Somatic Therapy: Uses, Benefits, Techniques, Results


Somatic Therapy is a type of therapy that connects mind and body through touch or movement. It is used to help treat stored trauma in the body. Types of somatic therapy include somatic experience, the Hakomi method, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Read on to learn more about the benefits, techniques, and what to expect with somatic therapy.

Alena Paulus/Getty Images

Basic principles

Traditional talk therapy focuses on cognitive or thinking skills, known as the top-down method. Somatic therapies focus on the body first, which is called a bottom-up approach. The fundamentals of somatic therapy include the following key terms.


Grounding, also called grounding, makes direct contact with the surface of the earth, which reduces inflammation, pain, and stress.

Development of limits

Boundaries are the limits between us and others. People with a history of trauma may have learned to disconnect from the boundaries of their body.

Somatic therapy emphasizes awareness by paying attention to how the body reacts physically while using exercises to develop a physical sense of boundaries.


Self-regulation involves learning to manage the overwhelming emotions that can arise from releasing and acknowledging traumatic memories. Somatic therapy teaches skills to regulate emotions before uncovering and processing traumatic memories.

Movement and process

Movement helps process and release emotions.

For example, if a client is slumped in their posture, a therapist may ask them to mindfully explore how they hold their body. Becoming aware of physical movement can create internal change and can even create a sense of calm in the body.

Touch, movement, massage and breathing techniques can all be part of the movement and process.


Wild animals generally recover naturally when they have been on high alert in response to danger. This does not always happen in humans. The nervous system can get stuck and physical tension can be stored in the body.

Sequencing occurs when memories stored in the body are released and muscle tension is released as a result.

Who can benefit ?

Although somatic therapy was developed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma, it is useful for people with many other conditions, including:

Techniques and Exercises

Although the exercises and techniques vary between different somatic therapies, here are some exercises that can be used:

  • Deep relaxation: Many somatic therapies use deep relaxation to reduce or release muscle tension. In bioenergetic analysis, muscle tensions are seen as bodily defenses against past trauma that need to be released.
  • Positive imagery: This includes visualizing a safe person, place, or time to restore balance and emotional regulation.
  • mindfulness: Mindfulness is a practice of refocusing the self in the present moment, as trauma can often hold people in the past. The Hakomi method integrates mindfulness with bodywork.
  • Breathing Techniques: To improve physical and emotional awareness, different breathing techniques can be used.
  • physical sensations: Somatic experience focuses on increasing awareness of physical sensations to process traumatic memories.
  • body movements: May include specific exercises to reduce physical tension stored in the body. EMDR uses eye movements to process traumatic memories. Brainspotting explores points in a person’s visual field to access memories stored in the brain.

Somatic exercises at home

For self-calming strategies, there are a few somatic-style exercises that can be done at home:

  • Grounding: Put your bare feet on the ground and imagine that you are anchored by your feet to the ground, a bit like a tree. This is also called grounding.
  • Conscious meditation: Sit in a quiet space, breathe deeply and observe without judgment the different sensations, feelings and responses of the body.
  • Deep relaxation: Like mindfulness, it is meditative but with an emphasis on deep relaxation of the body and the release of muscle tension. There are apps and videos online that offer guided meditations that can be helpful.

What to expect

Most early sessions involve getting to know the therapist, who can explore your therapy goals. They will answer all your questions and can do some initial relaxation or meditation exercises.

consent to touch

Somatic therapy may involve touch. A trained and qualified therapist will discuss consent and make sure you feel comfortable. Be sure to ask all your questions so you know what to expect. Listen to your instincts; if a situation doesn’t seem fair, it probably isn’t.

Effectiveness of somatic therapy

A study exploring somatic experience found it to be an effective form of treatment for PTSD. In the study, 44% of participants were free of a diagnosis of PTSD after treatment, even though many of them were experiencing ongoing and current trauma.

If this is not the right solution

If somatic therapy isn’t right for you, there are many other types of therapy that can improve your well-being.


Somatic therapy is a type of mind-body therapy. It is body-centered and focuses first on the sensations inside the body. This can include deep relaxation exercises, mindfulness, body movements, imagery, etc. Somatic therapy can help deal with trauma and is often used for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A word from Verywell

If you are interested in somatic therapy, it is important to find a qualified and trained mental health professional to administer it. You also need to feel comfortable and comfortable with the person. Feel free to ask yourself what to expect from therapy, as each type can be different.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens during somatic therapy?

    Somatic care providers help people release muscle tension stored in the body from memories of traumatic events. This is accomplished through body movement, deep relaxation, touch, or other techniques.

  • How long does it take to see the results of somatic therapy?

    In one study, 44% of participants were free of a diagnosis of PTSD after 15 weeks of once-weekly somatic therapy sessions.

  • What are some examples of somatic exercises?

    Somatic exercises can include mindfulness techniques, meditation techniques, relaxation techniques, and movements to help the body and mind express and release emotions.


Comments are closed.