Therapeutic Somatic Touch Therapy in Healing Trauma
Therapeutic Somatic Touch Therapy is a Master level teaching that furthers the work of Somatic Experiencing bringing it to a more immediate, body-oriented level of healing.
Based on the work of Kathy L. Kain (Ortho-Bionomy approach) and Peter Levine, PhD (the Originator of Somatic Experiencing), Therapeutic Somatic Touch is being taught locally by Steve Terrell, PsyD, SEP. The work was developed as a way to treat individuals affected by Attachment Disorders and Developmental traumas. Its uses, however, are broadening as a way to help teach the body how to drop into neurological regulation more quickly. This biological regulation is essential to emotional stability.
Work starts with helping the kidneys release and drop the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) into more regulated activity, leading to overall neurological regulation. Our adrenal glands are important in helping stress hormones physically wash out of our system, which has often built up after a prolonged period of bracing/constriction. If our adrenals are not functioning well stress hormones that remain in our bodies can become toxic, leading to a myriad of physical symptoms and health concerns. The body’s nervous system often is in a state of high alert, startle and fear when trauma has occurred more than in a non-traumatized system. Kidney/adrenal work helps the body remember how to relax, eventually teaching the body to choose relaxing over bracing. In a concrete way, it looks like this: While the client is lying on a somatic [medical massage like] table fully clothed, the Somatic Touch practitioner places their hand under the small of the back. The hand does not move for up to 20 minutes. This is repeated on the opposite side. The intention is to provide support and regulation. No further movements occur without discussion with the client, until a plan is in place and full consent occurs. Minors are required to have a parent or other adult in the room with them at all times.
Once consistent adrenal regulation occurs within a client’s system, brain stem holds can regulate the base of the brain. This area is important in the body’s ability to stimulate and regulate feelings of well being and safety, and assist in decreasing alarm. Further work includes four point regulation approach of supporting each kidney-adrenal, the brain stem and ending with the ankles as a way to support the body’s ability to self-regulate. In working with the grief response, the Somatic Touch practitioner will often provide support to the Media Sternum located at the top of the sternum. This is a layer just under the skin that holds intense emotions in which the nervous system may become dysregulated and overwhelmed. These are only a few of the many supportive interventions therapeutic somatic touch provides, allowing the body to release places of activation or constriction in an organic, healing manner.
Overall, it’s a method that creates a pathway that can lead to faster relief of stress symptoms by intervening at a physical level. Talk therapy can then be more effective once the body is more stable. Research shows that when we experience traumatic events, our fears and emotions are remembered and held in our system through repetitive tightening and bracing in our body, leading to less openness both physically and emotionally. When we change the body’s functioning, and the mind is more curious and less critical, analytical and judgmental, integration within the whole system follows. This is similar to when we have come through the effect and recovered from an illness, we become more integrated and often feel more optimistic and happy.