Forum: Somatic Experiencing

Dear Members and Visitors to,

Today we were pleased to present the second teleconference in the Winter Teleconference Series: An introduction to Somatic Experiencing presented by Steben Hoskinson, MA, MAT, a senior trainer with the Foundation for Human Enrichment. Much thanks to Steven who volunteered his time to present to members this powerful approach to healing trauma.

To support those of you who attended today’s teleconference and who may have more questions or would enjoy having a forum to discuss Somatic Experiencing with others, we created this blog entry to serve as a forum where you can post your questions, leave comments, and engage in a dialogue about it. I hope all people will feel welcome, whether you attended the conference or not, to join us in the discussion. Steven has kindly agreed to visit the blog and answer questions about the SE model. So please feel free to post questions, concerns, feedback.

To view the comments or make your own, simply scroll to the bottom of this particular article and click on the “Comment” link.

For more information about Somatic Experiencing and their training programs, please visit the Foundation for Human Enrichment.


Noah :)

Noah Rubinstein, LMFT
Founder and CEO

© Copyright 2008 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • admin


    January 25th, 2008 at 8:13 AM

    Thanks Steven for a very engaging, fascinating, and enjoyable presentation. I loved your clarity and your humor. Noah :)

  • Alexandra Goerl Rickeman

    Alexandra Goerl Rickeman

    January 25th, 2008 at 9:52 AM

    I really enjoyed this presentation. While I specialize in working with couples in my private practice, I am also employed as a therapist working exclusively with child survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. I use play therapy frequently and was amazed at how well the responses you spoke of can be seen in a child’s work during play therapy. First, I have noticed how much children verbally orient themselves and me through expressing vivid details about the sounds, smells, and sights the ‘pretend’ environment in which they want to play. Also, I have had several children who frequently use the therapy environment to express their full-strength physical energy as well as many who will freeze mid-play to either lie down or just be still. I do not try to analyze what they are doing, I simply stay present with them, joining into the dramatic play if they request, all the while tracking both affect and actions. I feel like I now have a better, more scientific understanding of how this play can be so helpful. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about other ways to apply the information you provided today to play therapy, that would be great. Thank you!

  • Georgann Falotico

    Georgann Falotico

    January 26th, 2008 at 2:08 PM

    I really enjoyed yesterday’s presentation and would love to learn more. A question came up for me. I am trained in Authentic Movement and use it with groups and clients. In this form the body follows any impulse to move from within. Eyes are closed and the focus is inward. One never knows what may come up. In the case of traumatic material, I have always believed that the unconscious is protective and will not let more come up than the client is ready to complete. However, you seemed to suggest that there is danger of retraumatizing if the movment comes to completion before the client is ready physiologically. Steven, I would appreciate your thoughts on this in terms of using movment as a modality. I should add that the mover, or inner witness, is alwaus in control of continuing or overriding the impulse. The form is only used with those who demonstrate a strong enough ego. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Steven Hoskinson

    Steven Hoskinson

    January 27th, 2008 at 6:23 AM

    On Play Therapy:
    Hi Alexandra,

    I am really glad you found the information about Somatic Experiencing helpful. In particular, the non-profit educational foundation that sponsors the healing work of SE (The Foundation for Human Enrichment) has as a part of its original mission the prevention and treatment of trauma, especially among children. You may be interested in Peter’s (Levine’s) new book on this topic “Trauma Through A Child’s Eyes”. (
    What you have observed is true in my experience, and those with whom I consult who are working with children: the primary phases we discussed in the teleconference and their tasks show up very clearly in a child’s play. If one is sensitized and trained to recognize these phases and understand in the moment the goal of the behavior, we can support the completion of the physiological goals at hand. This support is often best done, as you are doing, by being simply present. However, knowing when a more active intervention will help a completion is important. You see, one of the really wonderful things about working with children is that they tend not to have the number of years of conditioning overlay on top of their organic process. In many ways this makes it easier to work with children than with adults. Their spontaneity is why we find children so utterly fascinating: they are more natural. However, even with children there is some degree of conditioning that may inhibit the natural process from occurring–some trauma or deficit in their history of attachment, some lack of resource, etc. The intervention then, must take clearly into account the child’s age, developmental history and current developmental process. Mostly this looks like the joining in play, but with a clear understanding of the nervous system phase of the moment, and the pattern of phase transition. For example, the freeze response when it completes typically trends toward the phase of orientation. I can model this progression in a play figure: “my alligator is hiding, perfectly still under the water. Now he’s looking around, all the way to the left, and all the way to the right. ‘Ahhh, now I’ll go along my way back home’[alligator walks toward home].” This sequence describes freeze (hiding, perfectly still), orientation (looking left and right) and then a return to mobilization and deactivation (ahh, going home). (The shift in person from third to first is important as well, but space is a limitation here.) To be so familiar with this natural process as to be able to accurately follow and reflect the individual in the moment is the key. In this way our aim is to really support the person’s organic unfolding, as opposed to using suggestion, leading, or in other ways imposing another layer of artificial conditionings on the individual’s being. My best teachers in this process have been my own children; I wish I had the time here for some stories!
    Alexandra, thanks for participating, and taking the time to check out this response to your question. Keep up the good work! I’ll have more information like this in my newsletter, if you like. (And if you’re really interested and can do so, join me in a training!) You can sign up on my website

  • Steven Hoskinson

    Steven Hoskinson

    January 27th, 2008 at 7:15 AM

    Authentic Movement:

    Hi Georgann,
    Thank you for your note, and your interest.
    Sir Charles Sherrington, nobel prize winning physiologist said that the motor act is the cradle of the mind. I mentioned in our teleconference how Jung said our task is developing the relationship between the ego and archetypic psyche. For this to occur, individuals must begin to recognize the difference, in order to challenge the hegemony of the conditioned personality, which they identify as theirself. One of the ways I approach this in the training process is to encourage people to find their organic, physical impulse. Similarly, movement processes such as Authentic Movement can open real vistas of self discovery for a much larger sense and experience of Self. What we are calling “trauma” gets in the way here, but really “trauma” is no more than the increased experience of polarization within the self: the identification with a part of experience to the exclusion of a related aspect. It is “either-or” rather than “both-and”. This experience of the approach-avoidance conditioning gone haywire spells out further dissociation from the ground of being—and from embodiment in movement. In particular we see this in the rise of dominance of the freeze phase (dissociation, numbing) in client populations. In particular the risk of working with trauma is reenactment. Freud said of the repetition compulsion that it amazes us too little. The nature of trauma is in its quality of being like a black hole; it is, in chaos system terms, a strange attractor. The pull into this sie of experience is often strong and non-conscious, especially if the conditioning stems from early, pre-egoic process. The re-experiencing is reinforcing the traumatic pattern and is to be avoided, in our opinion. SE is distinctly non-cathartic and aims for processing in a gradated way in order to provide maximum integration.
    Your question suggests that elements that I believe to be key supports in such a direction are in place.
    First, you mention ego-strength, or observing ego. In my approach with SE, we do no work unless that observing ego, the witness, is in place. In fact, my pithy definition of overwhelm is simply “the loss of observer.” This means that the person can observe their experience, however intense it may be, from a relatively neutral position. (This does not mean watching their experience from the ceiling—that dissociated observer is important but requires special measures of intervention.) That a person has from this a sense of control is also empowering.
    Secondly, your movement practice does not primarily take place for a person in isolation. The presence of community, of a supportive interpersonal environment is a key to decrease the activation of overwhelm.
    Thirdly, you describe a movement process. The experience of overwhelm occurs mostly as a function of the phase dominance of immobility. Thus, merely staying more active inhibits the establishment of a phase of inactivity.
    Having said this, then, we see how to observe some signs that a person may be moving into a state of overwhelm: decreased awareness of surroundings, decreased interpersonal contact, decreased mobility. Should a person begin to show these signs, then supporting increased awareness of surroundings, increased interpersonal contact, and/or increased mobility will help diminish the freeze response. As I mentioned in the teleconference, it is not that the immobility phase is deleterious, only when it becomes dominant or stuck. The problem is that it is often associated with overwhelm, and is important to experience in a safe, gradual and integrative manner. In fact, in my trainings we find out how the successful renegotiation of this important phase of freeze is the key to transformation in relationship to “ego and archetypic psyche”.
    Georgann, thank you again for your insight and interest!

  • Georgann Falotico

    Georgann Falotico

    January 27th, 2008 at 2:40 PM

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. It is most helpful.


  • Steven Hoskinson

    Steven Hoskinson

    January 29th, 2008 at 5:58 AM

    Thank you for the opportunity to be in touch with this community of caring!

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    November 9th, 2009 at 7:12 AM

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  • Marisela


    August 29th, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    Excellent suggestions, Thanks a whole lot!.
    Nicely put. Appreciate it!

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