“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” – Bessel van der Kolk “The Body Keeps the Score”
I often get asked what it means to be a Relational Somatic Therapist so here we go. Somatic comes from the word “Soma” which means “body” – Somatic Therapy is a form of therapy or counselling that is body centered. There is a valuing of the felt experience as a way of working with stuck patterns which developed because of stress, trauma, or emotional wounding.
While all counselling is relational, Relational Somatic Therapy emphasizes the joining in what it means to be human between the therapist and the client. There is no hierarchy. It is expected that the therapist does their own work and understands their own nervous system and patterns, but the therapist does not come in as the expert who has all the answers. Instead, the therapist is someone with a lot of tools and experience who can help keep the client safe as the inner landscape is explored. The client is the expert of their experience, and the therapist is there to help client stay safe and to not get bogged down in the stickiness of trauma or stress patterns.
When we work with the felt sense (the body) as opposed to just our thoughts in therapy we feel less alone, less “weird.” There is room for more compassion and a sense of belonging instead of “separate from.” Although the client and the therapist probably haven’t had the same life journey, the therapist is able to join the client where they are, so they know they aren’t alone. Many of our trauma or stress patterns are accommodations that we developed early in life and most often these younger patterns are relational at their core. Without proper holding or support during highly charged events we develop psychobiological patterns to protect ourselves. We can befriend these patterns the more we understand that they were necessary at the time. If these are unable to resolve they can create a lot of tension or a feeling of collapse and can lead to chronic pain, low or anxious moods, illness, or feeling without purpose. These patterns need to be supported, slowly and safely within the relational field so that we can bring more energy to our system. When this happens over time we have more access to inner resources, power within, and well being.
Relational Somatic Therapy is subtle, non-cathartic work. It emphasizes presence, connection, curiosity, and embodiment.
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.” – Bessel van der Kolk “The Body Keeps the Score”
“The essence of trauma is disconnection…so the real question is: How did we get separated and how do we connect?” – Gabor Mate