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What is somatic psychotherapy?

Learn more about how somatic psychotherapy works, what it can treat, and if it’s the right treatment for you.

Somatic Psychotherapy

“Somatics” is a broad term that refers to the connection between body, mind, and spirit. Any therapy based on balancing these three elements to achieve healing could be considered somatic-based therapy. Simply put, somatic psychotherapy is a treatment that incorporates mind-body-spirit teachings.

Practitioners of somatic energy healing believe emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations are interconnected. Somatic therapy for trauma and other conditions combines traditional talk therapy with physical techniques and specific mind-body exercises to help patients improve their emotional well-being and relieve chronic pain.

Somatic Psychotherapy and Chronic Pain

Data compiled by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that an estimated 25.3 million adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain. When talk therapy or traditional medicine isn’t enough to help a patient reach their wellness goals, somatic psychotherapy might be recommended.

History of Somatic Psychotherapy

Thomas Hanna introduced the modern-day concept of somatics in the 1970s. Hanna theorized that chronic pain was a result of brain neurons that have forgotten how to control muscle tissue properly.

He believed that through mindfulness practice, education, and intent, patients could heal their mind-body communication and relieve their chronic pain.

How Somatic Psychotherapy Works

Somatic psychotherapy aims to help patients free themselves from anger, tension, or pain that is preventing them from enjoying a full life. This is accomplished by strengthening the mind-body awareness connection through specific somatic techniques.

During a somatic counseling session, you can expect to participate in a combination of talk therapy, mindfulness exercises, and forms of physical therapy. Treatments may be one-on-one or in a group setting. It is common to experience strong emotions and physical sensations during a somatic therapy session.

Types of Somatic Therapy

Just as somatic therapy is a type of psychotherapy, there are several methods of somatic counseling. Each method relies on focusing on the physical body while thinking about past painful experiences or emotional struggles that are holding a client back. The somatic therapy requirements for each method vary. Some somatic therapy types include:

  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy: Body-based talk therapy typically used to help people process severe trauma such as sexual abuse and other forms of violence
  • The Hakomi method: Integrates principles of Buddhism and Taoism with a focus on empathy and mindfulness
  • Bioenergetic analysis: Combines bodywork and body expression analysis, recommended for people who are seeking to improve their emotional well-being
  • Biodynamic psychotherapy: A combination of bodywork and talk therapy used to help patients achieve a deep state of relaxation
  • Brainspotting: Focuses on how life experiences manifest in the physical body with the theory that visualization techniques can help the brain deal with emotional wounds.

Somatic Therapy Techniques

Alternative methods of healing, including somatic treatments, are becoming more popular in the U.S. FinancesOnline reports that the market for meditation-related products grew rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic and predicts that mindfulness meditation apps will become a $2.1 billion market by 2025.

Some of the terms used to describe somatic experiencing techniques may be familiar, while others are less common.

Body Awareness

Body awareness (also called physical awareness) is a cornerstone of somatic treatment. If a patient is experiencing a strong emotion, such as anger, the somatic therapist might ask them to notice where they feel anger in their body. Is it tightness in the chest or burning in the stomach?

Understanding where the emotion resides in the physical self opens the door to somatic movement therapy or bodywork related to that area.


Grounding is being present in your body. Intentional movement, deep breathing, or tensing and relaxing parts of the body are ways to increase awareness of the body’s physical boundaries and relieve mental distractions.

Pendulation and Titration

Pendulation and titration work together. Titration is a term derived from chemistry and refers to slowly adding one solution to another until the desired result is achieved. Pendulation is a back-and-forth swinging action, like the swinging of a clock’s pendulum.

Titration encourages the patient to incrementally slow their awareness while pendulation asks them to transition from one state to another, such as from calm to stress and back again.


Sequencing is the act of releasing stored memories to rid the body of physical tension.


Resourcing asks the patient to recall a positive memory, such as a time when they were healthy and felt safe and secure. This sense memory becomes a touchstone of sorts when the person needs to regulate stressful or painful feelings.


Self-regulation is the process of managing overwhelming emotions. Patients learn how to self-regulate before the process of uncovering traumatic memories begins.

Movement and Process

Movement and process include all types of movement (dance, stretching, shifting body weight), breathing techniques, touch, and massage techniques, which all focus on creating calm within the body.

More than one of these somatic experiencing exercises may be combined during a single session to help the patient work through emotional blocks and release pain and tension from the body.

What Does Somatic Therapy Treat?

Somatic work therapy offers a medication-free approach to easing anxiety and other mental health concerns. Somatic counseling helps people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma. In addition to somatic interventions for trauma, other conditions it can treat include: 3

  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trust
  • Intimacy trouble
  • Substance use disorder
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • ADHD

Many patients with somatic anxiety find relief from their symptoms through somatic therapy. Somatic energy healing can be effective in easing headaches, digestive issues, muscle tightness, and other physical symptoms related to anxiety.4

Benefits of Somatic Psychotherapy

Some of the benefits of somatic-based therapy include:

  • Increased sense of self
  • Getting in tune with your body
  • Stress relief
  • Mood improvements
  • Relaxation and better sleep
  • Understanding your body’s responses
  • Pain reduction

Each person responds to somatic psychology differently. If you are not getting the expected results, talk to your therapist. Including new somatic experiencing techniques or different somatic therapy types in your treatment plan might help your healing process.

Is Somatic Therapy Evidence-Based?

Somatic Psychotherapy

Some somatic exercises are evidence-based, and some have not yet been widely studied. One study found that somatic therapy for trauma was effective.

Another study on the grounding technique used during somatic work therapy concluded that it was effective against chronic inflammation that causes pain and some illnesses.

There is no specified length of care for somatic counseling psychology. Complex emotional issues can take many months to work through in therapy. Most somatic therapists recommend meeting once a week for an hourly session.

Is Somatic Therapy a Stand-Alone Treatment?

Somatic psychology can be a stand-alone treatment, or it may be part of an overall treatment plan overseen by your primary mental health professional.

This is a non-invasive and medication-free approach to wellness that may involve touch. Somatic touch techniques are much like receiving a massage or physical therapy. However, not everyone is comfortable with being touched, especially in a vulnerable emotional state during therapy.

Somatic Psychotherapy at Genesis Recovery

Somatic therapy may be right for you if you are open to mind-body philosophies and somewhat familiar with techniques like energy work and movement therapy. Genesis Recovery offers numerous somatic therapy options to best suit your needs. Contact Genesis Recovery today for more information.


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