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What is a Somatic Therapist?

By Matthew F.
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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A somatic therapist is someone who treats a client with body pain through somatic movement therapy. This therapy is based on the idea that the postures and movements that cause pain are directly related to the emotional and mental health of the client. The somatic therapy is applied by reeducating the muscles through hands-on interaction, active participation, and body awareness. The somatic therapist focuses on physical treatments to help ease emotional strains.

In somatic therapy, the patient must realize which are the mental or emotional aspects of their life that might be affecting their physical condition. Stress or anxiety can lead to different reactions from the body, often holding postures and unnatural muscle positions, which the somatic therapist attempts to find through collaboration with the patient. The stomach, neck, or shoulders will often get tight through a series of mental or emotional distractions, and the somatic therapist helps to bring these issues out of a patient, who may not have realized them.

In other forms of therapy, the body is seen as a mechanical structure to be worked on. In somatic therapy, a holistically oriented therapy, the body is viewed as a tool to be worked with to ease the pain. The therapist shows the patient why the problem exists and how to eliminate the cause of the pain through proper postures, stretching techniques, and other methods. The therapist will try to fix the cause of the mental or emotional trigger, as well as the physical discomfort.

In this therapy, the somatic therapist coaches the client to a healthy body. There is collaboration between the therapist and patient until the problem is identified and the solution is produced. Feedback from the patient is needed to establish the muscles that are causing the pain, and the reasons these muscles are operating in the faulty or inefficient manner that they are. Often we are not aware of our body memory, the way our body reacts to certain events in life, and the goal of the somatic therapist is to bring out these reactions and their solutions.

The somatic therapist usually plays a very empathetic and caring role with the patient. They are responsible for relating the reasons of body pain through difficult life experiences, and help the patient remember these and remember the corresponding physical ailments. The somatic therapist helps to produce awareness within the patient, not only for a healthy physical experience, but for an increased, mental, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002628 — On Jan 10, 2020

I would love to learn more about this. I have been suffering from panic attacks, depression, and adrenal fatigue for many years.

By Planch — On Jan 16, 2011

Could you describe to me the difference between a hakomi therapist and a somatic psychotherapist?

I am very interested in all kinds of mind body psychotherapy, and would love to learn more about this fascinating topic.

I have never been to a mind body therapy session (unfortunately there are none offered in my town!), but I think that the whole concept is utterly fascinating. If I ever get the chance to go to a session I definitely will!

But to get back to my original question, what is the difference between hakomi therapy and somatic bodywork? Is it kind more more like what a shiatsu therapist does, or is there a difference?

Thanks for the info!

By LittleMan — On Jan 13, 2011

So forgive me if I sound skeptical, but does the human body really store pain and what not like that?

It seems like it would be really easy to become very influenced by your therapist in mind body psychotherapy like that, and then have them just lead you through a series of emotions until you are "healed".

I mean, let's be honest, everybody's got some kind of trauma in their life, whether that's a divorce or losing your favorite toy when you were little, but people get along just fine without somatic trauma therapy.

So why is this such a beneficial thing? I am totally open to learning more about this; I just don't want to get taken in by another so called "holistic" therapy.

By rallenwriter — On Jan 10, 2011

I'm really glad that you mentioned how emotionally involved somatic bodywork can be. I think that a lot of people go into it kind of expecting a massage, but it is so much more than that.

Believe me, somatic psychotherapy will make you feel alternatively enraged, sad, and very vulnerable, and a lot of times you might not realize why.

I thought that I was going crazy when I would just burst into tears whenever my somatic psychotherapist massaged a certain part of my shoulders, but it was really just because I was holding back all that emotion from trauma in my life.

So even though you may feel like you're going crazy, or you don't feel comfortable expressing your emotions, believe me, stick with it. Somatic psychotherapists are used to the emotion, and you won't shock them. It's such a healing experience; I think everyone should do it at least once in their life.

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