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What Kind of Somatic Therapy Is Right for You?

What Kind of Somatic Therapy Is Right for You?

In our last installment of Choose Your Own (Therapy) Adventure, we covered an introduction to some of the well-known trauma therapies. One of them was somatic experiencing, a form of therapy that aims to help people recover from trauma by gradually helping them to feel safer and more present in their bodies. Somatic experiencing, as one might guess from the name, is a somatic therapy – that is, a form of therapy that combines mindfulness and embodiment in addition to a cognitive (thought-based) and emotional approach to healing. Somatic therapies often pick up where talk therapies leave off, creating connections between our minds, hearts, and the physical sensations we feel in our bodies, to help us approach life in a more integrated, grounded, and present way.

Why Is a Somatic Approach So Important?

Taking the body into account in therapy, in my opinion, is an incredibly important part of the process. This is because, as more and more research shows, we’re not just brains walking around in a meat suit. Our thoughts and emotions have a profound impact on our bodies – and vice versa. In fact, the connection between body and mind is so profound that in When The Body Says No, Dr. Gabor Mate explores in great detail the impact that one particular emotional and physiological state – stress – can have on our bodies, and how it interacts with diagnosis such as arthritis, cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, to name a few.

An understanding of the mind/body connection is integral to trauma work. Trauma is experienced in our body, and our most traumatic experiences are often simultaneously those that are the most difficult to put words to – which we’ll also get into in our next installment, which will cover the creative and expressive therapies. But even if the help that you’re seeking in therapy is not specifically about trauma, I think it’s important to remember – especially in the aftermath of 2020 and the…let’s just say intense…beginning to 2021 – that all of us are likely experiencing chronic stress all the time. Chronic stress is an inherent part of living under a systems as oppressive as capitalist cisheteropatriarchy and white supremacy, and the more marginalized identities you hold, the more the stress compounds.

The somatic therapies can help give you the skills and support you need to proactively manage that stress – a process that is ongoing. When somatically oriented therapists talk about stress, we often talk about resolving the stress cycle (see: Emily Nagoski’s “Burnout) and moving the stress out of your body. Here is what we mean.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sensorimotor psychotherapy was developed by Pat Ogden, who first became interested in the mind-body connection while working as a tech and yoga instructor in a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s. As part of her observation, she noted that some of the approaches at the time seemed to agitate or exacerbate – or trigger – some patients symptoms of PTSD, a condition which already had many of them trapped and reliving the painful events of the past. (Remember – this was also an issue that Peter Levine noted about prolonged exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy sometimes used to treat trauma, which was noted in the first installment of this series.)

Like somatic experiencing, which was discussed earlier, the point of sensorimotor psychotherapy is to relieve a patient of the bodily sensations associated with trauma. Also like somatic experiencing, sensorimotor psychotherapy focuses on an understanding of what happens in our bodies when we’re under stress – fight, flight, freeze. In addition to this, sensorimotor psychotherapy also incorporates an understanding of attachment theory (how we were modeled and learned about care and intimacy, starting from our relationships with our caregivers in early childhood), as well as cognitive exercises and neuroscientific foundations, to achieve the ultimate goal of helping the patient re-experience the traumatic event not in an uncontrollable flashback but rather in a safe, contained environment, regulating their physical response, in order to experience and embody closure in the present. Sensorimotor psychotherapy also helps patients incorporate an awareness of how things like movements and postures may indicate where trauma or memory is “stuck” in the body and, once aware, to devise and practice actions that might help “complete” the process in an embodied way.

The Hakomi Method

Dr. Ogden was also involved in the creation of the Hakomi Method, collaborating with co-creator Ron Kurtz and co-founding the Hakomi Institute in Colorado. It’s full name is the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy, and it “combines somatic awareness with experiential techniques to promote psychological growth and transformation.”

How does the Hakomi Method do this? Like sensorimotor psychotherapy, the Hakomi Method draws on other psychological theories such as Gestalt therapy, structural bodywork, and Reichian breathwork, and incorporates them with Eastern philosophy of Buddhism, Taoism, as well as mindfulness. According to Kurtz, our bodies – our posture, our movements, gestures, facial expressions, etc. – all contain insight into our “core materials” or the images, memories, dreams, feelings, conscious and unconscious, that make us who we are. Using mindfulness diligently and deliberately, patients learn to focus their attention to the information their bodies are transmitting to them in order to learn about their “core material,” that is, the core of who they are.

PBSP Psychomotor Therapy

I first learned PBSP (Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor) Therapy when I read The Body Keeps the Score last year. Bessel Van Der Kolk devotes an entire chapter (“Creating Structures”) to this extraordinary sounding therapy, which “heals past emotional deficits using a process called ‘structures’ and ‘microtracking’…to create ‘new memories’.”

How in the world does this work? In The Body Keeps The Score, Van der Kolk describes attending a group therapy session in which the patient selected “actors” from their group members and set the stage. (Importantly, these are not professional actors, but other group members who, according to the PBSP site, “temporarily suspend their own personal needs in order to focus exclusively on the needs of a single client and to be in service to” them.) For example, you might select someone to play your mother, and your father, and your sibling. As a client, you would be asked to position these actors in space, including yourself in the scene. Then, the therapist would make observations to you about the spatial location of each family member – Why is your mom situated closer to you than your dad? Why is your brother facing away from you? With the guidance and support of the therapist, clients are prompted to reflect on the scene they themselves set. Clients are able to process, for example, the feelings that arise when orchestrating and viewing the tableau of a painful argument between parents – and are then encouraged to give the actors instructions in resolving the scene in the direction of closure and completion (just as in sensorimotor psychotherapy!), and in doing so, imagine and experience the emotional triumph or relief of that closure in the present and witnessed by their groupmates.

Is a Somatic Approach for You?

Based on some of the comments we’ve gotten on earlier pieces in this series, it really seems like a somatic approach as resonated and worked for many of you – which is unsurprising. Many clients find that incorporating body awareness and somatic practice into their therapy really closes the gap or pushes them past the stuckness we can often feel in talk therapy.

It’s important to note, too, that some of the methods listed here may not be for everyone. The Hakomi Method, in particular, is at times reported to be contraindicated with other diagnoses. According to GoodTherapy.org, “the Hakomi Method is grounded in exploration of and cooperation with the unconscious self,” which can make it an intense form of therapy for those who are “actively experiencing trauma” and also for those with diagnoses of borderline personality disorder or narcisstic personality disorder. (Luckily, DBT exists – and was specifically created for – those with a diagnosis of borderline personality!)

Another barrier to these more specific types of therapy could possibly be whether or not insurance will cover the lesser-known approaches. Some insurances will only cover 8-12 sessions of CBT, because of its standardized and evidence-based track record. As with the trauma therapies, it can be challenging to find a therapist specifically trained in some of the less widely known somatic therapies – for example there are only eleven therapists listed in the PBSP directory for American clinicians, and all of them appear to be white or white passing, which can be another hurdle for BIPOC clients.

If you think a somatic approach might be for you, ask your prospective therapist about it! Ask them what their values are with regard to mind/body connection, and incorporating body awareness into their approach to therapy. You might also look for therapists who have also worked as yoga or movement instructors. Many sex therapists, educators, and coaches also incorporate somatic elements to their work, which might be another route to look into if finding a therapist in your area is difficult.

Ask yourself, too, what your expectations are for a somatic approach to therapy: Do you want to be prompted and guided by your therapist in each session to bring awareness to your body? Do you have a somatic practice of your own? One of the best things about somatically oriented therapies, in my opinion, is that – unlike the more structured and formal therapies like CBT – we can find little ways into increased body awareness into our own lives. The wisdom of your body is uniquely your own, though a therapist can help hold space for you at the beginning stages of healing, especially when being in your body can feel overwhelming. But one of the core tenets of somatic therapy is that our bodies are wise, and are always working to help us survive. And befriending your body, thanking it for its wisdom, and taking even a small moment each day to listen a little more closely to it, are all things you can start to do right now.

LGBTQ+ couples share fond memories and kind words about their Stroudsmoor wedding

LGBTQ+ couples share fond memories and kind words about their

Stroudsmoor Country Inn is nestled in the serene Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. In addition to being host to stunning overlooks and magical scenery, Stroudsmoor Country Inn has six venues for your wedding and reception, as well as a turn-of-the-century boutique hotel to host the couple, wedding party and out-of-town guests. Each venue at Stroudsmoor is dedicated to one couple on their wedding day, featuring its own ceremony site, reception area, execution staff, and services to ensure the utmost privacy.

When asked about the Stroudsmoor experience, Linda Forte, director of event operations at Stroudsmoor Country Inn, says, ““Many things come to mind. Our matriarch, Mrs. “P”irone’s recipes and culinary expertise bring guests from far and wide. The 350-acre mountain property is meticulously manicured by a team of committed nature lovers. Our charming accommodations, our six dedicated event venues, our rejuvenating spa, host to all types of celebrations. Most importantly, the Stroudsmoor team of professionals love to help you make memories. This means providing quality, ensuring value, and supporting the well-being of each and every guest of the Inn. We are honored to read these heartfelt accolades and recommendations offered by our guests. Glimpse the Stroudsmoor experience through their eyes.”

Stroudsmoor Country Inn has hosted many weddings over the years. This article includes reviews written by some of their LGBTQ+ couples. Read on to learn more about their experiences and memories expressed in their own words.

Jacqueline + Mary’s September wedding at Woodsgate

Jacqueline + Mary’s September wedding at Woodsgate

“There are no words to express just how perfect our wedding weekend was at the Stroudsmoor Country Inn! We had been planning our wedding for well over a year and it all was beyond our expectations! I am an extremely particular person and I also am a creative person who had some unique visions for our event. Never once did anyone tell us ‘no.’ They got creative and worked with us to make every detail perfect! They also tended to us and our guests like royalty every second of the weekend.

Every staff member was top notch and friendly! Our Stroudsmoor wedding planner was incredible! The floral/decor team was phenomenal (even when I think I was torturing them a little while working on getting it “just right A”)! In the end it was truly just right!!! The coordinator for the rehearsal BBQ (which we made into a 6-hour party in the pavilion… AMAZING!!) was wonderful. The day of our actual wedding, our floor supervisors were dynamos! They checked in regularly to make sure we didn’t need anything and our personal attendant was magical with her tool belt! She facilitated our wardrobe changes (I had three, my wife had two!), re-did my hair when it was coming out, touched up our makeup, fixed my wife’s shoes, kept a drink in our hands always, etc., etc., etc.!!!!!

There are other staffers that were working behind the scenes who I know I’m forgetting to mention by name, but know that every detail mattered and we thank you!! The food was delicious, the venues (Woodsgate and the pavilion) were beautiful, and our room was comfy. This weekend was nothing short of PERFECT! We are filled with so much love for each other and our family and friends, and we got to celebrate that love without any distractions! I am already scheming to plan a weekend-long five-year anniversary party there! (I just need to get it passed by the budget committee: my wife.)”

Jeffrey + Jason’s summer wedding at Woodsgate

Jeffrey + Jason’s summer wedding at Woodsgate

“The day of the wedding came and it was a whirlwind! There was never a glitch or if there was we didn’t know about it because of the Stroudsmoor Team. The grooms-women went to the spa to have their hair and makeup done and they looked beautiful! The weather was gorgeous and the beautiful autumn day was exactly as we hoped! We had a great wedding manager who really made sure that our day was perfect. Anything we needed he took care of professionally. I wanted him to come and manage our day to day life! The reception was such a blast! The food was fantastic and the cake was a thing of beauty. We highly recommend Stroudsmoor Country Inn to anyone thinking of getting married! We were never treated any differently for being a same-sex couple; they treated us just as they treat everyone . . . like family.”

We highly recommend Stroudsmoor Country Inn to anyone thinking of getting married!

Shanna + Melissa’s fall wedding at Woodsgate

Shanna + Melissa’s fall wedding at Woodsgate

“We could never thank Stroudsmoor enough for all the hours of work put into making our big day exactly what we imagined it would be. We waited so long to be able to get married, then find the perfect place and all the anticipation was well worth it. The Stroudsmoor team of professionals were all so welcoming and willing to do anything to make our day perfect! Every trip up there always felt like visiting family. Thank you for all your hard work putting everything together for us, from favors and food to decorations and details, it was all amazing. We had an extraordinary day that we will always remember. Thank you for making all our dreams come true, (outdoor ceremony and all!) it was all breathtakingly beautiful! With all of our gratitude.”

We had an extraordinary day that we will always remember.

Jessica + Joanna’s fall wedding at Lawnhaven

Jessica + Joanna’s fall wedding at Lawnhaven

“We picked Stroudsmoor because it made us feel like we were fully accepted into everyone’s life like family. Everyone was sweet and caring and made sure our special day was exactly what we dreamed of. We will never forget how beautiful our special day was. From the flowers to the venue. Even the small things like having our family who couldn’t join us in pictures on the mantles. We love how beautiful the Stroudsmoor team made us feel, and how wonderful our day turned out to be. We appreciate everyone who helped us make our day so special. It is definitely a day we won’t forget.”

Katie + Julie’s summer wedding at Lawnhaven

Katie + Julie’s summer wedding at Lawnhaven

“We both wanted to thank you and the Stroudsmoor team so, so much from the bottom of our hearts. You all played a huge role in our wedding day and you honestly made it a dream come true. Julie and I cannot thank everyone enough. You truly do have the kindest of hearts and all made us both feel so welcomed. We hope that we will visit Stroudsmoor again in the near future. Thank you for making everything perfect and for treating us like family!”

You truly do have the kindest of hearts and all made us both feel so welcomed.

Sheila + Lynn’s spring wedding at Auradell

Sheila + Lynn’s spring wedding at Auradell

“Our wedding was so much more than we could have imagined. The Stroudsmoor Team did such an awesome job. Our colleagues who attended the wedding are still talking about how beautiful the Stroudsmoor Inn is and how wonderful the food was at the reception. We could not have been happier. We intend to return for future romantic dinners and a romantic weekend or two. Thank you for everything, Lynne says to stay BUFFED, PUFFED AND POLISHED! It was definitely a GOOOOOD TIME!”

Allyson + Rebecca’s summer wedding at Terraview

Allyson + Rebecca’s summer wedding at Terraview

“The Stroudsmoor team has been such a pleasure to work with. Very helpful, again and again! Thank you so much! We can’t wait to celebrate back at Stroudsmoor!”

Michael + Sean’s summer wedding at Terraview | Stroudsmoor weddings

Michael + Sean’s summer wedding at Terraview

“Sean and I are getting ready to leave for Italy this afternoon, but we wanted to take a moment and thank you again for all of your help making our day so special for us and our guests! Our guests really enjoyed the food, accommodations, and service! I could not have imagined a more perfect day and it was truly the best day of our lives for us. We can’t thank you enough . . . The Stroudsmoor team was so kind and helpful. Words cannot express how happy Sean and I are with how everything played out and we are so grateful that we worked with the team over a year to make all of this happen. Thank you again for everything!”

Victoria + Deirdre’s July wedding at Lawnhaven | Stroudsmoor weddings

Victoria + Deirdre’s July wedding at Lawnhaven

“It was lovely meeting the Stroudsmoor team. You helped us narrow down where we should be with our theme. From start to finish, our vision of ‘Christmas in July’ came through without being cliché. Thank you again for helping us through planning during the pandemic.”

COVID-19 changes

During the 2020 wedding season, Stroudsmoor has worked hard to serve its couples. “This year unlike others was filled with many challenges and changes for our couples,” says Forte. “Throughout the COVID-19 restrictions, we maintained the Stroudsmoor mantra to never cancel a wedding. We continue to see many wonderful couples say their vows in 2020. While their original wedding vision was altered drastically by the pandemic, a new vision on a beautiful day emerged and they were married safely. We are proud to have played a small role in ensuring their happiness.”

Choosing a wedding venue at Stroudsmoor

The six wedding venues at Stroudsmoor are Ridgecrest, Auradell, Woodsgate, Lawnhaven, Terraview and the SCI Pavilion. Ridgecrest is seated at the highest point of the Stroudsmoor Mountain. With breathtaking views for miles, souls can soar to the clouds, and hearts will fill with the magic created by the union of two kindred spirits in marriage. Dedicated to Life, Love and Happily Ever After.

Intimate celebrations are key these days, but while small in size, intimacy plays a key role in every aspect of an Auradell wedding. Its Gallery and Hearthside Suite are filled with the warmth and charm of a century-old Inn, while dancing in its Solarium makes for a GOOD TIME! With five lovely suites on its upper levels, the Auradell couple become the innkeepers on their wedding day.

Woodsgate is the first of our private event venues. More than 200-years-old, this restored barn has seen celebrations that run a gamut of themes, from zombies in the woods, to visions of Arwen and Aragorn in the reunited kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor.

Lawnhaven’s walls of glass look out onto verdant gardens, a water lily–filled pond, and green lawns where couples play cornhole and quoits. Formal and fun come together wonderfully at Lawnhaven. The venue has the added attraction of converting from a closed environment filled with natural light, to an open-air forum providing fresh air and safety.

With two ceremony locations, the Cherry Valley Overlook and Terra Gardens, Terraview is the castle atop the Stroudsmoor Mountain. Couple’s find the breathtaking views and dramatic waterfalls inspirational and calming.

At SCI Pavilion, couples and their guests will enjoy a wedding ceremony under towering black walnut trees, surrounded by the woods and fields of wild flowers. Rustic chic vibes abound in this country setting.

Stroudsmoor invites you and your partner to tour their venues and meet their planners. Call (570) 421-6431 or visit stroudsmoorweddings.com.

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Stroudsmoor Country Inn. If your business is interested in supporting Equally Wed’s award-winning editorial mission of showcasing gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, queer and allied couples’ weddings through advertising via sponsored posts, banner ads, other partnerships or you have any other ideas for us, please reach out to advertising@equallywed.com.

Photo credits from top down: Jessica Manna; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – John Blancato; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – John Blancato; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – Kyle Ohocinski; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – David Coulter; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – Josh Miller; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – Kyle Ohocinski; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – Susie Forrester; Stroudsmoor Photography Studio – Kyle Ohocinski