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What is Somatic Therapy in San Diego?

What is Somatic Therapy in San Diego?

Somatic therapy in San Diego is a holistic therapeutic approach that focuses on the mind-body connection to address psychological issues, trauma, and emotional distress. A somatic therapist looks at how trauma events affect the client’s beliefs, their ability to function, and how trauma is stored in the client’s body.

The term “somatic” refers to the body, and somatic therapy emphasizes the importance of bodily sensations, identifying where in the body and how the body is experiencing trauma.

The focus is on identifying dysfunctional beliefs and integrating bodily experiences into understanding and healing psychological wounds.

For many clients this feels frightening due to their body being the scene of the crime in their trauma.

This is why working with someone who understands trauma and how to slowly guide a client into somatic work is really important.


Exploring the Physical Sensations and Bodily Experiences Associated with Emotions, Memories, and Traumas can feel terrifying.

Trauma informed therapists understand how much the body endured during the trauma events.  

With this in mind, Trauma Therapists teach clients ways to feel safe as they open up to experience their world and their bodies again.

Clients discover how to notice muscle tension, breathing, body sensations, and body postures.

They gain insight into emotional states and underlying psychological issues related to these somatic symptoms.

With this insight clients can learn how to work toward change.

Clients use new body postures, movement, and new beliefs for change.

Therapists teach clients how to self-soothe, develop safety, and to ease into connection with others.


Somatic Therapy in San Diego Interventions

Mindful Body Awareness Interventions which help clients to safely attune to their body and present moment experiences. For those with trauma it is important to have a therapist you feel safe with and whom you can provide feedback to about your experiences doing somatic work.

 Breathwork is used to help regulate the nervous system and promote relaxation. For people who have experienced trauma certain breathing exercises can be triggering. Finding a therapist who knows how to help ease into breathwork is important.

Movement is key in somatic therapy. Often people are frozen during trauma and feel stuck. With trauma informed movement you and your therapist can find ways to break out of that frozen place.

 Body-centered psychotherapy where therapists use touch, body awareness, and movement to facilitate emotional processing and healing. Even if you are doing virtual sessions with your therapist, somatic interventions can be used.

Often client’s who have experienced trauma feel safer meeting in a virtual office where they can be in a place that feels familiar and the client controls how far or near the therapist appears.

Your Body is Tired of Keeping The Score

Thankfully we have amazing teachers such as Bessel Van der Kolk, Gabor Maté, and Peter Levine who for decades have been making the public aware of the physical effects of trauma.

They know that when we experience trauma, if we have chronic anger, fear, or hypervigilance it takes a mental and physical toll on the body.

This can manifest as pain; such as spasms, migraines, or fibromyalgia. It also may show up as chronic health conditions such as autoimmune disease, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, and some forms of asthma.

Gabor states that nearly 90% of his patients were in his office with symptoms that couldn’t be traced to a medical cause, it was in conversing with the patients that he started noticing the trend in trauma histories.

ACES Study Shows the Impacts of Trauma

Gabor, Peter, and Bessel’s findings were further supported by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study conducted in San Diego that investigated the correlation between adverse childhood experiences and health outcomes later in life.

This study was a research initiative funded by Kaiser and led by Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda.

The study surveyed more than 17,000 adults about their childhood experiences and assessed their current health status.

The findings revealed a strong association between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes, including chronic diseases, mental health disorders, substance abuse, and early mortality.

The study demonstrated that individuals who experienced high levels of adversity during childhood were at a significantly higher risk of developing physical and mental health problems later in life.

This groundbreaking research highlighted the long-term impact of childhood trauma on overall well-being and emphasized the importance of early intervention and trauma-informed care.

Losing Touch with our Feelings

Besides developing mental and physical health conditions another common symptom for clients with trauma is alexithymia.

With alexithymia a client feels physically uncomfortable without being able to describe exactly what the problem is.

Otherwise known as self-numbing or dissociating. It helped the client survive to ignore the signals or needs of the body during the trauma event.

However, now the client is unable to know they are thirsty, need to stretch, or that they are hungry.

If you can’t feel these basic needs it is difficult to take care of yourself and to function well.

Often clients body signals become confused and feeling anxious or disconnected is interpreted as hunger.

A client will eat to calm down. This calms the body for a short while, but then the feeling comes back, because the need for safety or connection wasn’t fufilled.

The client eats again to try to self-soothe.  Being able to come back into relationship and understanding of one’s body is a key element of somatic therapy.

The Benefits of Somatic Therapy

Trauma feels like disconnection from yourself, others, and the world.  In somatic therapy in San Diego we work with the body to reform those connections.

The benefits of somatic therapy extend far beyond traditional talk therapy approaches. By engaging the body in the therapeutic process, clients often experience:

Increased self-awareness: Somatic therapy encourages individuals to tune into bodily sensations and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their experiences.

Stress reduction: Chronic stress can manifest in the body as muscle tension, headaches, and digestive issues. Somatic techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery can help clients relax the body and calm the mind.

Healing from trauma: Traumatic experiences can leave a lasting imprint on the body. Somatic therapy provides a safe space for individuals to process and release trauma, promoting healing on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

Improved emotional regulation: By learning to regulate their bodily sensations and responses, clients develop greater resilience in the face of challenging emotions and situations.

Enhanced relational skills: Somatic therapy often incorporates elements of touch and nonverbal communication, helping clients develop healthier boundaries and more authentic connections with others.

Just Talking About It Isn’t Enough

While talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy, can be beneficial for many individuals in processing trauma, it may not always be sufficient on its own.

There are several reasons why talk therapy alone may not fully address the complexities of trauma:

Limited Access to Trauma Memories: Trauma memories are stored in parts of the brain associated with emotion and bodily sensations, rather than in verbal or narrative form.

Talk therapy primarily engages the verbal centers of the brain, which may make it difficult for individuals to access and process traumatic memories fully.

It may also be that the trauma happened at such a young age that it was pre-verbal.

Re-experiencing Trauma: Discussing traumatic events in talk therapy sessions can lead to re-traumatization, overwhelm or re-experiencing in the present moment.

This occurs when the therapist and client do not adequately prepare to handle the intense emotions and sensations that arise. 

That can lead to client drop out, feelings of hopelessness, and that therapy makes things worse instead of better.  

In trauma informed therapy we go slow to go fast.

Avoidance and Dissociation: Individuals who have experienced trauma may engage in avoidance behaviors or dissociate from their emotions and bodily sensations as a coping mechanism.

Talk therapy alone may not effectively address these avoidance patterns or help individuals reconnect with their bodies and emotions.

Often clients with trauma only feel safe in their heads.  They only feel safe by controlling everything.  This often leads to anxiety and overthinking.  

With somatic therapy we work to get clients out of their heads and into their bodies. 

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Reconnecting to the Body and Others


Body-Based Nature of Trauma: Trauma is not solely a psychological phenomenon but also has profound effects on the body.

Somatic experiences such as muscle tension, hypervigilance, abdominal pain, and headaches are common responses to trauma.

Talk therapy alone may overlook the somatic aspects of trauma, which are crucial for healing.  In somatic therapy we work to allow the body to release the burden it has been carrying.


Need for Regulation and Safety: Many individuals who experience trauma struggle with dysregulation of their nervous system, leading to difficulties in managing emotions and arousal levels.

Talk therapy may not always provide the necessary tools and techniques for regulating the nervous system and establishing a sense of safety.  

With interventions such as polyvagal exercises the therapist can use their regulated nervous system to help their client regulate.  


Interpersonal and Relational Aspects: Trauma often disrupts individuals’ relationships and sense of trust in others.

Talk therapy may not fully address the interpersonal dynamics and relational patterns that contribute to trauma responses and recovery.

 With somatic interventions based on concepts such as interpersonal neurobiology the client and therapist attune in specific ways.  

This attunement is the foundation for trust.   Clients with early childhood trauma report feeling not seen or heard and so their needs left unmet.  

These children did not develop the sense that someone would show up for them or protect them from harm.  

In somatic therapy interventions support clients with the “I’ve got your back” feeling in their bodies.


Cultural and Contextual Considerations

Cultural factors, socioeconomic status, systemic oppression, and other contextual factors can significantly impact how individuals experience and respond to trauma.

Talk therapy alone may not adequately address these broader systemic issues or incorporate culturally sensitive approaches to healing.

While talk therapy can be a valuable component of trauma recovery, it is often most effective when integrated with somatic approaches, trauma-informed care principles, and other modalities.

Trauma is multidimensional and good treatment addresses the mind, body, and brain.

By combining talk therapy with somatic therapy, brainspotting, mindfulness practices, and holistic interventions, individuals can access a more comprehensive and integrated approach to healing.

How I Can Help With Somatic Therapy in San Diego

I understand trauma and my primary focus is for you to feel safe.

I know that trauma disconnects you from yourself, from others, and from the world.

It can be shocking trying to reconnect to all those things. Just trying to feel your physical body can trigger dissociation.

Working with me focuses on easing back into your senses and into life.

You learn somatic interventions to use outside of therapy when you really need them.  

I also work with you so you can have compassion for yourself as you work your way through this process.  

Let’s face it, trauma therapy isn’t fun.  No one ever was counting down the hours to deal with the worst things that happened to them.

  However, finding a way to let your past be in the past and your present to feel engaging and full of life is worth the work.  

I know.  I’ve been there and done it myself.  Healing is possible! 


To Find out More About Shay and Somatic Therapy in San Diego

If you would like to learn more; please check out the Somatic Focused Therapy page on my website.


TTo book a session click on the button at the top of the page or email