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  • Writer's picturerichelehenry

How is somatic work different from therapy?

I am often asked…

How is somatic work different from therapy?


A big part of my journey towards becoming a Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner is distinguishing how this work is different from therapy: what can I ethically say and do with my clients and stay within my scope of practice?


This is very important to me and it’s a conversation I’ve spent many hours navigating with my mentors to determine how I can move forward and be of highest integrity in the way I support my clients.


Many of my clients have done years of therapy, or are currently in therapy.


SE™ is not therapy, but it is a beautiful complement to it.


Traditional talk therapy is considered a top-down approach: working with the mind to effect change.


Somatic work is a bottom-up approach.


Definition - so·mat·ic: relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind.


The work we do is in the present.

We honor what is happening in the body in the moment…

working with the body to free the mind.


“Top-down” and “Bottom-up” are terms my Somatic Experiencing ™ trainer uses to describe the difference and distinguish the two.


She is a clinical psychologist, and when she came to somatic work she had to completely re-learn how to hold space for her clients (and renegotiate the contract she held with them), because her background in psychology was focused on working with the mind as a foundation - exploring memories and stories from the past along with present moment thoughts, emotional states and behaviors.


When it came to the body she said “Oh no, we don’t go there.”


But she learned how to go there (for herself first, after a car accident and her husband receiving a scary diagnosis) and now she trains bodyworkers, clergy, coaches, educators, first responders, therapists and anyone who closely works with other human beings on how to take an embodied approach to healing because she knows first-hand that it works.


How does it work?


The purpose of Somatic work is to expand our capacity to hold and tolerate our discomfort while also making it safe to enjoy more moments of what feels good, right, true, pleasurable, comfortable, supportive, and settled. The both/and.


We gently support the nervous system to hold both what’s uncomfortable and what feels supportive - gently swinging back and forth between states. I like to think of it like going from shallow breathing (small inhales and exhales) and slowly building up to taking deeper fuller breath, allowing more in, and taking a full complete exhale, allowing a full release.


We always, always, always find the support that’s already available within us and around us, and make it safe to sink more deeply into that support.


We map your nervous system so we can get a sense of your body’s unique way of communicating and responding to stimuli, both internally and in your environment.


We practice working with the tools that will expand your ability to hold more of what feels good AND what feels challenging, cultivating greater nervous system resilience in times of heightened stress.


You integrate the tools into your everyday life and witness the work working for you as you notice your reactions and responses shifting.


Things that once triggered you don’t do so as intensely as they once did.


This work isn’t about giving you an altered state.


It’s not even about making you “feel” better.


It’s about supporting your nervous system to be with whatever comes your way.


To be able to respond to what is in your environment and what is alive inside of you with a sense of “okayness.”


To develop the ability to move through the world feeling safe in your body.


Why Somatic work?


I have had deeply healing experiences with many modalities: breathwork, reiki, sound healing, tantra, yoga, acupuncture, EFT, EMDR, Psychodrama, Havening, many forms of bodywork, healing foods, herbs, forest bathing, ecstatic dance, plant medicine and Human Design, etc.


You can see that I’ve done quite a bit of exploring. I’ve been a seeker all my life… looking for the just right medicine that would support me. And I can honestly say that all of them did their part.


There are many paths to healing.


Somatic Experiencing™ is one path, one modality.


SE™ has helped me tremendously as I navigate the ongoing grief, stress and “unknown” of disability parenting and given me the tools to support my sensitive nervous system so that I can better function despite the sensory triggers, overwhelm and everyday stressors of being a person who lives in a body on this planet.


That’s why I decided to pursue this path, so I can empower my clients with these body -based tools that will support them, with whatever life throws at them, for the rest of their lives.


My approach:

I create a safe environment for my clients to show up exactly as they are and hold the intention of healing. I also serve as a reminder of their inherent worthiness and wholeness while they work what has felt historically hard to hold on their own.


I never have an agenda, an expectation of, or attachment to the outcome. I show up with openness and curiosity and hold a loving non-judgmental space for what is already alive inside the client that wants to be witnessed, explored and nurtured.


Why work with me?


I am so incredibly honored to do this work. It truly is one of the greatest blessings of my life, to take the lemons life has given me, make lemonade out of them and then give you the tools and a customized recipe to make your own version.


I have 17 years of experience as a coach (health, life and business) and 20+ years with somatic education and embodiment work. I’m currently in year 2 of becoming a certified Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner (SE™ is the gold standard trauma healing modality with decades of research to back it up).


I hold a university degree in Dance Education and mastery-level certification in the Transformational Coaching Method (rooted in ethical NLP).


And I integrate the wisdom of Human Design, a roadmap for how to live correctly as your unique self, into the work I do with my clients.


Who is this work helpful for?


Most of my clients have a history (of one or more of the following): *not an exhaustive list, but you can see some of the common themes in those I support.*


Anxiety / Overwhelm

Addiction - in recovery (food, substances, etc)

Adult Children of parents with addiction or mood/personality disorders

Difficult birth / Postpartum journey

Caregiver Burnout


My clients entrust me with the details of their inner landscape and I hold their truths with the utmost confidence. I have heard stories that would simultaneously crack your heart wide open and make your heart break. Nothing scares me. Nothing is too heavy for me to hold.

How to choose a practitioner?


When we choose a practitioner to work with, it is essential to feel safe with that person - as we essentially “co-regulate” with one another's nervous systems, and get into a frequency of coherence.

Tap into the wisdom of your body and trust it to help you feel into finding the correct person who can hold that space for you…


And I realize that person may not be me!


If you want to find someone who specializes in a particular area, let me know what you are looking for. I am connected with a vast network of practitioners and can likely point you to someone who would be a great fit for your needs.


What are the Next Steps?


Do you feel a resonance with what I am sharing, or feel called to connect? If so I encourage you to follow that nudge.


Let’s chat! Click here to book a free consultation with me.


This will be a dedicated time to focus on the kind of support you are looking for on your healing journey, and if we both feel we are aligned, then we can explore the possibility of working together further.


I leave you with a few words from a recent client:


“I’ve noticed my life change naturally over these past few weeks…very peaceful even with the same difficulties in my life. Feeling stronger and more satisfied. Less frustrated. I’m making better choices. I’m staying in my lane more - letting go and surrendering to what is - and then noticing the actions of others begin to shift - just beautiful. I’m so glad that I’m changing internally - wow just wow!!”

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