TU107: What is Somatic Experiencing With Guest Abi Blakeslee

by | Oct 30, 2019 | Brain Science, Episodes, Neuroscience, Personal Growth, Therapy, Trauma

Show Notes

Trauma is not a life sentence. We are rapidly learning what works to reverse the effects of stored injuries and today we will explore one treatment version of that, called Somatic Experiencing. 

First a shout out to a listener who connected us to our guest today, Ali Capurro – thank you! And to everyone else please note that we love these kinds of connections are always open to hear from you on who you think would deepen this conversation of earning security.

In This Episode of Therapist Uncensored,

co-host Sue Marriott explores Somatic Experiencing with Dr Abi Blakeslee. This interactive deep-dive takes you into the Somatic Experiencing process and provides hope and confirmation that healing trauma is possible through integrated treatment of the brain, the body, and the mind!

The Foundations of Somatic Experiencing (SE)

  • Founded by Dr Peter Levine – author of best-selling books “Waking the
  • Tiger- Healing Trauma”, and “In an Unspoken Voice”
  • SE is based on the study of how animals in the wild process and recover from stress and trauma.
  • Focuses on working directly with the nervous system to help people reorganize the non-conscious survival adaptations developed by the sub-cortical or lower brain

Definition of Somatic Experiencing

  • the experience of body in the present moment.

What SE Looks Like in Practice

  • Present-centered because the healing happens in the here-and-now.
  • It’s a process of following what is is happening in the body and taking a pause from the trauma content to down-regulate the amygdala to a state of safety before moving forward.

“The trauma’s not in the event. It’s in the nervous system.”

The Nervous System

Getting “Unstuck” – Healing Trauma Through Body Awareness

  • Pendulation – Peter Levine defines that as the expansion of contraction of all things moving between expanded States and contracted States.
  • Orienting Exercise

The Biological Model of the Threat Response Cycle

  • Wild Animals Versus Humans During Threat
  • Cycle:
  •  Orient – aware of something in environment
  • Defensive Orienting – sense threat
  • Moving Into Social Interaction –
  • Moving Into Fight and Flight – these are active defense responses
  • Increased sympathetic arousal, burst of movements,
  • Moving Into Freeze – passive defense response
  • Heart rate goes into a slow state like for hibernation. Digestion slows down, hello heart rate variability circulation. There’s nothing pumping to the arms and the legs, so everything shifts into this near death state
  • Back to Exploratory Orienting

Working With the Nervous System

  • Tracking Sensation – describing sensations happening in the body as they are happening
  • Noticing Movement Patterns – acknowledging the shifts that occur
  • Completion of Defensive Responses – allowing the body to carry out the response desired (runnint, punching, kicking, etc) but VERY SLOWLY
  • Sympathetic Discharge When Coming Out of Freeze or Down From High Sympathetic Charge
  • Impala and the Baboon Video
  • Grounding Exercise

Neuroception vs Interoception

  • Neuroception is the lower brain assessment of safety/threat in the environment.
  • Interoception is the awareness of one’s own internal states and can be learned over time.

Who is Dr Abi Blakeslee:

Dr. Abi Blakeslee is faculty at the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute and Foundation for Human Enrichment. She is additionally Dr. Peter Levine’s legacy faculty at Ergos Institute for Somatic Education. Dr. Blakeslee holds a Ph.D. in Clinical and Somatic Psychology and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her dissertation, with a committee that included Dr. Daniel Siegel, generated original research on the role of implicit memory in healing trauma. Dr. Blakeslee integrates SE with clinical research, secondary trauma interventions, and the psychobiological principles of attachment and shock trauma. She treats individuals, couples, children and families in her clinical practice. Dr. Blakeslee teaches and consults worldwide. She lives in Bozeman, MT with her husband and enjoys the snow, mountains, and rivers with her three young children.



Transcript and .MP3 of Orienting and Grounding Exercises

What is Somatic Experiencing? 

Secondary Trauma in the Workplace: Tools for Awareness, Self-Care, and Organizational Response in Montana By Dr Abi Blakeslee

Toddler Trauma: Somatic Experiencing, Attachment, and the Neurophysiology of Dyadic Completion by Joseph P Riordan SEP, MAPS; Abi Blakeslee SEP, CMT, MFT, Ph.D, Peter A Levine Ph.D.

More Information About SE Founder Dr. Peter Levine



For Professional Training in SE: http://www.traumahealing.org

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