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You Don't Have To Go To Talk Therapy To Heal From Trauma: Try Somatic Therapy Instead

Posted by Liz Tenuto on

Trauma has become an increasingly important topic in our fast-paced, stressful world. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 51% of women report at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.

So know that you're not alone if you've experienced trauma or are on a healing journey from it.

And as the awareness of what trauma is and how it effects us grows, so does the range of therapies available to those who seek support for it.

The most common form of therapy in our culture — and one that you've probably heard about — is talk therapy. But while talk therapy is a great tool for some on their healing journey — what if talk therapy isn't enough for others? What if talk therapy doesn't work for others? What if talk therapy is too vulnerable for others? And what if talk therapy just... isn't what others genuinely want?

What is talk therapy?

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counseling, revolves around verbal communication between the client (you) and the therapist. (It's probably what you think of when someone mentions 'therapy' to you.)

Traditional talk therapy includes different approaches of psychoanalytical, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic therapies to solve problems and heal trauma. But the one thing to keep in mind about talk therapy is that it puts a strong emphasis on verbal expression.

Talk therapy uses verbal expression and communication to identify, analyze, and address emotional and psychological challenges, repressed thoughts and feelings, flashbacks and memories, as well as physical and psychological trauma.

Why isn't talk therapy a good option for some people?

There are multiple reasons why talk therapy might not work for you. 

Maybe you don't want to bring up your traumatic memories or experiences of the past.

Maybe you don't even remember those traumatic memories or experiences in the first place. (& don't want to re-live them...)

Maybe you don't just want to learn coping mechanisms to deal with your trauma.

Maybe you don't just want to settle for a surface level fix.

Maybe your specific trauma, and your unique lived experiences, aren't able to be solved with simply going to talk therapy.

And, maybe, you just don't want to go to talk therapy in the first place... Because that's okay!

It's okay to not want to go to talk therapy.

And it's okay if talk therapy isn't right for you.

Because there are other ways to heal from trauma other than talk therapy.

Like somatic therapy!

Somatic therapy is another form of therapy that isn't as well known to our society like talk therapy is. Yet it's just as beneficial — if not more beneficial.

What is somatic therapy?

Somatic therapy is a body-centered therapy that combines the knowledge from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, physics, biomechanics, motor development, and various bodywork modalities. Rather than focusing on verbal expression and communication of your trauma, somatic therapy incorporates your body's experiences and sensations into the therapeutic process.

Somatic therapy revolves around your 'soma' (your physical body as experienced from your mind and soul), and it recognizes the involuntary interconnectedness between the mind and body.

Examples of this "involuntary interconnectedness between the mind and body" are as simple as breathing, salivating, and blinking. Your mind doesn't actively think about your body performing these activities — yet when a sour patch kid is put in front of you, and your mind thinks about how sour it is, your body will instantly begin to salivate.

Another example is something like your body's muscle memory. Your mind doesn't actively think about riding a bike after years and years of being on one— your legs just take over and ride the bike. This is because your body has formed a muscle memory around riding a bike.

However, the interconnectedness of the mind and body isn't always helpful.

When you walk down the road or through a store and stare at your phone, you probably hunch your neck forward a bit. And slowly but surely, you hunching your neck forward while being on your phone can create a muscle memory, giving you a text neck.

Or how about when you sit at your desk for 8+ hours a day — your shoulders probably start to slump, your back arches, and your neck sinks into your spine. Your body begins to create a muscle memory of bad posture. And that bad posture can further create problems when it comes to your body's functionality. Whether it be joint degeneration, constipation, heartburn, or weak core muscles, your muscle memory from sitting at your desk can ultimately wreck havoc on so many other parts of your body.

And these muscle memories can be completely subconscious learned behaviors. For example, as you read this article right now — without even realizing it — you're probably clenching your jaw.

Furthermore, this ability for mind-body involuntary interconnectedness can also be psychological. 

For example, if you were raised in a household to believe that sitting on the couch instead of helping your parents around the house made you "lazy", then you probably have a tough time relaxing, sitting still, or not staying busy. And that thought or belief can become imprinted in your nervous system, making you equate sitting still with laziness all the way through adulthood. 

So when you're faced with trauma, your body and mind's muscle memory works just the same.

Until you actively release it.

The belief behind somatic therapy is that all lived experiences are stored — and remembered — within your physical body. And those experiences, as well as the learned traits and functions that your body picks up from those experiences, need to be recognized and released through movement and bodily awareness. 

And somatic exercises are one of the best forms of somatic therapy you can start with.

Somatic exercises are a type of somatic therapy you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Somatic exercises are a form of somatic therapy involving gentle, repetitive movements that allow your body to communicate with your mind, while also releasing the tension, trauma, lived experiences, and muscle memory that's being stored there.

If it's difficult to wrap your mind around how gentle, repetitive movements can do anything significantly beneficial for the body and mind, think about how a toddler self soothes itself while upset or angry. Or even how YOU self soothe yourself while you're extremely upset or angry.

By rocking back and forth, right!?!

Since toddlers don't have the cognitive function yet to recognize and handle any BIG emotions they feel, they use self-stimulatory behaviors (often known as 'stimming') to release those emotions and help regulate their nervous system.

The same idea applies for adults —which is why we occasionally rock ourselves to sleep or why we can't stop shaking our leg while sitting down if we're feeling anxious.

And even though adults do have the cognitive function to recognize and handle big emotions and traumas, the actual recognizing and handling of those big emotions and traumas (particularly when they're more stressful and traumatizing than usual, or when you experience those emotions and trauma for such a prolonged time that you have no time to recognize and handle them) is easier said than done.

Especially because we live in a culture that now interprets fear, pain, and having big emotions in general as weakness.

"As a society, we no longer find it acceptable to demonstrate signs of fear. A quivering voice, shaking legs, knees and hands all reveal bodily fear which is interpreted as weakness. [...] However, this natural experience of shaking or tremebling during or after a terrifying event is completely common among humans.”

- Dr. David Berceli

What are the benefits of somatic exercises?

The benefits of somatic exercises — and somatic therapy in general — are genuinely astounding.

This is because somatic exercises are one of the only practices you can do that can release your stored trauma and "big" emotions while reversing your muscle memory and learned traits by regulating your nervous system out of both a hyperarousal state and a hypoarousal state.

Somatic exercises have the unique ability to heal the physical symptoms of stored trauma while also improving the behavioral traits you can pick up after living with that trauma for a prolonged period of time.

Benefits of somatic exercises can include things like healing your gut, improving your sleep quality, lowering your stress levels, decreasing your body-wide pain and tension, building your immune system, reducing inflammation, and even bettering your relationship with your partner.

Why aren't more people talking about somatic exercises if they're so beneficial?

Unfortunately, somatic therapy and somatic exercises don't get nearly as much attention compared to other fields of western medicine. This is probably due to the lack of research funding this form of therapy and healing receives in relation to its pharmaceutical counterparts. And a lack of research funding means a lack of scientific literature, which means a lack of basic knowledge there is available for the general public.

Which is why we're so passionate about spreading the word!

How do I get started with somatic exercises?

You can easily get started with somatic exercises here at The Workout Witch!

With 8 somatic exercise courses to chose from, you can experience an emotional release like nothing you’ve felt before WITHOUT going to talk therapy (or re-hashing ANY of your past...).

Each somatic exercise course offers gentle, guided daily exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home (even in your own bed!) and you’ll unlock new levels of relaxation while reaching a deep state of emotional and physical peace.

Take our quiz today to see what course is best for YOU!!!