Somatic comes from the root word, soma, which means the body. Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) is a naturalistic, body-oriented approach for healing from traumatic or overwhelming life situations and chronic stress with a specific focus on emotional regulation, arousal modulation, and the biological discharge, release and completion of self-protective responses (orienting / fight / flight / freeze). It was originally developed by Dr. Peter Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices and medical biophysics. SE releases supports the release of stuck energy and supports the body’s natural ability to regulate itself, which is key to transforming PTSD, chronic stress and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. It helps people to move out of immobility and freeze (collapse/shutdown), into more flow, embodiment and aliveness, which in turns supports us to engage socially and sustain intimate relationships.
A touch approach for supporting the healing of Developmental Trauma
Transforming Touch®: is a "trauma-informed" modality developed by Stephen Terrell after working for years with developmental trauma. It was his experience as a clinician and single parent of two adopted sons, along with his understanding of the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study- a highly recognized study on developmental trauma, that Terrell came to the realization that there needed to be a way to reach non-verbal, or early developmental trauma, without spoken language. Out of this realization he developed Transforming Touch® and a training program designed for understanding and healing developmental trauma: “Transforming the Experience-Based Brain: An Integrative Neuro-developmental Approach to the treatment of Developmental Trauma”.
Transforming the Experience-Based Brain® (TEB) presents a multilevel model for healing developmental trauma in adults and children. It synthesizes somatic touch, regulation, primitive reflex integration, attachment styles, and the bio-physiology of trauma. Transforming Touch® is an effective way of facilitating regulation within our client's nervous system. The protocols and enhancements are designed to work with or without physical touch.
Transforming Touch® is a treatment modality that follows a specific protocol which has been used to treat thousands of clients. It creates an environment of safety and attunement through using attachment-based and relationally focused protocols which can help repair early ruptures and their consequences. Here a client can begin to feel a difference in their life through subtle, yet profound changes.
Transforming Presence®: The Transforming Touch approach can be adapted for online services and those clients for whom physical touch is not preferred since protocols and enhancements are designed to work with or without physical touch. Transforming Presence incorporates all the understandings and workings of developmental trauma and support trauma informed care. The power of working with intention has been shared from therapists around the world. Some believe it can be stronger than using physical touch. Transforming Presence is an effective treatment for those who work in agencies that prohibit physical touch and for those limited by licensure laws. This is also the chosen path for telemedicine. Some clients prefer the safety and convenience of doing therapy in the comfort of their own space surrounded by their own resources and support (animals, people, plants, etc.).
“I’ve also started thinking of trauma in terms of connection. The theme of broken connection has come up in my work repeatedly over the years: broken connection to our body; broken connection to our sense of self; broken connection to others, especially those we love; broken connection to feeling centered or grounded on the planet; broken connection to God, Source, Life Force, well-being, or however we might describe or relate to our inherent sense of spirituality, openhearted awareness, and beingness. This theme has been so prominent in my work that broken connection and trauma have become almost synonymous to me.”
― Diane Poole Heller, The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships
Transforming Touch Therapists® understand the importance of presence. They assume the role of 'secure base' during the treatment which opens the door for repair of early relational trauma ruptures. Transforming Touch Therapists® rely on the work of John Bowlby who is often times referred to as the father of attachment theory. Bowlby believed that there are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment:
Proximity maintenance: The desire to be near the people we are attached to.
Safe haven: Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat.
Secure base: The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.
Separation distress: Anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.
"Somatic memory holds all of our traumatic experiences within our physical self. If Alan Schore is right about the importance of forming a reciprocal relationship in the nursery, and the significance of relational and physical injuries during that formative non-verbal period, then what better way to communicate than through touch?"
"Transforming Touch® is a way of reaching such early and non-verbal traumas repairing a ruptured system. When we touch someone, they are naturally touching us back. The subtle repair of early attachment ruptures begins as the body and mind interweave with one another. Transforming Touch® allows and holds space for the client who has experienced Developmental Trauma to begin to reorganize and re-pattern the early experiences that are held in their physical self that are affecting their intellectual, emotional and spiritual self."
Trauma, and especially developmental trauma, often cause the system to become dysregulated and rigid. This causes an individual to rely on maladaptive patterns in order to survive. In addition, adversity, illness, and later traumas may further disorganize the system. Through the use of Transforming Touch, we have seen how systems can begin to change and regulate. Clients who were once “stuck” become able to move, expand, and find pathways toward creating and living a more fulfilling life.