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In this blog we explore what somatic healing is, why we at Delamere advocate it, and how it can help accelerate healing where addiction is concerned.
Somatic means, quite literally, ‘relating to the soma’ or in other words ‘of the body’. Somatic therapy is a recognised type of body-centric therapy that works with the connection of mind and body. It’s a combination of psychotherapy and physical therapies that are used for healing. Mind-body exercises like dance, breathing, exercise and yoga, all of which can help release pent-up tension and improve wellbeing, are good examples of somatic ‘therapy’ that people can often relate to.
Given that addiction affects the body as well as the mind and recovery is about ‘connection’ and relationship with ourselves (our mind, our body, our emotions), treatments that help in this respect are worth exploring. Pampering smorgasbord or spa type treatments these are certainly not…
It does and that’s the point really. Our bodies can store up emotion – and trauma, especially, can become trapped. Whilst we might block out a painful memory from the past, on one level it stays with us and can influence our behaviour, often sub-consciously. Many people who develop an addiction have a past history of loss, neglect or early childhood trauma. Such experiences often operate on a hidden level and can manifest as feelings of anxiety, tension and restlessness. When we are living with these emotions or emptiness, addictive behaviour can be understood as an attempt to find balance. In many ways, addiction is a ‘coping strategy’ that has simply stopped working.
“In alcohol, drugs or addictive behaviour we are often seeking peace of mind but end up instead with our mind in pieces. The fact that addiction very nearly works but ultimately doesn’t is one of its greatest traps”
Anyone can benefit, and in addiction treatment, as we adapt to a new life, start processing the past and embark on making changes, a lot can surface for us. Without the ‘crutch’ of addiction, working through these feelings successfully calls for tools and techniques that can release them in a healthy way. Somatic techniques focus on sensory experiences in the here and now and have proved effective in relieving symptoms of substance abuse, stress, anxiety and depression. Somatic therapies help people recovering from addiction focus on the present moment and become mindful of their thoughts and feelings.
In addiction we engage in a destructive and often dangerous relationship with our bodies. Physical symptoms are not uncommon, whether it be craving for a drug, or entering withdrawal from alcohol and feeling the need to drink in order to quell these uncomfortable feelings.
“When we struggle with active addiction, we are connected to our bodies, but not in an authentic way.”
The pain and discomfort brought about by a dependency often takes over. If we were to really listen to what our bodies were saying as we responded to their call for alcohol or drugs, might they really be pleading ‘no more poison’? As we temporarily placate our craving we ignore the true messages of the body. When we are able however to honestly tune into what the body is saying, it is an authentic expression of our true selves.
So on one level, addiction can be seen as a way to temporarily and transiently alleviate pain or discomfort. The problem is that it doesn’t really work. In fact, it’s because it almost works that so many of us fall into it’s trap. Connecting with the body in a healthy, healing and loving way is what somatic therapy achieves; it’s the very antidote to addictive behaviour.
Releasing historic trauma and buried stress through somatic work can often help clients in addiction treatment break-through some of the things that are holding them back. It also provides a different and engaging way for clients to access their innermost thoughts and feelings. In this way, when coupled with psychotherapy and educational workshops, somatic therapies complement the wider treatment programmes at Delamere.
The flow of a typical day at Delamere often starts with psycho-education, interactive workshops and one to one psychotherapy and is concluded with somatic treatments. These somatic experiences help embed the learning and insight from earlier in the day and breathe life and variety into the treatment experience.
Scientific evidence now demonstrates the need for all of us to develop a conscious connection to our physical being and to become present to our somatic experience. Breathwork, yoga, deep tissue massage, reflexology, fascia Bowen work, dynamic meditation, mindfulness, bioenergetics and Trauma Release Exercises, all form part of the process at Delamere.
“In short, we want clients to leave Delamere with a new relationship to their bodies, one that allows them to see how they can transcend their past and heal through somatic practices and get so much more out of life once engaged to their personal physical experience. Long lasting freedom from addiction is far more likely once we know how to somatically process our emotions and fully understand the techniques that allow us to manage them.”
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