Somatic Experiencing® (SE)
About This Program
Target Population: Adults who experience trauma Adults, children, adolescents exposed to natural disasters Adults and adolescents with chronic pain
SE® is a body-oriented approach to the treatment of trauma and other stress disorders. The SE® approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.
SE® supports regulation of the autonomic nervous system, which underlies every aspect of our physical, emotional, and psychological functioning, the applications of SE® are diverse. For example, by working directly with a client’s physiology, SE® enhances the depth, effectiveness, and outcome of psychotherapeutic interventions focused on relational, developmental, and psychodynamic issues.
The SE® approach offers a framework to assess and support nervous system resilience and shift from fight, flight, or freeze states to a more flexible response. Somatic Experiencing provides skills and tools appropriate to a variety of health professionals such as mental health clinicians, medical providers, physical and occupational therapists, nurses, bodyworkers, addiction treatment professionals, first responders, teachers/educators, and others.
- Increased affect and autonomic regulation.
- Reduced symptoms of trauma e.g. re-experiencing/nightmares, avoidance symptoms, trauma related negative cognitions and affect, autonomic reactivity as well as re-enactment play and learning/cognitive development in children & adolescents.
- Improved symptom profile in autonomic dysregulation syndromes and those exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences.
- Improved overall health and quality of life through increased self-regulation.
- Increased resilience and coping skills for families who have children with trauma or families with adults who have trauma symptoms.
- Improved family functioning through reduction of impact of affect dysregulation on family system.
- Improved functioning in health impacts of psychological injury particularly health impacts that are impacted by heightened/chronic sympathetic or prolonged freeze states/tonic immobility.
• Delivery methods of the SE® model vary however it is common to deliverSE® skills in individual or group work as well trauma informed systems work.
• The therapist works with an individual wit in the client’s individual window of tolerance to reestablish innate capacity to regulate affective and autonomic states associated with trauma.
• Psychoeducational Tools (Clients Learn Self-Regulation Skills):
o Affect Dysregulation: Understand, recognize and regulate fight, flight and freeze states in oneself and others;
o Self-Regulation: Understand self-regulation skills and how to support and increase innate self-regulation capacity;
o Resourcing/Social Engagement System: Develop skills for resourcing and stabilizing social engagement system (increasing relaxation response and capacity for social connection);
o Titration of Affect: Learning self-regulation through developing capacity for recognizing one’s current place in window of tolerance model and appropriate application of self-care strategy;
o Somatic Awareness/Tracking Skills: individuals learn to track inner states and self-awareness capacity.
• Clinical Interventions:
o Emotion Regulation Interventions: Clinicians support emotion regulation skills in sessions such as proprioceptive/interoceptive awareness, acceptance and distress tolerance of affective changes;
o Somatic Awareness and Tracking: Supporting somatic awareness and tracking changes in states;
o Orientation/Grounding – Developing here-and-now orientation of attention that supports the shift from heightened fight/flight or freeze states to increased regulation of emotion, resting autonomic states and increased time in felt-experience of safety.
o Resourcing (Evoking capacity and relaxation): Tracking and supporting natural shifts from fight/flight or freeze states to parasympathetic/rest and digest states;
o Reducing Trauma Triggers: Through depotentiating fight/flight/freeze states and increasing capacity for self-regulation.
o Pendulation: Innate rhythm of movement from stress to rest and back that is disrupted in trauma is reestablished through skills and support from clinician.
• Trauma Event Specific Interventions and Skills: Clinicians develop a trauma specific intervention that addresses the symptoms that arise from different etiologies of traumatic events e.g. natural disasters, war, assault, medical trauma, car accidents, abuse etc.
Session and treatment length can vary. Somatic Experiencing® is a short-term treatment that focuses on re-establishing innate affect regulation capacity. The duration of exposure, type of event, intensity of exposure and age of traumatic event all impact treatment length. Individual session length is typically 60 or 90 min.
The general treatment length is between 10 and 16 sessions. The longer the trauma exposure and the earlier age of the event will increases length of treatment.
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Birth Family Home
- Community Agency
- Foster/Kinship Care
- Outpatient Clinic
- Residential Care Facility
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) includes a homework component:
Those receiving SE® treatment are encouraged to use the skills both with in sessions and at home. The skills offered vary according to the provider and the treatment context.
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) does not have materials available in a language other than English.
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
There are different needs depending on the treatment and intervention. Somatic Experiencing Training Institute also trains organizations in the SE® model.
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
In order to be a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) an individual must have completed a three-year training, hours of supervision and received their own training sessions. SEPs work within the scope of their licenses. Individuals providing SE® in behavioral health settings should have the minimum license in that setting.
Education and Training Resources
There is not a manual that describes how to implement this program ; but there is training available for this program.
- Somatic Experincing
Training is obtained:
Somatic Experiencing® trainings are conducted around the globe and in more than 33 countries. Please find information related to the trainings on the web at the above web address. The SE® Professional Training provides a rich theoretical framework for understanding and addressing trauma physiology. Our educational model is highly experiential, offering you tangible skills that can be immediately integrated into your professional practice. The training is delivered through a combination of lectures, live demonstrations, guided practice sessions with fellow students, audio-visual case studies, and suggested readings. Because competent practice of SE® requires direct clinical experience, as well as a refined somatic awareness and capacity for self-regulation, becoming an SE® Practitioner (SEP) also entails receiving personal SE® sessions to deepen your experiential knowledge of SE®, and case consultations.
Number of days/hours:
The training program consists of 6-8 training modules of 4 to 6 days in length. The program spans 2½ to 3 years, allowing for full integration of the skills and clinical application needed to support professional development. Class sizes are optimized for a supportive learning experience.
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
This program has been reviewed and it was determined that this program lacks the type of published, peer-reviewed research that meets the CEBC criteria for a scientific rating of 1 – 5. Therefore, the program has been given the classification of "NR - Not able to be Rated." It was reviewed because it was identified by the topic expert as a program being used in the field, or it is being marketed and/or used in California with children receiving services from child welfare or related systems and their parents/caregivers. Some programs that are not rated may have published, peer-reviewed research that does not meet the above stated criteria or may have eligible studies that have not yet been published in the peer-reviewed literature. For more information on the "NR - Not able to be Rated" classification, please see the Scientific Rating Scale.
The following studies were not included in rating Somatic Experiencing® (SE) on the Scientific Rating Scale...
Leitch, M. L. (2007). Somatic experiencing treatment with tsunami survivors in Thailand: Broadening the scope of early intervention. Traumatology, 13(3), 11-20. doi:10.1177/1534765607305439
Note: This study was not used when rating Somatic Experiencing (SE) since it uses at adapted version of SE. This study examines the treatment effects of brief (1 to 2 sessions) SE/Trauma First Aide (TFA), derived from SE, with adult and child survivors of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Measures utilized include a demographic form and symptom tracking form. Results indicate that immediately following treatment, 67% of participants had partial to complete improvement in reported symptoms and 95% had complete or partial improvement in observed symptoms. At the 1-year follow-up, 90% of participants had complete or partial improvement in reported symptoms, and 96% had complete or partial improvement in initially observed symptoms. Limitations include nonrandomization of participants, lack of control group, and small sample size.
Crane-Godreau, M., Levine, P., & Payne, P. (2015). Somatic Experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 93. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093
Riordan, J., Blakeslee, A., & Levine, P. (2017). Toddler trauma: Somatic Experiencing®, attachment and the neurophysiology of dyadic completion. International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy, 5. 41-69. doi:10.12744/ijnpt.2017.1.0041-0069
Taylor, P. J., & Saint-Laurent, R. (2017). Group psychotherapy informed by the principles of Somatic Experiencing: Moving beyond trauma to embodied relationship. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 67(sup1), S171-S181.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2016
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2018
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2016