• Residential Treatment Program for Teens 14-17

5 Elements of Somatic Experiencing for Trauma

5 Elements of Somatic Experiencing for Trauma

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When we talk about trauma, we usually refer to a specific event and memories of the event. Peter Levine, Ph.D., the founder of Somatic Experiencing, argues that “trauma is not an event, but energy that gets locked in your body around real or perceived threats.” This suggests that the effects of trauma linger in the body whether or not the event is actively on someone’s mind. Somatic Experiencing is an effective treatment option for teens struggling with trauma as it helps them tap into the “Felt Sense” of the experience beyond reprocessing emotional details of traumatic events.

What is the Traumatic Brain?

Our brains function in two primary ways: in safe mode or in survival mode. In safe mode, our brains are calm and open to new experiences. In survival mode,

fear takes over. Our brains become hyper-focused on avoiding potential threats, whether they are based on the past or the present.

According to Levine, “if a person is unable to restore a sense of physical safety in the aftermath of a threatening event, their nervous system gets stuck in the survival states of fight, flight, or freeze. The longer survival brain stays on, the harder it is to turn off.”

This explains why your daughter may have a difficult time being present in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Her body’s memory may have a greater capacity than her emotional memory. As a result, she may become more hypervigilant and worry that traumatic experiences may repeat themselves. 

What is Somatic Experiencing? 

Somatic Experiencing helps teens move beyond the cognitive process of understanding their trauma by reprogramming the body’s primitive survival instincts, which allows them to feel a greater sense of connection, safety, and ease in one’s body. This model can be applied when processing traumatic events or any negative situations.

The goal of Somatic Experiencing is to help teens identify:

  • Sensations in specific areas of the body
  • Imagery associated with the experience
  • Behaviors or Impulses that arise
  • Affect or Emotions in the moment
  • Meaning or thoughts assigned to the experience

Why is This Effective for Teens?

Cultivating awareness of these situations is the foundation of healing psychological effects of trauma because it allows teens to tolerate and move through physiological sensations trapped in the body. It can be difficult for teens to think about or describe details of events, but they are more conscious of how they feel physically, even if they don’t always understand the connection between physical complaints and intense emotions. 

While teens often struggle opening up to others about details of past trauma based on a fear of being misunderstood or rejected, this approach focuses on how it impacts them in multiple areas. Looking at these separate elements of somatic experiencing, teens can recognize how different areas influence each other and determine which elements are related to past experiences and which are rational in the present moment.

We integrate a variety of evidence-based techniques into our treatment model for trauma, including mindfulness, somatic experiencing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Brainspotting.. By focusing on the relationship between how the body stores traumatic stress and how the mind processes it, we are able to help students begin the healing process. These techniques encourage students to slow down and increase awareness of their inner experience.

Solstice Can Help

Solstice Residential Treatment Center is a program for young girls ages 14-18 who struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship struggles. We offer a multidisciplinary holistic approach to trauma recovery, including mindfulness, EMDR, and Brainspotting. Solstice Residential Treatment Center is dedicated to teaching young women how to incorporate healthy habits into their lives. Students will leave with the skills they need to transition into the world feeling confident, happy, and able to manage their emotions. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 866-278-3345 to learn more about treatment options for trauma.

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