Exposure to trauma can have lifelong effects. Trauma can increase a person’s risk developing depression, compulsive behaviors, personality disorders, and process addictions. It is also a factor in the development of substance use disorders, since traumatized individuals commonly turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Cottonwood Tucson’s integrated focus on mental health and substance use disorders includes using somatic experiencing as a modality for processing and understanding trauma. This approach allows clients to self-regulate the nervous system’s responses and reclaim a sense of control over the physical expression of their emotions.
Somatic experiencing is a form of alternative therapy first introduced in 1997 by Dr. Peter Levine, who noted that animals in the wild do not experience long-term negative effects from being threatened by predators. When the immediate threat has been dealt with, the animal discharges the extra arousal energy using mechanisms such as shaking or breathing deeply.
Dr. Levine developed somatic experiencing to help individuals hone their inherent capacity for self-regulation. Often, people struggling to process trauma are dealing with shame and anxiety that traps their unneeded arousal energy in the body. The trapped energy creates a mood disturbances and feelings of low self-worth that lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual disconnection.
Somatic experiencing helps to reset the nervous system and restore equilibrium. The process is collaborative between the patient and therapist, but focuses on bodily feelings and sensations as opposed to talking at length about painful past events. Individuals are encouraged to expand their internal supply of resources, which might include supportive loved ones, happy memories, pleasant physical sensations, or anything that promotes feelings of safety and security. Creating a network of resources makes it easier to navigate the trauma and work through it.
Cottonwood Tucson’s certified somatic experiencing practitioners have completed a rigorous three-year training program. They offer somatic experiencing in both group and individual sessions, including a special women’s group for trauma survivors.
As part of Cottonwood’s full continuum of care for men and women suffering from primary behavioral health disorders or substance use disorders, somatic experiencing is often combined with other forms of psychotherapy and physical therapies to promote holistic healing. For example, clients with drug or alcohol addiction may use yoga, heartmath biofeedback, or EMDR to promote increased awareness of the body’s response to emotionally charged situations and how this affects their newfound sobriety. Each client’s treatment plan is personalized to fit his or her own unique needs, setting the stage for a lasting recovery.