What is somatic therapy?

The word “somatic” derives its root from the Greek word soma meaning “living body” and refers not only to our physical body from an external perspective but also to our internal experience of it as pertains to our perception of who we are from the inside. There are many ways in which we may come to feel disconnected from our sense of who we are. The aim of somatic therapy is to restore an authentic and integrated relationship with our core self via embodied approaches like therapeutic touch, movement, mindfulness of bodily sensations, breathing techniques, vocal expression, etc.

Who can benefit from somatic therapy?

Anyone who would like a stronger sense of connection to their authentic self can benefit from somatic therapy. Specifically, those who have suffered the impacts of trauma in their lives can find relief with somatic therapy since it is ranked as one of the most effective ways of resolving trauma.

How do you define trauma?

Any experience that was “too” anything for the body to integrate and make sense of is a trauma: too intense, prolonged, painful, rapid, oppressive, humiliating, terrifying, etc. This is especially true where the event threatens a person’s survival, whether that be physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.

Are there different kinds of trauma?

The three main categories of trauma are shock, developmental and complex.

Shock trauma is a one-time traumatic event like a natural disaster, car accident, physical or sexual assault, acute medical intervention or witnessing a violent act. The impact of shock trauma is mainly to a person’s physiology (circadian rhythms, appetite, mood, etc.) and may result in a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Developmental trauma includes chronic exposure to abuse or neglect, suffering debilitating loss (e.g., forced migration or the death of a loved one), being teased and bullied, living with a chronic medical condition, or experiencing war-time conditions during the critical stages of human development (life from conception to young adulthood). The main impact of developmental trauma is primarily to a person’s identity, sense of worth, ability to engage with others and maintain healthy relationships. If developmental trauma is severe enough, it can result in a personality disorder diagnosis.

Complex trauma is the combination of the first two categories and may include a diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).

Somatic therapy is effective at resolving forms of traumatic stress anywhere on this spectrum. Specifically, Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) is positioned to resolve the symptoms of shock trauma while the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) is designed to address the effects of developmental trauma. A combination of SE and NARM is used to work with complex trauma.

Can you combine massage therapy and somatic therapy?

Yes in some cases and no in others as determined by Utah law.

Yes in the case of trauma-informed massage therapy where a client with PTSD, C-PTSD or other conditions of the nervous system schedules a session for the purpose of receiving the general benefits of therapeutic massage (relaxation, pain relief, connecting touch, etc.). If the client happens to experience the onset of any symptoms during the session, the therapist will apply somatic techniques to help the client feel safe and grounded while gently facilitating the nervous system in returning back to a relaxed and resting state.

Regarding somatic bodywork where the purpose of the session is specifically to improve physiological symptoms resulting from shock trauma (e.g., hypervigilance, agitation, muscle tension, headaches, postural dysfunction, etc.), the therapist may use therapeutic touch but not massage. The difference between the two is that the former is still, light-pressure contact on a client that is fully-clothed while the latter is a gliding, skin-to-skin contact on a client that is appropriately draped according to Utah law.

Where the reason for a session is to address the effects of developmental trauma the therapist may use therapeutic touch but not massage therapy.

Therapeutic touch is:

  • optional
  • still; not moving
  • incorporated in a session with the intention of facilitating healing and providing support
  • used only with the client’s informed consent
  • governed by the requirements of ethical conduct as set forth by the United States Association of Body Psychotherapy (USABP)
  • conformant to the requirements of Utah law

I am averse to being touched. Can somatic therapy still work for me?

Yes. An essential element in somatic therapy is for the client to feel safe enough to connect with their inner processes. For some people, touch is soothing and can facilitate this. For others, it is quite the opposite. The therapist and client collaborate together in order to create the optimal environment for the client’s individual needs, whatever those may be.

How many sessions will I need?

The answer will vary widely and depends primarily on the client’s particular objectives. Somatic therapy can be used as an adjunct to other forms of therapy and as such, can be utilized as often as is beneficial to the client. In cases of where a client has been affected by “acute trauma”—a one time traumatic event such as a car accident—the number of sessions tend to be fewer, especially where there is no or low prior history of traumatic stress.

What determines the hourly rate for somatic therapy?

Like most industries, the field of somatic psychology is influenced by a variety of factors. Of primary influence is the extent of education and clinical hours required to obtain the necessary credentials to practice in this field. In Jenny’s case, this includes 900 credit hours for a license in massage therapy, two years in a graduate program for a master’s degree in somatic psychology, the completion of a three year post-graduate training program in SE and an additional year of training in NARM.

Nationwide, the hourly rate ranges from $80-$150+ per hour and is heavily influenced by the economy of the local market. In the Salt Lake Valley, somatic therapy is priced between $100-$125/hour depending on the practitioner’s specific credentials and/or experience.

Will my insurance pay for somatic therapy?

The answer to this question will vary depending on the kind of coverage offered in a particular plan. Salt City Bodyworks does not currently bill health insurance companies on behalf of its clients for many reasons. However, it is possible that a client may receive reimbursement from her or his particular insurance company for services offered here. Feel free to inquire for specific information on how this may apply to you.

What forms of payment do you take?

Salt City Bodyworks accepts all major forms of payment including credit cards, Zelle, Venmo, PayPal (on the “Friends & Family” setting), cash and local personal checks. Credit cards are subject to a 3%-4% surcharge. Venmo controls are set to “private” so only the payer and payee see the transaction.