One of the classic problems that has faced metaphysical philosophers and clinical psychologists alike is the difficulty distinguishing the differences between our bodies and our minds. While it seems our bodies could not exist without our minds and our minds could not exist without our bodies, these two entities somehow continue to remain distinct.
When our bodies endure a tragic experience, it undoubtedly will continue to affect the way our minds operate. When our minds are not operating at their best, it will also continue to negatively influence our body’s physical well-being. Knowing both the tangible and intangible connections between these two things, it seems that by using the sensation we experience in our bodies we might be able to learn to overcome the negative things we may be experiencing in our minds.
Keeping such a goal in mind, psychologists have been able to miraculously develop a variety of alternative (but still effective) treatment modalities.
What is somatic experiencing?
Somatic experiencing is a form of clinical treatment that seeks to treat various psychological conditions by focusing on the given patient’s bodily sensations (also known as somatic experiences). Because of the interconnectedness of our bodies and minds, somatic experiencing treatments seek to address the abstract problems associated with one while focusing on the real sensations of the other.
Somatic experiencing was developed to primarily treat the symptoms of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) such as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and hyper-vigilance. But its use has been proven to also benefit those who suffer from these symptoms but may not necessarily have PTSD itself.
Somatic experiencing is something that can only be administered by a licensed professional, and in fact, in order to obtain such a license, you need a tremendous amount of clinical training. During a typical somatic experiencing session, the clinical “bodyworker” performs a series of physical exercises designed to teach the suffering individual mindfulness and cognitive self-regulation.
Why is somatic experiencing effective?
Somatic experience is unique in the sense that it tries to reconcile the distinct differences between our bodies and our minds. An individual who is suffering from the symptoms of PTSD, for example, may have once experienced a very traumatic physical event that has since influenced the way their mind now functions. Instead of trying to suppress thoughts or deny the existence of the traumatic event, somatic experiencing can teach individuals to embrace things that might trigger them and appropriately learn to return to a state of normal functioning.
Somatic experiencing can effectively introduce a state of ‘dis-regulation’ without introducing anything that might risk long-term damage or further trauma. Then, once the individual is ‘dis-regulated’, the highly trained clinician can carefully guide them back to a state of psychological regularity. Somatic experiencing can be uniquely beneficial to helping heal individuals with symptoms of PTSD because it gradually instills the skills and mindset needed to not only overcome their symptoms, but to bounce back from them in any future situation where they might begin to reemerge.
How is somatic experiencing used in teen psychology?
The early years of our lives—infancy, childhood, and the difficult transition to adulthood known as the teenage years—are absolutely crucial for long-term development. If not properly treated, any profoundly traumatic events we endure during this time can continue to affect our day-to-day well-being for the rest of our lives. Because of this, it is important to continue developing ways to effectively address and treat all forms of childhood and teenage trauma.
Typically, trauma can be organized into two distinct categories: shock trauma and developmental trauma. Shock trauma is usually triggered by a single traumatic event while developmental trauma is characterized by ongoing events. Many teenagers experience PTSD from both kinds of trauma without ever being diagnosed, and the consequences of ignoring these very real and pervasive conditions can continue to compound with the passage of time.
By utilizing somatic experiences, teenagers and adults alike can be carefully guided to overcome the lasting effects of traumatic experiences. They can be empowered to reclaim control of their own life, recognize when they have been triggered, and learn to cope with the many difficult aspects of life they will undoubtedly be forced to confront.
Somatic experiencing is something whose use and implementation is continuing to expand and refine itself across the world. Psychologists are continually engaging in studies that enable them better treat conditions of the mind by connecting them to the individual’s body, and these experiences are capable of producing very real and lasting results.
If you believe your teenager might be suffering from PTSD or any of its associated symptoms, it is important to receive a diagnosis and discuss possible treatment options with a licensed clinician. There are real, effective treatment options available within reach.