You may be familiar with mindset coaching, but do you know what somatic work is? In this episode I’m giving an overview of somatic work and a peek behind the scenes into my coaching sessions. Listen in to find out what somatic work entails.
Full Show Notes
Before I get into the episode, I just want to thank you for listening. I truly appreciate it, and it keeps me going. I would love to hear your questions or feedback, so please leave a review or connect with me on Voxer.
If you’ve ever received a professional massage, the massage therapist will tell you to drink plenty of water and rest afterward, because massage can make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. It’s a similar feeling to when you cry a lot. Or PMS. That’s what it sometimes feels like to do the work of trauma healing.
Talk Therapy vs. Somatic Work
I’ve done limited therapy and don’t have extensive experience, so I can’t speak for everyone.
In talk therapy (most forms of therapy) we are talking to understand external and internal dynamics. For some people this is a necessary first step and is all that is needed. For others, there is still a sense of incompletion or lack from this type of practice, and deeper work is needed.
Here’s a site I found that outlined many forms of psychotherapy you might be interested in reading: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy
In somatic therapy or somatic work, because not all somatic practitioners are therapists, instead of talking about the external or internal dynamics, the practitioner is working with the dynamic.
Yoga is a form of somatic work. You are literally moving your body, breathing, noticing, adjusting.
Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing is another form of somatic work. Clients are asked to move their bodies as part of the practice.
A Peek Behind the Scenes
I’m going to attempt to describe what a session working with me might look like, but please keep in mind that every person and every session is different. Some clients are a lot more descriptive and talkative throughout, some resist the somatic practices, some don’t want to talk at all and want to focus only on internal landscape, feeling, sensation, urges, movement, etc.
Also keep in mind that the work I do with clients is very experiential and therefore sometimes difficult to describe. For this reason, I always have a free session available as the first step to working with me. I don’t expect anyone to jump into this kind of work without first having an idea of what might be required. Link in the show notes!
I do all of my sessions over Zoom, so usually I am sitting at my desk and the client often is as well. Some clients Zoom in on their phones.
I usually start by asking “How are you feeling today?” This very open-ended question allow the client to say what is on their mind if there is something specific or just start describing sensations if that is what they want. Usually it is a bit of both. For example, and client might say, “I’m feeling a bit frazzled. My kids are in the other room with the babysitter and my daughter had a huge meltdown earlier.” or they might talk about something that bothered them from an earlier interaction in their day. Or they might say, “I want you to help me get over feeling stuck.”
There is no right or wrong way to be in a session. I meet the client wherever they are. These initial “downloads” are often a strong indication of where their nervous system is in that moment.
And I always stick with what is happening in the present moment.
No matter where the client is at the top of the session, I look for moments to guide the session toward their body and what is happening in their body or what their internal landscape is like.
I am tracking body sensations, emotions, any sights, sounds or other information from our senses, the mindset around these things, and any movements or impulses that might be present. This information helps me understand where they client’s nervous system is, and which direction to go.
Three Goals of Somatic Work:
- To support the client in spending less time dysregulated and more time in a felt sense of safety.
- To increase the window of tolerance. The window of tolerance encapsulates everything in our sympathetic (generally the activation fight or flight response) or the parasympathetic (generally the slow-down or shut-down response, rest and digest) that we are able to tolerate. Another way to say this is— the window of tolerance is the range of internal landscape they we are okay with. And we always want to be expanding this window.
- To improve the mind-body connection. And when I say mind-body connection, I am not referring to the spiritual practices like yoga, although that might be a supportive practice. It’s is literally a connection between what your mind is noticing and present to in your body. For example, the other day I was washing my face in the shower and just going through the motions, when I paused and really connected to myself. I could feel my hands on my face, on my cheeks, on my brow. I could feel my hands and my face connecting. That’s what I mean by mind-body connection.
In a recent session, a client was describing the sensations that she felt in her body when she felt like she was judging someone else. We discovered there was fear under the judgement. When I asked her about the fear, she naturally spoke about it in a way that made her feel like she wanted to shrink. So I directed her to shrink, get smaller. Lot’s more came up for her when she was able to do that. Previously, she was judging herself for having judgement for others. She was unable to shake these thoughts though. By working with the sensations and impulses, she got to a place where she felt a sense of calm and compassion and love. She naturally no longer felt the need to judge the person she was judging before our session.
In another recent session, the client wanted to keep talking instead of actually working with the sensation we both knew was there. I reflected that to her, and she was able to open up. We moved very slowly because the sensations she was feeling, a sense of being choked, felt very scary (as they should!). I gave her lots of time to notice how it felt to allow the sensation to be there, to not try to make in move or change or go away. She sat in silence for a while and then described how it had dissipated. This feeling was coming up around some resentment she was having toward another person and after carefully allowing the sensations, she no longer felt that way.
As you can kind of get a feel for, moving very slowly is important. If we move too fast, we miss essential information our bodies are giving to us. Many sessions are me asking a question or directing the client to move in certain ways and then long periods of silence while the client explores their internal landscape.
There is always agency. As the client, you never have to do anything you don’t want to, and in fact it is counter-productive. If there’s something you don’t want to do, we should pause and explore that, not push you to do it. There is so much information in where the edges are.
In another recent client session, I directed the client, and she just burst into tears. Although we were going slowly, it was still too much or too fast for her. So we spent some time allowing her to cry, I turned her video off. We explored what it felt like for her to cry spontaneously and unexpectedly. She was able to feel into that with my support.
Other times, I might direct a client to walk around the room or shake their hands. We might punch the air or stomp. We might push away from something, even just in our bodies.
And yet other times, visions come up for clients. “I see myself as a little girl.” or “I just had a memory pop into my head.” This is a natural part of the process. Somatic work is highly un-logical, so whatever the body manifests, we follow it. I can lead clients in exploration of why those memories or pictures come into their mind, what they might be here to convey.
A Challenge For You
Wherever you are on your journey, I encourage you to at least experiment with somatic work. I have found that it can be much more direct that thought-work. Why work with thoughts in order to effect feelings, when we can just work with the feelings themselves?
Journal Questions (download here)
- How are you feeling right now?
- How do you know you are feeling that way?
- What urges or impulses do you notice on a regular basis?
- Do you follow your urges? Why or why not?
- If you put your hands over your heart and simply pay attention what is happing in your body, allowing it all to be there, what do you notice?
We had a most amazing first live session of Presence. I can tell it is going to be some of the most beautiful spiritual, somatic, and mind work I do with clients. There is an added potential for healing when we meet in a group, and always so much to learn. You can find out more about Presence at denitabremer.com/presence, but I want you to know that it is a year long membership. You can pay monthly payments of $222 or a lump sum of $2222 (2 month discount). And if you pay in full right now you become a lifetime founding member and you’ll have access to the program for LIFE. That means you pay $2222 and as long as you want the support of the Presence group it will be available to you. This lifetime deal ends March 31st 2023 or until we reach 20 lifetime members, whichever comes first. So don’t wait!
If you are ready to work through your own trauma with my support, schedule a free call here.