Somatic Experiencing (SE™) is a naturalistic approach to the understanding and healing of trauma. It was developed by Peter A. Levine over the past 45 years and taught throughout the world. I am in the very privileged position of being part of the first group of therapists to be trained in SE™ in South Africa. This approach complements the other areas of specialty I have been trained in namely Hypnotherapy, Brain Working Recursive Therapy® [BWRT], Dialectical Behavior Therapy® [DBT], Eye Movement Integration® [EMI] as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy® [CBT] and Tension and Trauma Release Exercises [TRE].

SE™ is a clinical methodology based upon an appreciation of why animals in the wild are not traumatised by routine threats to their lives while humans, on the other hand, are readily overwhelmed and traumatised. Fortunately, the very same instincts (and related survival based brain systems) that are involved in the formation of trauma symptoms can be enlisted in the transformation and healing of trauma. Therapeutically, this “instinct to heal” and self-regulate is engaged through the awareness of body sensations that contradict those of paralysis and helplessness, and which restore resilience, equilibrium and wholeness. 


Because human responses to potential threat vary so greatly, it is difficult to identify or classify sources of trauma. Most people associate trauma with events like war, violence, extremes of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, crippling accidents, or natural disasters. However, many ”ordinary” or seemingly benign events can also be traumatic. For example, so-called minor automobile “whiplash” accidents frequently lead to bewildering and debilitating physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms. Common invasive medical procedures and surgeries (particularly those performed on frightened children who are restrained while being anaesthetised), can be profoundly traumatising. Somatic Experiencing utilises basic tools (and “building blocks”) but also works differentially with various sources of trauma.

These diverse categories include:
• Medical: Hospitalisations, surgeries, invasive medical procedures, anaesthesia, burns, poisoning, fetal distress and traumatic birth.
• Accidents: Falls, high impact accidents (including auto accidents), head injury, electrocution.
• Suffocation: Drowning, strangulation.
• Attack: Rape, war, bombings, physical abuse, mugging, molestation, physical injury, stabbing, gunshot wounds, animal attacks.
• Natural and man-made disasters: Earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, floods, terrorism, dislocation from the natural world and community.
• Horror: Seeing an accident (especially with blood, gore and dismemberment), watching someone else being abused, raped, killed or tortured, killing or hurting someone.
• Developmental: Neglect, abandonment, loss and ongoing abuse.
• Torture, repeated rape and systematic abuse


SE™ is a non-invasive and hugely effective intervention in the treatment of trauma and its impact is profound, be it a few days after the traumatic experience or many years later. Please do not hesitate to contact Paardevlei Therapy Centre at 066 301 5149 for further information.

Written by

Pauli Geldenhuis

Counselling Psychologist and Trauma Psychotherapist | Founder of Paardevlei Therapy Centre