What Is Somatic Therapy?

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Each addictive disorder will be unique to the individual, and therefore, the treatment methods will also need to be tailored to each patient’s unique addiction. In addition to the variation among addictive disorders and co-occurring mental health issues, each person will also respond differently to the variety of treatment modalities that are offered to them, much as everyone learns differently, so will they respond to recovery treatment differently. 


For these reasons, rehab facilities like Choice House utilize several therapeutic modalities to better meet the needs of each of its patients in our treatment programs. One such treatment modality that patients may be unfamiliar with is somatic therapy. Somatic therapy has often been depicted as an alternative treatment method; however, this form of therapy remains one of the few modalities to address both the physical and psychological components of an addictive disorder. This may prove to be a key to recovery from substance use disorders (SUD).


Addictive disorders are unique in that they affect both the physiological body of a patient as well as psychologically altering pathways in the brain. Addictive or negative behavioral patterns become a habit, and much of addiction treatment is about addressing the roots of these habits while creating new, healthier behavioral patterns in recovery. As mentioned previously, the somatic therapy modality allows clients to treat both the physical and psychological elements that motivate substance misuse. Somatic therapy can lead to more effective treatment and decreased risk of relapse. The therapy can occur in both group or individual counseling sessions and consists of a proctor helping clients recall traumatic memories and giving attention to any physical responses to those memories. 


What to Expect From Somatic Therapy


Aside from guided recollections, in somatic therapy, clients will be instructed to conduct physical techniques that are very similar to a body-scan method of meditation. The process involves reflecting on the physical self by deep breathing or conducting relaxation exercises to help relieve the physical symptoms that occur from their traumatic recollections. Once the traumatic memories have been addressed, patients work out the physical symptoms through additional exercises such as yoga, dance, and massage.


Types of Disorders Somatic Therapy Treats


As we mentioned, somatic therapy is ideal in that it addresses both psychological and physical components of trauma. Somatic therapy is also ideal for addressing and treating several different co-occurring mental health issues such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety, grief, depression, as well as any mental health issues that involve trauma and abuse. These disorders can be challenging to treat when only approaching the problem as a psychological problem, not a physical one also.


Benefits of Somatic Therapy


This may initially sound a little overly sensitive for our male audiences, with somatic therapy being about getting in touch with feelings and the mind-body-spirit connection. However, the components of the body are all related, forming an interconnected and dependent relationship to each other. To treat one aspect without addressing the other would be equivalent to setting people up for failure in recovery by leaving a potential cause of future relapse in place. 


Somatic therapy is one of the few modalities that attempts to resolve the physical, emotional, and psychological components of an addictive disorder. For example, emotional and traumatic events from a client’s past can generally be singled out as a precursor for continued substance misuse. This memory will affect the client’s central nervous system, which causes the body to react anywhere from slight changes in body language to more noticeable reactions, like tenseness in muscles and even physical pain. 


As clients become more aware of this mind-body connection, they make changes that affect a psychological change by reducing the physical tension in the body. The long-term benefit is that somatic therapy will help clients identify triggers in both body and mind, allowing them to take the necessary preventative measures to avoid those reactions leading to a relapse. Somatic therapy is also one of the few modalities that offer a tangible release of frustrations through physical activity connected to a person’s thoughts. By learning the techniques of somatic therapy, clients will be better prepared for any triggered reactions as well as begin to resolve the mental health issues at the root of the physical reactions that are re-occurring in their bodies.


Addiction is a unique illness in that it has both physical and psychological components that need treatment. By not addressing both, clients will be ill-prepared to re-enter their lives as sober individuals. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has a dual-diagnosis program of treatment that can help. Through a variety of therapeutic modalities, we teach men how to address the physical and psychological aspects of their addictive disorder to better prepare them for the challenges of maintaining their long-term sobriety. These modalities include somatic therapy, which attempts to address past traumas that may trigger substance misuse through the physical release of exercise and meditation in addition to the psychological components of addictive disorders. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our addiction recovery program includes a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, as well as the opportunity to transition to a sober lifestyle while residing at our sober living campus. For more information regarding Choice House’s facilities or addiction recovery treatment methods, please give us a call at (303) 578-4977.

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