About Somatic Experiencing®

All articles come from https://terapiatraumy.pl/, made available with the consent of the authors: Małgorzata Sieczkowska, Zenon Mazurczak

Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a body-mind method of treating trauma focused on quick results.

The neurobiological foundations of this approach combined with the latest knowledge on post-traumatic stress allowed for creating a coherent method widely practiced by doctors and therapists of various specialties.

SE is used in the treatment of post-traumatic disorders, with particular benefits in treating shock trauma: from accidental falls and injuries, through psychophysical consequences of car accidents, invasive medical procedures, unexpected attacks and trauma of domestic violence, to the treatment of war experiences and the aftermath of natural disasters.

SE is also used in the treatment of developmental, psychological and emotional trauma, as well as issues related to witnessing traumatic events. The method may also be useful in treating consequences of trauma, e.g. disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic depression and generalized pain. SE belongs to naturalistic schools of therapy referring to the self-healing processes in the body, offering powerful and comprehensive instrument.


Tiger – the SE icon

The tiger has become the iconic animal for SE.

Tigers painted by the American artist Guy Cocheleach are published in almost all books by Peter A. Levine.

Nancy, as Levine named his first patient, had suffered severe panic attacks for many years, and one of them happened unexpectedly during a session. While the patient was at the peak of anxiety arousal, Levine noted that she was shifting her legs as if wanting to escape. For a brief moment, he felt that he unconsciously joined minds with the client and saw an inner projection of a jumping tiger. He shouted “Watch out, tiger!” – thus triggering a coordinated flight reaction in the client’s body and enabling her on a physiological level to complete the process of escaping from the situation of oppressive medical treatment Nancy experienced as a child, perceived by her body as an invasion and a threat to life.

He later learned that she underwent tonsillectomy in her childhood. Her energy, activated during the surgical procedure, had no chance of being discharged in fight or flight reactions, and so it remained frozen inside her body and mind without memory contact with the event, occasionally manifesting itself in the form of sudden panic attacks. Thanks to the panic attack she experienced in Levine’s office, under the protection and guidance of the therapist, and the imaginary Tiger that forced her to flee, she was able to complete the biological, energetic and physiological trauma discharge process after twenty years.


Dr. Peter A. Levine,

creator of Somatic Experiencing® method, president of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute – a non-profit educational and research organization dealing with the treatment and prevention of trauma effects around the world. He holds a PhD degree in medical biophysics and psychology and has been studying stress and trauma throughout his 45-year research career. He authored numerous scientific and popular science publications.

Dr. Peter A. Levine’s website: http://somaticexperiencing.com/

Peter Levine worked as a stress consultant for NASA during the development of the space program. He has taught in therapeutic centers, hospitals, and clinics all over the world. He was also a member of the task force within the Psychologists for Social Responsibility project in the field of responding to ethnic disasters and conflicts.


The SE therapy works on the basis of individual sessions, in principle it is not suited for groups.

The therapeutic process includes skillful management of Activation occurring during the healing process and renegotiating the trauma. It has been experienced that group members, i.e. witnesses of individual work against the background of the group, often themselves resonate with arousal resulting from their own similar traumatic experiences. This is also experienced by therapists who undergo their SE training in groups.

However, trainees receive support from their peers, individual SE sessions and supervision. Apart from training courses, SE is not used for group therapy, precisely because of the easy and excessive stimulation of own traumatic experiences. One therapist – one patient!