We were founded in 2009 and are a voluntary organisation run by a dedicated committee with the support of kind volunteers. In 2020 we became a Community Interest Company (CIC).
Our aims are to support:
- SEP Community – To develop an Association that reflects the SE® principles of holding a safe space. In particular, a place that welcomes and practises inclusion, respect, transparency, and democracy that allows us to broaden and deepen.
- Public Promotion of Somatic experiencing – Public Promotion of Somatic experiencing – Maintain a website that promotes the scale and diversity of the SEP community, best practices and links to our international organisations to demonstrate our worldwide community.
- Promote a sense of belonging – By building connections with European and worldwide associations to inform good practice, development, and healing that embodies and expresses respect.
It is the national association for Somatic Experiencing practitioners and trainees in the UK and the UK’s only directory of certified and trainee Somatic Experiencing practitioners working here.
Membership of SEA UK is open to all SE® certified practitioners and SE® Trainees that have a primary modality membership and insurance held in the UK.
Trainees are invited and given free membership whilst in years 1 & 2, as a welcome to our Association. Only those who have completed their Intermediate training and can confirm their placement in Advanced training may pay the fee and be included on the UK SE® Practitioner Directory AND vote on constitutional matters.
By searching the SEA UK Practitioner Directory (all member’s documents, SEP Certificate, primary modality membership/ Insurance cover are checked yearly).
What is SEA UK?
Somatic Experiencing® (SE® for short) is a pioneering whole-person approach to physical and psychological symptoms of stress, shock and trauma. It works with your body’s natural self-regulating systems and sometimes may involve touch or bodywork.
Knowledge of trauma patterns can both help transform traumatic reactions as well as potentially prevent symptoms from developing after an overwhelming event. Practising SE® can be significant support not just in your own life but in those around you.
SE® is based on the work of American psychotherapist Dr Peter Levine, who believes trauma is primarily biological – a physical phenomenon – not an incurable disease only marginally controllable as psychologists have chosen to view it.
His theory is based on observations of wildlife. Animals are regularly threatened with death yet are rarely traumatised; their survival instinct kicks in, flooding their body with highly charged energy ready for taking effective defensive action – fighting back or running away. When the threat is past, that intense energy is discharged, and the animal returns to full normal health.
We are all equipped with the same capacity to overcome an overwhelming experience. Yet we also have an upper rational brain that frequently ‘rejects’ the powerful primal instinct of the body. The result is that huge fight/flight energy gets trapped in our nervous system, where it can lead to all sorts of symptoms, sometimes immediately, sometimes not until years later.
The power of presence
Through moment-to-moment awareness of sensations in your body (soma) and using resources available to you, SE® aims to gently re-establish the natural flow of your life energy, supporting the safe release of symptoms from the nervous system, putting the past where it belongs and restoring body, heart and mind to a relaxed wholeness.
The SE® model
In the Somatic Experiencing approach, your experiences belong to five core components of a therapeutic framework called SIBAM:-
- Sensation, e.g. tension, heat, shaking
- Image, e.g. internal (memory, dreams, pictures, metaphors, word) or external (an object in the room)
- Behaviour, e.g. posture, facial expressions, movement, gestures, voice
- Affect, e.g. feelings and emotions, sadness, shame, fear, joy, hope
- Meaning, e.g. beliefs, judgments, thoughts and analysis often expressed through words
Suffering stress, shock or trauma can feel like it cuts right through you – body, mind, and spirit. When that happens, it points to a compromise in the components of SIBAM, meaning you have become:
- Over-coupled – lumping together some elements, e.g. so that you over-associate physical stimuli from the past with emotional reactions and responses in the present
- Under-coupled – elements separated from awareness, feeling disconnected from yourself and others, numb, dissociated, dreamy.
Using SE®, your SEP will guide you to gently separate the over-connected elements of SIBAM or bring the disconnected elements together, promoting new connections so that all the parts of your experience and you can come back together again. Dr Levine believes that trauma can be a catalyst for real transformation far from being a life sentence.
SE®’s long-term goal is for you to live a rich and full life with equal access to all parts of SIBAM. In other words, to help you become whole again.
The work of Dr Peter Levine and his associates can be found at the Somatic Experiencing Institute.
SE® doesn’t focus on talking about or reliving the trauma; rather, it listens to and uses the ‘voice’ of the body, referred to as the felt sense and manifesting in SIBAM elements.
Examples of this ‘voice’ would be physical sensations such as warmth, tingling, and contraction. Paying attention to these sensations moment-to-moment supports the powerful self-healing mechanisms we are born with to do their miraculous work. Trapped stress energy can be safely discharged, helping to restore equilibrium to the nervous system.
The SE® process is supported by ‘resources’, unique to the client. Resources bring about a sense of safety and goodness to the body and mind and can be internal, e.g. sense of humour, your back’s contact with the chair, or external, e.g. an object in the room, a much-loved family member, a place.
By working slowly, step by step, in this way, the distressing cycle of symptom escalation can potentially be reversed, and you can gain steady confidence in your ability to work with the trauma in a safe, conscious, and life-affirming way.
SE® is as much a life education as a therapy. You can expect to learn why your mind and body are behaving the way they are and how you can support them in working together to create new, healthy patterns.
The key reason for working with SE® need not be an obvious traumatic event but the presence of a symptom or symptoms. Trauma is not in the event but in the individual’s physiological reaction to it. A fairground ride, for example, might be fun for one person but terrifying for another.
If you’d like advice about a specific symptom, please contact your local SE® Practitioner to see if they are able to help or refer you to a suitable colleague. You can find Somatic Experiencing Practitioners in your area using the directory on our website. Some practitioners also offer sessions online, if you prefer.
You will also be able to see their specialisms, which may help your selection. If the practitioner has a website, you will also be able to click to visit the site and find out more about them that way. It may also be helpful to contact each of your shortlisted practitioners by telephone or email to ask any questions that you may have and discuss your needs.
This is intended as a general guide. Each SEP works in its own way to meet a client’s individual needs.
The aim of the SE® Practitioner is to act as impartial, non-judgmental and compassionate support to help you feel safe and facilitate the release of trauma through your body.
You will not be asked to tell your ‘story’ or examine the past. Instead, you will be guided to gently release physical tensions, emotions and energy related to the trauma as they arise in the session, at a pace and in a way that best supports you to return to a natural state of wellbeing and readiness for life.
Typically, you will sit comfortably opposite your therapist, given time to settle, and then asked what issue you’d like to work with.
You’ll then be guided to consciously explore – without judgment – related physical sensations, feelings, thoughts and images as they arise.
Through this simple moment-to-moment process – called tracking – it’s possible for highly charged stress energy in your body to be properly engaged and released naturally. Examples of this discharge include tingling, warmth, and involuntary muscle movements such as twitching, gut gurgling, or yawning.
The result of this often-subtle mobilisation can be immediate: the trapped survival energy at the root of your symptoms is freed, allowing a new relaxation to establish deep in your body and mind.
An SE® session lasts approximately an hour, beginning with an introductory conversation to agree to the material or symptoms to be worked on.
Where a recent one-off traumatic event, e.g. a minor road traffic accident, has been experienced, health benefits have been known to be achieved within relatively few sessions.
Longer-term, more complex symptoms will typically need more intervention. Your therapist – and your intuition – will guide you.
There is no prescribed answer to this. It differs from individual to individual; your therapist will discuss with you what’s best for you.
SE® is a ‘bottom up’ approach. Safety is built prior to any work. We start with resources, 12 the fundamental areas of the brain-stem and body – the survival centres – not the cerebral or rational areas, and work with these. This is where trauma has started and continues to have its effect, and where the body reacts to traumatic events.
As your body becomes more stabilised and your survival centres develop a more healthy ‘normal’ setting, the higher brain centres begin to make meaning of the events. This helps the past be left in the past, and a peaceful new presence arises.
Psychotherapy is a ‘top down’ approach in which the therapist asks you to think about, to ’make the unconscious conscious in order to make sense of it and to organise or control it. It works primarily with the rational mind.
In psychotherapy, you are asked to talk about your history and the events that happened, and often your childhood and your family. SE® is less interested in your story and more in how it manifests itself in your body and behaviours today. SIBAM elements link all aspects of human experience.
Each practitioner decides their own fee, dependent on their skills, experience, qualifications, specialisms and partly on where they’re located. Kindly check their website or ask them directly.
A traumatic event is defined as an event or circumstances in which the traumatic stressor involves a perceived threat to life (either one’s own or that of another person) or physical integrity and generally comes with intense fear, helplessness or horror.
These may be one-time occurrences or ongoing; all can produce shock and overwhelm in the body. Anyone can experience trauma. Sufferers are normal people experiencing normal reactions to situations that feel threatening to them.
SE® has been shown to benefit individuals suffering from recognised trauma, such as:
- Physical wounds such as medical interventions and auto accidents
- Inescapable attack: rape, sexual abuse, incest, torture, war
- Loss of a loved one, divorce
- Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis
- High fever, asphyxiation, birth trauma
- Developmental trauma or emotional trauma such as neglect, abandonment or betrayal during childhood. ACE
In 2017 the first randomised controlled study of the effectiveness of SE® for PTSD was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. The aim of the study was to examine the efficacy of Somatic Experiencing in reducing post-traumatic symptoms in people who had been diagnosed with full PTSD according to the DSM IV criteria. Statistical analysis showed that both the symptoms of PTSD and depression went down in a significant way in the intervention group (received SE®), while the control group showed no significant change.
You can learn more here
In the event of a complaint about a member of SEA UK (CIC), please contact either or both of the following organisations:
- The members’ regulatory body for their primary modality. This will be clearly available on their directory listing.
- The European Association for Somatic Experiencing (EASE). Please review EASE’s complaints procedure outlined in their Ethical Guidelines document. You can contact the Ethics Committee by email.
You are also welcome to send a copy of your complaint to us by email.