Introduction to Somatic Experiencing


Dr. Peter Levine’s widely respected and innovative approach to the prevention and healing of trauma, Somatic Experiencing® (SE), is a psychobiological method for addressing physical and emotional trauma, PTSD, overwhelm, and stress-related conditions. Dr. Levine received a PhD in medical and biological physics as well as an independent doctoral degree in psychology.

SE is a naturalistic approach to the resolution and healing of trauma, based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized. Animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors, a built-in “immunity’’ to trauma. They employ the capacity to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ‘’charged’’ life-threatening experiences.

The SE Approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions, connecting into the felt senses and recognizing the powerful information rooted in the body.

Somatic Experiencing is a systematic method of unfreezing out of the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The process is gradual, not cathartic in nature, allowing a time frame for healing that does not overwhelm the nervous system and throw it back into shock. It allows for individual situations and histories rather than protocol for a diagnosis. It facilitates the body’s natural healing abilities using the individual’s own felt sense with the skilled facilitation of a trained practitioner.


  1. SE is a short-term, naturalistic approach to healing and resolving the effects of traumatic events
  2. Based on his observations of animals in the wild, who deal with survival threats regularly and yet are rarely traumatized
  3. Animals have an in-born mechanism that allows them to manage large amounts of “survival” energy and to discharge it when it is no longer needed—returning to a state of balance (they literally shake it off/out of their systems)
  4. We humans have the same mechanism, but we tend to “override” it with our “higher” brain and consequently, we end up “storing” excess survival energies in our bodies as symptoms
  5. The body has a natural capacity to heal and to restore itself; SE encourage this natural capacity to heal in a gentle and contained way (without re-traumatizing)
  6. SE work with the natural survival responses of “fight/flight/freeze” (the innate survival responses within us all)
  7. SE recognizes that trauma symptoms arise when “survival” energies do not discharge completely from the body
  8. SE help relieve symptoms of trauma by eliciting discharge of stored or “stuck” survival energies
  9. The goal of SE is to relieve symptoms of traumatic stress through gently discharging stored survival energies and restoring balance to the nervous system
  10. SE can be used to treat anyone who has experienced or witnesses an event that was perceived to be threatening or overwhelming to the persons or which posed a serious threat or injury to themselves or others

For more information about SE please note the following references:

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences.Berkeley, CA: N. Atlantic Books. Kline, M. and Levine, P. (2007).

Trauma Through A Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. Levne, P.

In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. North Atlantic Press. 2010

SE can create a variety of benefits to you, such as increased resiliency, relief of trauma and stress symptoms, as well as resourcefulness. Like any other treatment it may also have unintended negative “side effects.”

For further references and information online about SE go to