to deeper connections with close people. Patients often find themselves having a better control over their bodies, especially when interacting with other people. Lower stress levels and a better understanding of personal emotions and concerns are also among the first signs of the healing process.

This form of therapy can be used for any type of mental health problems, from minor issues like anxiety to severe issues like chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and even borderline personality disorders.

As more and more studies prove the strong connection between the mind and the body, somatic psychology is expected to be an influential branch of psychology, and its applicability will surely expand in the following years.

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