What is SE?
|SOMATIC EXPERIENCING® (SE)
psychobiological trauma resolution is a potent method for resolving trauma
symptoms and relieving chronic stress. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting
from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology,
neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45
years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is
key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment
The SE approach offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze
responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states.
provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental
health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first
response, education, and others.
Trauma and the Science Behind the SE Approach
Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of
cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with
resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents,
invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural
disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.
The SE approach
teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure
of the body, psyche, and nervous system to process adverse events.
In his studies, Dr. Levine found that prey animals in the wild are rarely traumatized despite
routine threats to their lives. Yet human beings are readily traumatized. Since humans and
other animals possess nearly identical brain- and body-based survival mechanisms, Dr. Levine
worked to identify what was interfering with the human threat-recovery process,
develop tools for restoring people’s innate capacity to rebound following
All mammals automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain,
mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Under threat, massive amounts of energy
are mobilized in readiness for self-defense via the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once
safe, animals spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy through involuntary movements
including shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths. This discharge process resets
the ANS, restoring equilibrium.
Although humans are similarly designed to rebound from high-intensity survival states, we
also have the problematic ability to neo-cortically override the natural discharge of excess
survival energy. Through rationalizations, judgments, shame, enculturation, and fear of our
bodily sensations, we may disrupt our innate capacity to self-regulate, functionally “recycling”
disabling terror and helplessness. When the nervous system does not reset after an
overwhelming experience, sleep, cardiac, digestion, respiration, and immune system function
can be seriously disturbed. Unresolved physiological distress can also lead to an array of
other physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
How the SE Approach Works
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.
SE trauma resolution does not require the traumatized person to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event. Instead,
it offers the opportunity to engage, complete, and resolve—in a slow and supported way—the
body’s instinctual fight, flight and freeze responses. Individuals locked in anxiety or
rage then relax into a growing sense of peace and safety. Those stuck in depression gradually
find their feelings of hopelessness and numbness transformed into empowerment, triumph,
and mastery. SE trauma resolution catalyzes corrective bodily experiences that contradict those of fear and
helplessness. This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to
stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life.
Find an SETM Practitioner ▶
Training & Event Schedule ▶
About Peter A. Levine, PhD ▶
|Young gazelle exhibiting flight survival response
Fortunately, the same immense energies
that create the symptoms of trauma,
when properly engaged and mobilized,
can transform the trauma and propel us
into new heights of healing, mastery,
Peter A. Levine, PhD