Trauma and the body: The somatic experience in psychotherapy


According to recent neuroscience research, psychological trauma disrupts homeostasis and can negatively affect various organs and biological systems (Solomon & Heide, 2005). Somatic therapy addresses the physiological elements of the trauma by focusing on the body, which, in turn, helps individuals cognitively and emotionally process trauma (Ogden & Minton, 2000; Levine, 1997). This qualitative study aimed to explore the experience of 5 participants who underwent ongoing somatic therapy in the treatment of symptoms associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The results revealed twelve common essential elements among all the participants that illustrated their experience prior to and during the somatic therapeutic process. Some of the elements identified included: presence of severe trauma history of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse; failure to treat PTSD symptoms prior to somatic therapy; manifestation of PTSD in physical symptoms and/or illness; increasing awareness of body allowed access to trauma; newfound knowledge and tools gained in helping to manage triggers; and gaining a sense of physical and psychological freedom. Three additional essential elements were found that were not shared by all or most of the participants, which included: EMDR as unsuccessful in treating PTSD symptoms; healing through artistic expression; and ineffectiveness of psychotropic medication in the treatment of PTSD. A process was identified in which a non-verbal bodily experience became a verbal, intellectual, or cognitive experience. In addition, seven characteristics were identified within the transformative process of improving PTSD symptoms occurring during the somatic therapy. According to the participants’ reports, somatic therapy not only decreased their PTSD symptoms, but the process had a significant positive impact on the quality of their lives. This study’s findings highlight the potential of somatic therapy to help those dealing with the effects of psychological trauma.






Diana Samardzic

Original Work Citation

Samardzic, D. (2012). Trauma and the body: The somatic experience in psychotherapy. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 73(2-B), 1265



“Trauma and the body: The somatic experience in psychotherapy,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed November 30, 2020,

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