Nine Steps for Somatic Experiencing

From Paralysis to Transformation – excerpted from In An Unspoken Voice, Chapter 5, Page 74

Peter Levine writes:

When working with traumatic reactions, such as states of intense fear, Somatic Experiencing® provides therapists with nine building blocks. These basic tools for “renegotiating” and transforming trauma are not linear, rigid or unidirectional. Instead, in therapy sessions, these steps are intertwined and dependent upon one another and may be accessed repeatedly and in any order.

However, if this psychobiological process is to be built on firm ground, Steps 1, 2 and 3 must occur first and must follow sequentially. Thus, the therapist needs to:

  1. Establish an environment of relative safety.
  2. Support initial exploration and acceptance of sensation.
  3. Establish “pendulation” and containment: the innate power of rhythm.
  4. Use titration to create increasing stability, resilience and organization. Titration is about carefully touching into the smallest “drop” of survival-based arousal, and other difficult sensations, to prevent retraumatization.
  5. Provide a corrective experience by supplanting the passive responses of collapse and helplessness with active, empowered, defensive responses.
  6. Separate or “uncouple” the conditioned association of fear and helplessness from the (normally time-limited but now maladaptive) biological immobility response.
  7. Resolve hyperarousal states by gently guiding the “discharge” and redistribution of the vast survival energy mobilized for life-preserving action while freeing that energy to support higher-level brain functioning.
  8. Engage self-regulation to restore “dynamic equilibrium” and relaxed alertness.
  9. Orient to the here and now, contact the environment and reestablish the capacity for social engagement.

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