Somatic Therapy for Acupuncturists & Manual Therapists

Somatic therapies use mind-body practices to alleviate stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other emotional and psychological conditions. Body awareness practices involving sensations, feelings, touch, movement, breathing techniques, mindfulness, and imagery may be used in somatic based methods. 

Recognizing the inherent connection between the mind and body is a necessary part of the healing process for many mental and emotional disorders. While various talking therapies can assist in the cognitive, behavioral, and mental aspects of treatment, these methods may not be enough to alleviate accompanying physical symptoms associated with the emotions.

 

Somatic therapies give equal weight to the mind and body in the treatment process. 

somatic therapy and emotional release.pn

Emotions consist of two fundamental components:

 

1. The thoughts, stories, and inner dialogue connected to the emotions.

2. The feelings and sensations in the body associated with the emotions.

In somatic therapies it is common to address both the mind and body to assist in emotional release and healing.

As emotions get held in the body, it is essential as therapists to have techniques that can assist in releasing emotional energy from the body. Any number of physical methods can help such as massage, touch, acupuncture, movement, etc. Similarly, methods including Felt Sense, visualizations, and NLP can also provide the physical impetus for releasing emotions and physcological tension from the body. 

Body Awareness Practices

A core technique in many somatic therapies is developing greater body awareness. Generally, people tend to hold emotional tension in five key areas.

 

1. Head & Jaw

 

2. Neck, Shoulders & Back

3. Chest and Heart 

4. Abdomen & Digestive System

5. Hips and Pelvis

By using movement, touch, and sensory orientated methods we can move through old emotional holding patterns, while releasing stress, tension, and trauma. Emotional release through the body is a vital component of healing many mental - emotional conditions.  

Cartoon Dog

When using somatic therapies a key starting point is to determine where you or your client hold emotional stress and tension. Once the location of held emotion is discovered, we can then begin the process of using various techniques to bring greater awareness to the emotion, while also aiming to release it from the body.

What kind of emotions get held in the body?

All emotions are experienced in the body in some way; however, it will often vary between people. Some people get headaches when they are angry, while others tend to hold anger more in their digestive system.  

 

Stress is often held in the neck and shoulders, but some people hold stress more in their chest and heart. Recent research has even shown that stress may effect the heart as much as smoking and high cholesterol.  

Positive emotions are also experienced in the body. Where in your body do you feel happiness?

How do I release uncomfortable emotions that are held in the body?

There are a variety of ways of doing this including using movement, shaking, touch, and visualizations. It is also helpful to cultivate greater body awareness, by simply being present with the feelings in your body.  

 

Location & Exploration

Once emotional stress and tension has been located in the body, we can then begin the process of inquiry and exploration. There are three primary tools for exploring emotions held in the body: touch, movement, and sensory related questions.  

Touch

Where are Emotions in the Body?

When using somatic therapies a key starting point is to determine where you or your client hold emotional stress. Once the location of held emotion is discovered, we can then begin the process of using various techniques to bring greater awareness to the emotions, while also aiming to release it from the body and mind.

What kind of emotions get held in the body?

 

All emotions are experienced in the body in some way; however, it will often vary between people. Some people get headaches when they are angry, while others tend to hold anger more in their digestive system or chest. Stress is often held in the neck and shoulders, but some hold stress more in their chest and heart. Some research has even shown that stress may effect the heart as much as smoking and high cholesterol.  

Positive emotions are also experienced in the body. Where in your body do you feel happiness?

How do I release uncomfortable emotions that are held in my body?

 

There are a variety of ways to do this including movement, shaking, touch, breath work, and visualizations. It is also helpful to cultivate greater body awareness, by simply being present with the feelings in your body.  

 

Location & Exploration

Once emotional stress and tension has been located in the body, we can then begin the process of inquiry and exploration. There are four primary physical tools for exploring emotions held in the body: touch, movement, breathing techniques, and sensory related processes.

 

 

Sensory Methods

Movement

Touch

Breathing 

Techniques

Touch for Emotional Healing

Acupressure

Emotions Have Sensory Qualities

Colorful Pattern

Movement for Trauma

Osteopath at Work

Gentle touch can be a very profound way to release emotions from the body. Any one that has experienced a significant amount of massage can understand how touch can liberate emotional energy that gets stuck in the body. Acupressure, cranio-sacral therapy, holding techniques, and even just simple touch can be enough to help people release emotional holding patterns.

 

Movement is also a very powerful way to assist people in emotional healing. Simple movements like having people relax their jaws, shaking, and moving their legs can all be useful for somatic therapies. Practices like TRE (Trauma Release Exercises) use simple movements to release trauma held in the body. 

 

Sensory orientated questions and techniques like visualization are also beneficial for helping people to gain greater awareness about how they hold their emotions. When we experience our feelings as images, shapes or colors it activates different regions of the brain, and can provide profound emotional catharsis. Traditional counseling and NLP also use these kinds of practices to help people with stress relief and mental health.  

In my online somatic therapy classes I teach how to use four methods of touch, movement, breath, and sensory orientated processes to release emotions held in the body.  

Mindfulness & Talking Therapies 

Psychology Patient

So far we have discussed how emotions get held in the body and how we can use touch, movement, and sensory processes for emotional healing. Another part of somatic therapies is to address the more mental and psychological aspects of emotional duress. To do this talking therapies are essential as well as good communication skills. For therapists that are not psychologists, but frequently work with clients suffering from mental health disorders, it is essential to have some skill sets for speaking with our clients.

Mindfulness is also a vital aspect of somatic based therapies.

Voice Dialogue

A practice I have used for almost two decades is Voice Dialogue, it is a powerful system that is easy to use, practical in its effects, and readily accessible to both therapists, their clients, and lay people. 

 

Voice Dialogue is an easy to use system for addressing the psychological aspects of mental health.

 

The basic premise of Voice Dialogue is that we all have different parts to our personalities. These different parts relate to the various roles we play, our emotions, and may be considered sub-personalities. These sub-personalities or inner voices are connected to our emotions, and each have a distinct voice in our inner dialogue. For instance, when we feel sad, the inner voice of sadness will speak differently to us than our inner voice of anxiety. Similarly, our inner voice of happiness speaks differently than our inner voice of anger. 

 

In Voice Dialogue we recognize that we each have different inner voices, sub-personalities, character structures, and roles that form the whole of who we are. Voice Dialogue is a powerful system for cultivating greater awareness, decreasing stress, and alleviating our emotional challenges. It is also useful for personal development and self-actualization and can even be used as a system of meditation.  

 

As a mindfulness practice, we can bring awareness to these different parts of ourselves and practice observing these inner voices. Through the power of self-inquiry and witnessing these parts, we can gain insight about the inner stories that we tell ourselves. This is a form of mindfulness that is internally directed to our thoughts and resulting behaviors. Somatic therapies will also cultivate mindfulness in the context of observing the sensations and feelings within the body.

Somatic Therapies for the Body & Mind

To summarize what we have discussed so far, somatic therapies help a variety of psychological, mental, and emotional conditions. Additionally, somatic therapies use methods for both the mind and body, and recognize that emotions occur as both body feelings and mental thoughts.

 

For emotional healing and release to occur it is often necessary to address both the mind and body.

 

While talking therapies help the mental and psychological aspects of the emotions, physical methods such as touch, breath, and movement help to release emotions held in the body. However, there are specific ways to do this.  

 

As a therapist it is likely that your clients will speak to you about their emotions, depression, anxiety, traumas, and other mental health conditions.

Do your current skill sets allow you to adequately work with people with these conditions?

 

Since manual therapies like bodywork, massage, and acupuncture work on the physical body, they can powerfully assist in releasing emotions. However, these physical methods are often not enough when treating emotional conditions. What do you do when a client has a profound emotional release, or wants to be treated for anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders? 

Challenges when working with Emotions  

  • Communicating in a caring, sensitive, and compassionate way

  • Creating and maintaining a safe place and feeling for clients to share

  • Getting the client to share and open up

  • Utilizing methods appropriate to each client and their specific needs

  • Recognizing boundaries (theirs and yours)

 

  • Choosing a form of treatment best suited for the situation

People

Working with the emotions and conditions like anxiety, depression, trauma, and emotional holding patterns requires specific skill sets which many acupuncturists and manual therapists do not have. However, since our methods often do result in emotional catharsis for people, it is essential to have the right communication skills and other techniques to support people in their healing process.

Though most of us are not counselors, we do need to provide our clients with compassionate, nurturing, and positive support when they seek our therapies out for mental health conditions.

 

This is why I have spent many years researching and practicing specific techniques that can be combined with acupuncture and manual therapies like massage and bodywork.

I have also partnered with my long time colleagues, Daisy Kaye and Romi Grossberg to help me develop a course specifically designed for helping people with emotional healing. Daisy has over 25 years of experience in the healing arts and is an expert in Chi Nei Tsang, abdominal massage, breath work, and other transformational healing practices. Romi is a highly qualified counselor, author, and writing therapist with many years of international experience.

Somatic Therapy Online Courses 

In these classes you will learn powerful and practical techniques for mind-body healing and somatic therapies. This is a fully engaged system developed specifically for acupuncturists and manual therapists. It consists of various modules carefully designed to work with what I call the Big 4 processes. These include sensory related processes, breath work, touch, and movement. The first module begins soon.  

Features of the course include: 

Live Talks to Participate in

Various Treatment Methods and Processes

Essential Communication Skills 

 

How to use Movement, Touch, Breath Work, and Sensory Methods for Emotional Healing & Catharsis

The Importance of Boundaries

Video Discussions & Audio Files

PDF Files

Systematic Processes that are Adaptable to the Clients Specific Needs and more

Birds

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