What is a Process-Oriented Somatic Approach? We all go through our day and take information in through all of our senses. We spontaneously put meaning on things, have emotional and physical reactions, make associations, etc. We also have a drive in our nature to take things full circle - a desire to feel complete and finished. Sometimes events in our lives do not permit us to reach resolution. We also have drives for protection and to not feel things that are unpleasant or overwhelming. So there are many ways we get stuck with incomplete responses and drives, and have to figure out (usually unconsciously) how to work around these. Sometimes this feels inconsequential, and sometimes it becomes problematic and we begin to experience difficulties like anxiety, depression, physical symptoms and stress reactions, or emotional intolerance.
How we experience a sense of "flow," or lack of "flow," is very personal and individual. We often feel the effects of negative messages taken in earlier in our lives, which inhibit our free engagement in activity or relationships. We can feel the tightening of muscles, contraction of breath, avoidant or reactive tendencies, "checking out," and physical pain that arise when we are reminded of difficult events. We may get over-activated, or may shut down.
People wonder "why" they are experiencing discomfort or difficulties, and try to figure things out from there. While cognitive understanding is useful, it's often frustrating, and even when achieved it may not bring about desired growth. I find that a focus on "what is happening, and how it is experienced in the present moment" is a more useful and tangible approach. The meaning arises along the way, informed by a fuller awareness of experience.
This approach to therapy helps people to engage fully in the moment to activate the dynamics of how we learned to adapt. As we connect with that natural drive for completion, the movement towards resolution and freedom arises spontaneously from within the person. Trusting this process is key. My experience is that bringing awareness to the details of our experience facilitates this movement. I appreciate that this non-interpretive approach respects and accesses people's inner wisdom and innate abilities to resolve disturbances. My task is to track sensations and dynamics very closely, bringing added awareness as needed, often slowing things down to give more space for things to process through and integrate. I closely track levels of activation, and pace the therapy such that there is enough activation to get the work done, but not so much that the experience is overwhelming.
Our thoughts, emotions, nervous system, muscles, organs, diaphram systems, imagination, intuition, and all 5 senses are key factors in helping us to navigate a path to completion. Awareness of all of these contribute to thorough processing. Holding awareness where it may tend to be avoided or dismissed is needed for the unfinished pieces to move forward. This awareness becomes even more helpful when used in conjunction with EMDR, and other uses of bilateral stimulation. Applying left-right bilateral stimulation helps the brain to work more efficiently and with greater resiliency. The more primitive parts of the brain appear to become less engaged, and the higher functioning parts become more activated. Evidence also suggests there is an increase in activity between brain hemispheres. This aids in people ability to sustain awareness such that incomplete responses have a chance to fully reprocess.
It feels like very fortunate to participate in this work. I frequently hear clients say they have been able to move forward in their lives quickly in ways that they had not reached through "talk therapy." That matches my personal experience as well.